What is it about warmer weather, less structure to your days and time off work with the kids that seems like it might decrease your stress as a mom?
For weeks, you couldn’t wait for ‘online learning’ to stop, after what felt like an eternity of struggling to balance work and school (I bet that you appreciate teachers 1000x more after that!).
Just thinking about summer vacation made your heart feel light, imagining all the fun you’d have.
Lemonade on the deck, days at the beach, picking berries in the Annapolis Valley.
But truth is, after a couple of weeks, you’re over it! You feel just as stressed by the cooking, cleaning and juggling of kids in the summer months as you did over the school year.
But, no wonder! Summer can still be stressful!
You would think that kids who had been shuttled around all year to various programs and activities and had been stuck mainly indoors doing school work for the last 9 months would love some downtime. But, no.
My kids beg to play video games, watch TV, get on their siblings nerves, pick fights and tattle on each other and plead to go to Chicken Little for ice cream. Daily.
This year, because your kids have already been cooped up at home for the past 4 months, your patience is worn thin. Some days it feels as though your teetering on the edge of sanity, trying not to lose your s*&t!
Life as a Mom is Tough
It’s only 8 am and already you’ve been up for hours because someone peed the bed in the early hours of the morning and you couldn’t fall back to sleep.
You haven’t had your morning coffee yet because someone else is melting down over their unicorn t-shirt being in the wash. To make matters worse, you’ve run out of milk for your cereal.
You had hoped to get some exercise in this morning, but your plans have been derailed. You are tired and keeping it together when you’ve got a million balls to juggle can feel practically impossible.
Mom stress is real!
The Impact of Mom Stress
You might be familiar with the horrible feeling that floods your body in moments of high stress; like when your kids are melting down and you’re trying to get them out the door.
Maybe you hear your voice change-my kids joke that they know that I am about to lose it when I start using proper grammar and big words as I internally struggle not to come unglued.
And, if you don’t catch yourself, words will come rushing out like toothpaste out of a tube; impossible to put back.
Mom meltdowns leave you feeling terrible about how you’ve handled the situation.
As crappy as the situation was, your behaviour has left you feeling much worse.
Why is it so hard to keep my cool when I’m stressed?
Dear frustrated and stressed mom, I want you to know that this reaction is not because you are a terrible person. Or because you are any more flawed than the rest of us.
Making sense of this reaction by understanding how your brain and body work can help you to stop beating yourself up (you are human, after all) and have hope that you can learn to handle things in new ways.
Here is a brief explanation; Our brains and nervous systems respond with a stress response which is sometimes called fight/flight/freeze when we are experiencing a ‘threat’.
You might be surprised to learn that our brains don’t have a separate pathway to handle the emotional ‘threat’ of mom chaos compared to the physical ‘threat’ of a car speeding towards you.
Either way, when your nervous system becomes aware, consciously or unconsciously, that something bad is going down, or at least might be, your amygdala sends a signal that activates your sympathetic nervous system and your body gets flooded with adrenaline and cortisol.
Physiologically, you are primed to dart out of the way of that speeding car, but the reality is you need to keep your cool while you wipe up a full glass of milk that has been spilled all over the table and is dripping down onto the floor, when you are already 5 minutes late to get out the door.
Now, your body that was already experiencing a stress response because you were running late, has just gotten all jacked up again with a fresh flood of stress hormones after the milk spilled.
All that energy has to go somewhere…..and if you don’t get a hold of yourself so you just might come unhinged.
How do I Stop Losing It so Often?
One of the best ways to have a chance at getting a grip on yourself in those chaotic scenes, is to start recognizing your triggers and addressing them pro-actively.
What are triggers?
Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of one of my new favourite books How to Stop Losing Your s*&it with Your Kids defines triggers as “anything that makes it more likely that you’re going to lose your shit with your kids.” These can include stress, insecurities, big feelings, or distractions.
She states that some of the most common triggers are;
-Smartphones and social media
-Major life changes
Identifying and figuring out how to deal with your triggers is critical to getting a hold of yourself, so that you don’t flip out on your kids.
I challenge you this week to make a list of your triggers and what you can do to address each one.
I’ll share some of mine…..
A messy house – how can families with kids have a tidy house? It’s never going to happen! Remind myself to take a deep breath, ask for help from the kids and chill out if a cushion is out of place or there’s socks on the floor.
Lack of quiet time – I try to have a nice hot bubble bath or even a long hot shower every day with no kids around and if I’m really lucky even take a book to read in the bath! Finding quiet time even 5 minutes alone a day is key to sanity.
An overbooked life – Just say no! If I have too much going on, I try to reprioritize and let things go.
Mealtimes – meal planning at the start of every week for the week.
Noise – all houses with kids must be noisy, right? If the kids reach the point that they are getting louder than I can manage, go do ‘quiet activities’ with them or go outside with them.
Disorganization- write things down, keep a diary or daily journal so I know when and where I need to be. Leave extra time before and after because kids can drag their feet and take an age to do anything.
Here is a journaling page for you to help you start looking at your mom stress by giving you a place to record some of your triggers and possible solutions.
Come back for part two of this blog series and I’ll give you some practical, in-the-moment things you can do to get a grip when you are about to lose it.
After all, there is no way to avoid the nervous system response to a ‘threat’, but you can learn to handle it differently.