Sometimes I become a person I don’t recognize…a mother I don’t want to be.
I know this ugly transformation is happening when I hear myself saying (inside or out loud):
“Ya no puedo más!”
[translation: “I can’t do this anymore!”]
Part and parcel of this is about being a mother who tries REALLY REALLY hard not to say: “Not now, I’m busy.”
I try to do stop what I’m doing when one of my three children call me.
I work to be present, listen, hear what they are saying.
It’s hard. Super hard.
And by the time 7pm comes around, my husband still isn’t home (or is abroad which means he won’t be coming home for days), I often find myself breaking this rule BIG TIME.
This is when I find my inner voice talking to me in Spanish. (Spanish is my first language, but I left Peru when I was 3, so never mastered it academically.)
Yet in moments of passion, Spanish surfaces.
My T-Rex Story
“MOM!”, my 7 year old boy calls from his room.
I am in the bathroom, trying to convince my dear 4 year old boy to undress for his bath (It’ll be 5 days since his last bath, but who’s counting!?)
“MOM, I need help!” Mr. 7 repeats a few minutes later after being ignored the first time.
“MOM, where’s my book?!!” yells my oldest only seconds later from downstairs. She’s 10.
I don’t answer for two reasons. The little reason is because I don’t want to feed into a “yelling across the house” culture.
The big reason is because I am in denial.
I am denying that these simultaneous demands on me at this time of the day make me feel like I’m on ‘the rack’ – you know that torture device that places its victim down, tying its limbs and pulling each in opposite directions until they effectively stretch the victim’s body apart.
I continue trying to convince Mr. 4 to undress and get in the bath.
Patience is dwindling as he continues to sit cross legged on the bathroom floor asserting that he won’t have a bath – uhuh, no way.
“MO-OM!!!” It’s Mr. 7 again.
I feel my body so heavy.
I wonder: What would happen if I just went for a walk? They’d be fine. Just a quick breath of fresh air…
It sounds urgent.
“WHAT??!!” I yell.
It’s a scream, really a high pitched hysterical I’m-on-the-rack-being-tortured scream.
“I need you!” he calls.
My oldest walks in. “Where’s my book?”
I take a deep breath.
“I don’t know, Mia. Where did you put it?”
The deep breath didn’t work. I can tell because my words sounds like angry tyrannosaurus rex growls.
“I don’t remember. You took it.”
“Please, not now, Mia.” I growl again.
“I need to read for 30 minutes tonight. Where’s my book? You took it!” Now she’s getting angry.
“MO-OM!!!” yells Mr. 7 (AGAIN!)
Mr. 4 is still sitting crossed legged on the floor. He’s fully dressed. He’s annoyed with me, about to enter tantrum mode. I look down at his greasy, tangled hair.
Somehow the knowledge that once I FINALLY get him into the bath, he will refuse to get out, slips into my awareness.
Why is this so hard?
I’m boiling up inside. I hear a whisper: “Stop world, I want to get off.” And then the Spanish starts coming to me as a muddled: “Ya no puedo más!”
It’s getting louder inside my head. I’m bubbling over. And then I look at Mia, without seeing her. I see red.
And I hear myself yelling:
“Ya No Puedo Más!”
The volcano has burst. I immediately feel bad. She’s left now.
Mr. Greasy Hair is looking up at me. “Mom, you scared me”, he says.
Shit. Yes, that was pretty scary. I even scared me.
(Now in retrospect I wish I’d articulated that. But I wasn’t composed enough to at the time.).
The thing is, there is nothing particularly unique about this evening’s sequence of events.
The build-up. The yell. The regret. The guilt.
There is nothing that different that makes this series of events stand out from all other mothering-kids-towards-a-goal moments; moments characterised by multiple and simultaneous demands that are impossible for one adult to multi-task successfully.
Maybe it’s about getting out the door in the morning. Or about putting a decent dinner on the table with a tantruming toddler grabbing at your ankles. Or (my all time favorite), hearing your beloved children attack each other over a toy as you desperately try to prepare for a critical work meeting with your work colleague over the phone.
Or maybe it’s something that feels little…like a request to play (just one more time), or read (just one more story).
Or the classic lack of cooperation; a defiant “No, I won’t wear that shirt!”
And you just can’t keep it together!
You lose it.
You’ve been triggered. Your buttons have been pushed. Or you’re simply too tired to do it anymore.
You want to curl up into a ball, or run away.
Sometimes that trigger turns you into that mother you never expected to be; that mother you promised not to ever be.
Sometimes it escalates into more.
Either way it doesn’t feel good. It’s not a “warm and fuzzy” moment. And it is definitely not the parenting you aspire to.
And so what?
Well…the good news: this is normal.
The bad news: it sucks.
The good news: while you may not be able to change the nature or number of demands, or even the amount of external help and support, you can learn to get off the torture rack – mentally.
Even though sharing my past psycho Mom moments with you is painful, I wanted to tell you this story because more than being calmjoyfulmom in your eyes, I want you to know that I’m a real Mom. A human Mom who still loses her shit sometimes.
I want you to know that you are not alone. That Moms lose their shit. Maybe not all of us, but most of us. We lose it and then we feel bad about it.
So, yeah, mornings, dinner time and bedtimes used to be rigged with bad Mom moments for me. And to be totally honest, the T-Rex example is the sort of hot head moment that used to happen to me a lot!
I guess I shouldn’t feel so bad because truth be told, it hardly happens these days. (Happy Dance!)
Why do I hardly lose my shit these days?
Well, a few years back, when I saw my daughter replicating my emotionally unregulated behavior and copying me, I got scared (really scared!). And I decided something needed to change.
I started researching emotional intelligence and mindfulness. I invested in Anger Management Courses, loads of Parenting Courses, and a life-changing Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course.
And while many of these efforts offered tools and strategies to help me manage the hot head moment, none of them helped me to understand why I reacted the way I reacted in that moment.
And without understanding these inner workings, the hot head moments kept coming.
For me, I’d go from zero to ten in 3 seconds or less. It was super hard to calm after I’d hit ten. By then I was already seeing red, already out of control.
I saw counsellors, therapists, life/ parenting/ relationship coaches. And I learned from my clients.
And talking it through helped a lot.
But what really got me over the hump was taking on the personal challenge of working on what lay beneath the surface. I decided to explore the inner dialogue – the shoulds, the not enoughs, the perfectionism, the doubts, the i-got-to-get-this-right – and the pressure this fueled. Pressure that ultimately lead to the explosion!
I had learned that stress is a reaction to threat – either psychological or physical. I learned that threat can look like: me getting it wrong, me failing, me not being or doing enough, me not getting it right.
I learned that I don’t react well under threat. That all of the above meant a lot to me.
I also came to realize that all of this was in my mind. That it was a mind game. That I was losing that game. And that my kids were paying the consequences.
So, I committed to a calmer, more mindful motherhood journey. I learned, developed and practiced strategies and techniques that helped me “up” my game.
This is how the tools, strategies and techniques I developed for my Calm Mom Coaching Circle and 1×1 MAMA inJOY work was born.
Mothers were coming to me with similar problems – they’d stress, they’d yell, they’d guilt.
And while I don’t necessarily advocate or believe that 100% no-yelling is possible (because we are human and being a Mom is super hard, after all), I do believe that we can teach ourselves – rewire ourselves- to respond to our Mom-Stress triggers in a calmer way.
In fact I know this to me true because it is something that I have taught myself and it is something that I’ve taught hundreds of clients around the world. Because motherhood is a hard and relentless “game” – for all of us.
The Calm Mom Coaching Circle is a program that I feel super passionate about. It is a game changers for mothers; it is a game changers for their kids.
So, if you want to “up your Mama game” from crazy woman to calm Mama, then please consider joining the Circle. Registration is open (with early enrollment bonus offers until end of Monday 23rd January) and there are still a few spaces left. You can learn more and save your spot here.