Even if your kids are the best, it’s still tough
By Barbara Pierce
No! I won’t! And you can’t make me!”
My daughter, Becky, hurled the words at me with all the fury contained in her small 9-year-old body. “I hate you!” she yelled as she ran outside, slamming the door as hard as she could.
Taking a deep breath, then another, I told myself: “You can do this. You’ve got to hold it together.”
That was kind of how most of my days went. I’d suggest something to Becky, she’d blow up at me, say no, and race outside to cool down, slamming the door. She’d say no to things she might even like. She’d say no to most everything.
When I adopted her, I knew being a parent wouldn’t be easy. I didn’t know it would be as hard as it was.
I’d hide in the bathroom, just to get one moment of peace. I loved going to work, where it was calm.
Becky was a tough child to parent. But even if your kids are the best, it’s still tough. And exhausting. Even with a partner, most women carry more of the load when it comes to parenting and household responsibilities.
Mothers became even more frayed, frustrated and exhausted during the pandemic.
What to do
What can you do when you hit a wall? When the demands of motherhood are drowning you? Here are some things that helped me, coupled with advice from other mothers:
• Make time for yourself: Take a time out and do something that leaves you feeling recharged, like reading, soaking in the tub, a fresh cup of coffee. Walk away from being mother for a break. If there is someone to watch your kids, take a long break every now and then.
• Prioritize: Take a look at all you’re doing or feel you need to do. Are there some things on your to-do list that you really don’t need to do right now?
If your child is a problem like mine, it helped me to prioritize which of her behaviors was the hardest for me to take and work on that. It wasn’t that she said no all the time or the swear words she used, it was the door slamming that shattered my nerves. My first priority was to get rid of the slamming doors. I used positive reinforcement. Every time she shut the door without slamming it, I complimented her and rewarded her with some M&Ms, which she loved. And she quit doing it. Then I went on to the next behavior.
• Do something fun with your kids: Take a break from normal life, do something different, something fun. It doesn’t have to cost anything. You and your kids will be recharged. When someone suggested to me that Becky and I needed to go off and play, I didn’t want to; I was too mad at her. But I tried it and found that, after ducking out to a movie or the pool together, we were both in a much better mood.
• Use your support system: We all need support; don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend or family member. Phone a friend. Let them help you get through a tough day; they may have you laughing and feeling better in no time.
When I really hit a wall with Becky, my friend, Sheila, would invite her over to spend the night. Sheila stepped in to save my sanity every now and then. When my daughter came home the next day, I was in a much better place for having had the break.
My friend, Maria, invited Becky and I over for dinner with her and her sons from time to time. As Maria fussed over the pretty little girl, I found myself feeling more loving towards her. We’d both come home in much happier frame of mind.
• Eat well: A feeling of exhaustion can come from not eating enough of the right things. You’re so busy and tired from motherhood, you have little time to eat. When you’re well-nourished, you’re better able to deal with stress.
• Do something creative: Working on something creative floods your brain with dopamine, the feel-good chemical, as well as having calming effects on your brain. Draw, write, paint, sew, make a craft project. It’s not about what you create; it’s about the act of doing it.
• Tap into the stress-busting effects of nature. Spending time outdoors in a natural environment can reduce stress and frustration for both you and your kids. Being outside in nature reduces stress and increases the dopamine in your brain. As well as making you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being.
Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at email@example.com.