What to do when you're a tired mom

Last week was a bit bumpy in our household and homeschool. Between sickness and lack of sleep, tempers were lost. I should mention that I was the first to lose it. 

I get triggered when I don’t feel valued. Wouldn’t it be great if my twelve year old could read my mind, and then go, “Thanks for doing all those dishes, Mom! Now that you’ve created a clean workspace, I’m going to get started on my work right away!” 

It’s probably more accurate to say that I get triggered when I don’t value my own worth and my own needs. Instead of expecting my daughter to be a mind-reader, I could say to myself, “You’ve worked really hard. You need rest and some quiet time.” But this is where I’ve often struggled: putting my oxygen mask on first. I want to make sure everything is taken care of before I’ll go check-in with myself, before I’ll take the breath I need, say hello to my essential self.

In this instance, I was worried she wasn’t going to do her work. And the thoughts spiraled: she’ll never have a strong work ethic, she won’t learn anything, she’ll fail, I’ll fail. None of these are true, but it is crazy how they can control a moment—a terrible moment when I’m an angry mom. 

Wouldn’t you know I’d just written a blog on patience! However, it wasn’t about what to do when your kid says, “I hate you!” into an already mom’s about to explode atmosphere. It was about staying in the process; how patience is about milestones. So I was challenged to look at our breakdown as part of our process . . . to see ways we can readjust, create new boundaries and better routines. This week, we’ll recommit to some structure around our work cycles. I will speak my needs instead of expecting people to read my mind. 

A few months ago, we had a similar breakdown concerning getting to dance classes on time. Instead of issuing punishments for what happened while she was hotheaded, we decided (once we were all calm) to matter-of-factly discuss expectations. We wrote down a list of things that need to happen (or not happen) in the hour before dance class and who is responsible for each task. Things have been running smoothly since then. 

Similarly, I’m not going to punish myself—I’m not an “angry” mom, I’m a mom that needs to be well-rested and needs to have time to create and to connect with herself. 

So . . . What to do when you’re a tired mom of a preteen? Let everything be as it is in the moment, it’s not perfect and it sucks. But go do something to take care of yourself. When you are ready (it may not be today) talk about expectations, small adjustments. Write it down, commit to it.

Patience: it's about milestones

“All the way across! You did it!” I laugh. “Elle, you did it!”

She was not quite five. She wore a t-shirt with a picture of kittens on it, a white skirt with gray capri’s underneath; socks, no shoes. We were at the park. It was before the play-equipment was replaced, and so the monkey bars were still there—eight, thick yellow bars from one perch to the other. I watched her little body swing and sway, eyes focused on the next rung, feet hovering high above the sandy bottom. She went from one end to the other, one motion of her arms at a time. 

This is a milestone, I thought. Her first time maneuvering the entire set of monkey bars. I hoped I could remember it. 

Being Elle’s mom has helped me to recognize milestones—her first words, her first steps and first lost tooth. The day she went to school. The day she graduated elementary. 

But still. I am a slow learner when it comes to recognizing my own milestones. I was always a sprinter, a chaser of solutions, forever seeking satisfactory ending points. My eyes were typically set on finish lines, not processes. This had a lot to do with the way I was schooled; a lot to do with living in my head, at the expense of hearing my heart. A lot to do with thinking I could control outcomes.

Being with Elle helped me to see I cannot control outcomes. 

But still. I wanted to cross my own, metaphorical, set of monkey bars—the great divide between here and there, between the inner me and the outer me, between my soulful, creative self and my responsible, dutiful mom self. There was so much inside of me that didn’t seem to be represented on the outside. 

Elle and I walked the six blocks home from the park, hand in hand. It would be a few days before I could sit down alone, in silence. While she was at preschool, I would write. I would sit in my backyard or walk the beach. I would feel nature’s processes. And I would hear what my heart had to say. 

Though it felt like stillness, it wasn’t inactive. It was patience, in action. I was faithfully moving forward. At the time, my feet were so firm on the ground, I couldn’t see that I was making my way across the monkey bars, too. Bridging together the inner and outer me . . . an endless pursuit.

It’s hard to recognize our own milestones, isn’t it? If you’re still reading this, pause now and give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. Tell me about your milestones in the comments.  Where in your life are you actively being patient?