Melting Down, Mom? Tips For Saving the Day When You’re Freaking Out

melting down mom
An essential part of this week’s theme, going with the flow, is nurturing a flexible state of mind. Not always so easy to do when you’re surrounded by small, irrational people. But we moms don’t always set ourselves up for success, either: Have you ever been mentally so set in your ideas or expectations of how something was going to turn out that you found yourself completely losing it when things didn’t go to plan?

Oh boy, have I ever. I posted about a day like that last summer that went majorly awry. Just to give you some idea of the setting, it involved three boys getting “lost” in a public restroom at the county fair. Oh, and a police officer. But don’t worry, no charges were filed and the story ends happily, with the lot of us wandering through the RV displays.

Anyway, that experience inspired me to think about all the chances we get on a typical day or situation to turn things around for the better. There are things we can do to head off mom meltdowns…and when we miss that opportunity and find ourselves in the midst of a freakout, it’s not too late to turn it around. Even after you blow up, as my post illustrated, you can still choose to recover by taking a deep breath, maybe offering a well-placed apology, and making a decision to face the rest of the day with flexibility and good humor. Here are some of my best tips for heading off, stopping, or recovering from a mom meltdown:

To PREVENT mom meltdowns:

  • Prepare. Things aren’t always going to go according to plan. In fact, they’re almost never going to go according to plan. We do ourselves a huge favor when we  go into every situation with a plan of how we’ll deal, mentally, if things fall apart. But also stay optimistic: if you’re super stressed because you just know everybody’s going to fall apart at the restaurant during dinner with your in-laws, that’s going to shine through in your interactions with your kids. They’ll pick up on your stress and be more stressed themselves. And you won’t have much fun, either.
  • Adjust expectations. Before you embark on an outing or start your day, take another look at that to-do list or consider how you hope that trip to the park will go. Did you choose a time when everybody’s well-rested and fed for that trip to the grocery store, or will you try to squeeze it into a jam-packed afternoon rush-around? Are you feeling like Supermom on a mission because you somehow managed to clean out three closets during nap time yesterday, forgetting that each day is different: today that nap might be cut short, or your mojo might just be low? Goals are great; just make sure your expectations–of yourself, your kids, your spouse–are reasonable and manageable. Then if things go even better than planned, it’ll be a happy surprise.

To STOP mom meltdowns in their tracks:

  • Breathe. This is hands-down my most effective tool for keeping a freak-out at bay. You really can’t yell at your kids when you’re inhaling. Breathe in to the count of ten.
  • Speak softly. Have you ever noticed that once you start yelling, your words, tone and volume fuel your anger and you almost can’t stop? Try remaining silent for a minute or two while you think about what you really want to say, or if you must talk, force yourself to speak in a low, calm voice. You can still express disappointment or give a warning very effectively in a soft voice…in fact, I’ve noticed that sometimes the softer I speak the more my kids pay attention. Plus, you can avoid that embarrassing “There’s a mom losing it in aisle 4!” public scene.

Okay, even knowing all this chances are good you’re still going to flip out from time to time (I sure do.) So read on:

To RECOVER from mom meltdowns:

  • Play armchair psychologist. After the dust has settled and your face is a normal color again, ask yourself: why am I angry? Who am I angry with? Why? Am I being fair? Does any of this really matter that much?
  • Apologize and move on. Making a decision to no longer be angry can feel impossible, but it’s amazing how freeing it really can be. You know the Bible verse about heaping hot coals of kindness on your enemy’s head? When you decide to “act as if” you’re no longer angry, it’s amazing how quickly your feelings often follow suit.Don’t get me wrong: apologizing to our kids, especially when they were acting like hyenas on heroin during their older sibling’s school play, is not easy. But what about your reaction…was it fair, reasonable, or grown-up? Most of the time, no matter how badly they behaved, I have something to apologize for, too. And far from than making me feel less in control as a parent, I find that the simple act of apologizing is one of my secret tools to happiness. Saying “I’m sorry” when I overreact teaches my kids that apologizing when you’re wrong is the right thing to do, and it makes everyone feel a whole lot better.
  • Plan for how to make things go better “next time” (hint: look to the top of this post and read about preparation and adjusting expectations.)

How do you head off, stop or recover from mom meltdowns?

Original photo: Flickr user SpiritFire under Creative Commons License

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