I have a confession. Today, my house and toys are a big mess. I typed a text message while my child was trying to talk to me. I lost my patience with my kids while they were trying to put on their shoes independently (in my defense they were moving extra slooow and I didn’t want my son to miss the school bus). And, my kids are currently quiet and happy only because I dangled the promise of TV before them as a bribe to motivate them to clean their rooms.
Prior to parenthood, I worked for years with children and families and thought I knew all about child-rearing. I was confident that my clinical, professional and book knowledge of children would transcend into my parenting and I would become Superparent. Faster than the toddler’s transition from joyous to tantrum! More powerful than an infant’s supergrip! Able to leap over any challenge (including carrying a screaming child on one hip with another arm tucked around an infant carseat and pushing a shopping cart while on the phone with the pediatrician)!
The existence of Superparent is a myth. The fact remains that moms and dads must weigh parenting decisions every day and sometimes opt for the less than laudable choice (baring abuse and neglect) in favor of sanity, economy, tranquility and efficiency. This observation is one of the main reasons why I started Intelligent Nest. I desired to create a place where parents could access researched information and realistic advice so that they could, as the experts on their own children, make informed and intelligent parenting decisions.
I hope to offer you, Reader, transparency and to never pretend as though all the topics and issues discussed do not apply to me. The truth is that, at times, I need to step back and take my own advice. A parent’s emotions are intricately interwoven with the successes and failures of their children. And although children often see their parents as saints, parents do not magically shed their faults and weaknesses on the day of their child’s birth. Instead, we carry our baggage along with us as we parent and hopefully find the journey of parenthood to be refining as we muster up strength, in the midst of weakness, that we did not know that we possess.
I am a very efficient person and while that sounds like a strength, it really presents itself as more of a weakness in parenting because (as you may have noticed) children are not, by nature, efficient. As with my confession in the opening paragraph, my impatience can come barreling out of me at the most inopportune times. Impatience then transforms into my foe, annoyance, and if not tempered, annoyance quickly becomes anger. There is nothing quite like a mean mama. Have you ever been there, Readers? What am I asking? Of course you have! Every parent has let their emotions get them better of them from time to time.
What can be done to squelch the powers of Mean Mama and to release the Superparent within us all? After all, lack of sleep, external stessors, kid choas, hurried schedules, isolation and physical discomfort plagues us all from time to time and can get the better of us.
1) Phone a Friend: Find a friend who is willing to be transparent with you and to whom you are willing to be transparent with. If you find yourself having a difficult day, week or month call/text your friend. Asking for support or airing your frustrations with another adult is a great way to process your emotions. Your friend can also offer advice, sympathy or hold you accountable. (If you are ever tempted to or do abuse your children, do not wait, call a therapist today and ask for help and find safe lodgings for your children until therapy is underway.)
2) Take your Own Advice: Parents are so emotionally invested in their children that they often can loose touch with their own parenting values and ideals in the heat of a conflict. As the founder of the Intelligent Nest and author of this blog, I confess to having to have to step back from a situation from time to time to ask myself, “What would I advise a client to do in this situation?”. At times, I can only see how I feel and what I want instead of what should be done. Knowing what to do and actually being able to follow through on doing it are two different things. The best approach to a parenting situation can be clouded by emotions and stepping back from your personal investment in the situation can offer clarity.
3) Take a Time-out: Time-out is effective for adults, just as it is for young children. When your baby has been crying for hours, when you can’t stand the sight of your kids, when you feel so angry you could scream, take a time-out. Call a babysitter, go for a walk, find solitude in the bathroom or another quiet room, etc… Breathe and collect your thoughts. Reattempt the situation when you feel ready to embrace your circumstances with a calm response. It is OK to tell young children that you need a moment to think as this models how to handle negative emotions in a positive way.
4) Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself: You don’t have to do it all. The parents around you are not doing it all. You will observe certain parents approaching certain parts of parenthood in exemplary ways. One mom may be the queen of school committees, but may ignore her kids at home. Another dad is great at playing fun games at the park, but controls every move his child makes behind closed doors. Keep in mind that we naturally let our strengths shine and we hid our weaknesses. Pintrest and Facebook normally only show the best parts of our days. No one posts a video to Facebook of them screaming at their child nor do they pin their Happy Meal dinners. Avoid drawing comparisons and focus on what you do well and set realistic goals for growth in areas of weakness.
5) Apologize: Mistakes will happen. You will be short with your child from time to time. You will forget your manners occasionally or ignore a valid plea for help. Be ready to apologize to your children when you are overtaken by Mean Mama. Apologizing is a powerful tool that equips your child with important conflict resolutions skills, as well as a proper view of themselves as individuals who can recover from mistakes. Thankfully, children see people through a black and white lens. People are either all good or all bad. Mom and Dad are rarely seen as “bad” and children are quick to forgive because, even though you know that Superparent does not exist, they will believe for quite sometime that you do.