Kids: It's Not You, It's Me (Your Tired Mom)
I’m tired. I know that’s not a good excuse for anything when you’re a mom, because really, what mom isn’t exhausted? But sometimes I feel a level of exhaustion—like the kind that’s in deep in your marrow—and it seems to be affecting my ability to be the kind of mother I want to be all the time.
At the end of a long day which began before dawn with lots of kicking and screaming from my three cherubs; after work and all the adulting that must occur throughout each day; by the time I get to my boys around 5:30 in the evening to begin the marathon of nightly shenanigans, well, there are times when I just find myself a bit short of patience and grace.
When my boys start running around slapping each other on the butt and talking about sitting on each other’s faces, rather than seeing the humor, I sometimes snap. When I’m trying to shove food into the mouths of three tiny humans who seem about as interested in eating food as I am in feeding it to them, I get frustrated. When I’m trying to corral my angels up the stairs to bathe and they start running around frantically like a bunch of rabid animals on crack, I often feel my smile fade and my momster claws start to come out a little. And when I’ve finally gotten them in bed and they pop their sweet faces out for the 13th time, I sometimes just yell.
My “cherish these moments” philosophy flies right out the window, and I realize that not only am I not cherishing anything, I’m actively wishing it away.
This isn’t a perpetual thing. In fact, if I put my shame away long enough to be honest with myself, the majority of the time I really do cherish my boys and their wild spirits and silly lack of decorum. But there are days when I just want to rip my hair out. There are days when I think I may actually lose whatever tiny shred of sanity I have left floating in my brain somewhere. These are the days when with one more loud shriek, or one more time of me saying something and my children pretending they don’t have ears, I could earn a vacation to the loony bin for moms.
I promised myself I wouldn’t be a yeller. It’s obnoxious and unproductive.
Yet here I am on some days, yelling. Yelling!
I’ve been yelling at my boys much more lately than I’m proud to admit.
Because they’re having too much fun. Because they’re playing too loudly. Because they’re too busy living in the moment to pay attention to me asking them to eat one more bite of chicken. And because I’m too tired to deal so, instead, I yell.
Now there’s a balance to find in teaching our children to enjoy life but also to obey their parents and listen to instructions. There’s a time and place for everything, and while I can play with the best of them, sometimes I do need my sons to remember they have ears on their head and to use them.
But really, is yelling solving my problem? Is getting frustrated and growling helping the situation?
In fact, my boys usually laugh when that happens.
In some ways, their response reassures me that I’m not actually damaging them to the extent I often feel I am. But it also reminds me that losing my cool is about as pointless as, oh, I don’t know, trying to get a hyper 3-year-old to sit at a table and eat when all they want to do is play.
I’ve discovered that routine is important for us. But scheduled into our nightly routine, there must be play. I have to let them play, and more importantly, I have to play with them. They need that. They crave my attention, and while I am busy trying to jump all the appropriate hoops each night, they really just want me to be present with them. On the nights I do that, everything goes smoother. Time almost stands still, and things make sense. On those nights, I am able to realize that my sons are not the problem. I am.
It’s not them. It’s me.
It’s me who is too stressed to play. It’s me who is too tired to be present. It’s me who has allowed the things that don’t really matter to become bigger in that moment than the most important things there are.
So to my boys:
I’m sorry. It’s not you. It’s me.
Moms aren’t perfect, but we try hard. We fail sometimes. We snap sometimes when we should laugh. We yell sometimes when we should whisper. We join your chaos when we should offer you our calm. We mess up.
Adult stresses are not your concern, and they are not your fault. You’re not supposed to be quiet and calm all the time. You’re supposed to play and enjoy being a kid and laugh at inappropriate things and live in the moment.
That’s your job, and mine is to help you find some balance. But you know what? I think you’re the ones helping me to find the balance.
So thank you.
It’s not you. It’s me.