Although the unpredictable and intense postpartum mood swings have settled down for me, with lack of sleep and…well, being human…I really struggle with irritability as a mom. When the kiddos are up, Mom has to be awake and functioning, too. Even when my head feels like a block of concrete that wants to stay cemented to my pillow. The Murphy’s Law of motherhood–if it can go wrong, it probably will, at the worst time–seems to catch me by surprise a lot. It’s difficult to stay calm and in control. Actually, that’s part of my problem: trying to stay in control. I just can’t make everything go exactly according to plan. As moms we often envision the ideal course of events and then beat ourselves up when things don’t go that way, whether or not we really could have done anything “better.”
We can’t control others, not even our kids. (We can only do our best to guide them). We can’t control our circumstances, either. Yet we say to ourselves, If only I’d done such-and-such-differently, it would have gone well. Why couldn’t I have done it better? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we mean “perfectly,” not just better. There’s definitely the time to analyze what worked and didn’t, and learn from life. But there’s also the time for saying, I may not have done everything right but I did SOMETHING right; I made some progress! Because perfection isn’t something humans can attain, but progress is.
My husband has been the less-emotional voice of reason encouraging me in this learning process. The other day he even said something that seemed crazy to my type-A, achievement-oriented mind, when I was feeling frustrated with the fact that it had been several days and there was still an unfolded pile of laundry (even though each day I sat down and started folding it! Somebody needed a diaper change; somebody else needed discipline; people needed food; we needed to leave for an appointment, etc. etc.) He said, “Maybe folded laundry should be a weekly goal instead of trying to get it done all at once then feeling bad when it’s not done in a day…or two…or…” Ok, ok, I get your point.
As an aside, just now I started to feel guilty that I was typing during a quiet moment as the baby naps because I wasn’t folding the laundry but writing instead. I’m just a poor steward of my time, I told myself. That’s why you never get stuff done around the house. But that’s not the true. A creative outlet is my way of staying (more) sane and energized. It’s my free therapy. So I’m saving money! haha 😉 I firmly believe that while sometimes we need to be critical of the real flaws in our lives and make changes, other times we’re being discouraged by lies about ourselves. Truth gives us a way to be free from hindrances rather than shaming and condemning us.
So today, I started to think how I was really not handling our morning well. Part of that is true. I could feel myself getting angry and wanting to act in anger. But otherwise, I actually did some things right. Here’s how it played out: Breakfast over, I moved us into the playroom, coffee in hand, and sat on my favorite rocker. A few glides forward and back, and I heard a creak-crack. UGH! This stupid rocker! We shouldn’t have paid so much for it–even if we used gift cards to pay for it! I’m the one that fought to get this particular one because it reclined, too. Crummy design! I JUST fixed the other side a few weeks ago! Can’t anything be simple?! So I got out the glue and the clamps, which I’d never put away from last time fixing the rocker, and got to work.
Of course it was super interesting to littles and they both came trotting over, getting in my way. Sissy was climbing over me, trying to play in the glue drops, which I was fuming about already. Stupid of me not to put a drop cloth down…again. Didn’t learn from last time, did I?! I even remember telling myself this is an evening or nap time project, when the kids aren’t around. Too late now. Glue’s everywhere. My voice raised a bit, I barked out, “Nobody touch the rocker! You could get hurt by the clamps or break it worse!” Babies don’t really listen to reason, so it was silly to expect it from Sissy. She kept climbing over me.
Then big bro could no longer resist, and starting inching closer to the rocker on its side. It kind of looked climb-able. “Do you want time-out?! Do NOT. touch. the rocker.” Then he came over to me and started goofing off with Sissy. I now had TWO little people climbing over me. Frustrated with the dripping glue, the cheap quality of the rocker (I mean, card-board-like particle-board pegs holding the slats of the glider together, not even real wood. We paid enough; we should have gotten REAL wood pegs. Erg!!!), and then, lack of personal space.
GAH! I felt the blood boiling. Last time had gone the same way. And I blew up at them, I’m sorry to say. I apologized, but that doesn’t erase their hurt feelings at the time. This time, I really felt like blowing up, too. But I knew that would be wrong. Let your gentleness be evident to all, I recited. God, I don’t want to be gentle. They’re SO FRUSTRATING right now. I took a deep breath and said, “Honey, mommy’s upset right now because the rocker’s broken and it’s hard to fix. Please don’t touch me–or the rocker–right now. I need to calm down. I am going to fix this, and then we can play.”
I identified the real issue–anger about the rocker–and let my son know how he could help, by giving me space. He gave me some advice, too, “Yes. Talm down, Mommy. No upset!” Hahaa. I know, kid. I know. It’s just a chair. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. What does matter is that I didn’t blow up at my kids even though I felt like it. I’m learning how to better be in control of my actions, the one thing I can control in life, when nerves are raw. Progress.