I just popped four Advil as a desperate attempt to preemptively avoid an impending headache. Said headache will be a direct result of screaming at my kids ten minutes ago — you know, the kind of rage-y scream that takes a layer of skin off the inside of your throat. It was a long morning filled with multiple meltdowns, refusals to follow rules, and backtalk. The last straw was my seven year old calling me an “idiot” when I tried to offer him an alternative table for his upcoming lemonade stand. Typically I can hold my cool, disciplining calmly, but today I blew. And I am not proud. In fact, I feel sad and guilty. I am even tempted to throw myself a pity party — but nobody’s got time for that.
And really, why bother?! I am human — I make mistakes, mess things up, and lose my cool. And it’s all okay.
Being a mother of young kids sometimes feels like playing dodgeball with my eyes closed. I am always trying my best to avoid conflicts and triggering situations, but with four wildly different and exuberant personalities, it feels almost impossible. Throughout the day, I am usually refereeing multiple arguments, having off-the-ledge conversations, and managing tantrums. It is no surprise, then, that sometimes there’s just nothing that can keep me from losing my cool.
A fellow mom and friend once offered me this perspective: getting frustrated with your kids is rarely a reflection of your shortcomings and more often a reflection of your attentiveness. If you are uninvested or tuning your kids out, it is easy to trudge through their chaos with a level of calm. But if you are fully immersed — on the floor playing barbies or backyard wiffle ball pitching for hours on end — the grind can really wear you down. And instead of feeling defeated or guilty when you inevitably lose the ability to calmly react in the way your expert podcasters have suggested, allow yourself a little grace. Because while touchdown spiking a potato onto your kitchen floor might not seem like the appropriate reaction to a four year old’s refusal to flush the toilet, it just might be after a very, very long day.
And we have all been there, in our own way. In that holy crap I can’t do this for one more second kind of moment. Where we can’t even think straight and acting rational doesn’t even feel like a choice. So we scream, or break a Nintendo over our knee, or slam a door because we are just people with a limited supply of calm and patience and parenting is level ten thousand hard. And as long as everyone stays safe and loved, I think this is okay. Because the rollercoaster will inevitably start to tick back up quickly — with a smile or a hug — deregulating all of your nerve endings and bringing you back to baseline.
And maybe we all need to be a little more honest with ourselves and each other about the absurdity of parenting and the imperfectness it creates. Because the more we work together to embrace the realness of it all — the more we can collectively and individually shed some of the guilt and expectation. Maybe if we sprinkle some honesty into the parenting highlight reels we share through our stories and on our social media platform, we will all feel a little less inadequate. It would at least be a start.
So here’s to a less sore throat tomorrow. To a fresh start, a lower bar, and a dismissal of guilt that comes with the inevitable daily mistakes made while mothering your most precious people. Because it’s hard, it’s messy, and we aren’t perfect. Thank God.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.