How can a modern mum like me avoid getting to the point of no return? You know … that moment when I lose my shit and roar my head off like a T-Rex so loudly that my child’s hair blows back from her bewildered face?
Is it possible to not get annoyed about every little thing and therefore circumvent irate run-ins and pointless conflict?
Is it possible to re-set this grumpy mum before she blows?
The problem with life and parenting is that there are so many annoying things that happen throughout each day; of course there are good things, too, but for some reason those don’t stick. It’s the little annoyances and minuscule irritations that seem to cling to me. They linger like a bad smell just beneath the itchy wool of my cardigan.
For example: there is nothing I find more annoying than being served one piece of toast with two poached eggs. It makes me angry. I also don’t like it when a waiter passes hot coffee over my baby’s pram and there is nothing more frustrating than naughty, rebellious people that don’t put shopping trolleys back.
There are some things that just get my goat.
I realise in the grand scheme of things that these harmless kinks of life are non-consequential, but I find myself having to take deep breaths in the Woolworths car park as I watch sneaky shoppers shove metal carts up against curbs or into empty spaces. I have to try and work through the grouchiness I feel and distract myself by leaning down into the glove compartment of my car and retrieving a cashew nut I left in there the week before. But, no matter how hard I try to get over it, the feeling stays, sitting on top of my skin like a pustulant spot.
There are other things, too–motherhood annoyances. The constant search for shoes, the slowing down of pace when we’re in a hurry, the ‘this is disgusting’s’ when I serve something green and the cries of ‘I’m not tired’ when bags under eyes show otherwise.
All of these daily exasperations increase as the day wears on, like a thermometer whose mercury is slowly rising…
It sits at cool when I open my eyes each morning, calm and collected. I lie in bed and listen to the rain tapping our metal roof; I try and enjoy a moment of peace before the barrage crushes the silence.
‘Muuuum, the baby’s is on the table and he has a skewer’.
From tranquility straight into an emergency situation. I run naked down the hall, lurch forward and grab the wooden skewer out of his hand just as he’s about to leap off onto some pillows below.
‘Now, who wants toast?’
‘I don’t like toast today’
‘I want biscuits’
And so, it begins.
With every question and every refused offer, the mercury rises. It starts at my toes and by then time we are hastily and overly aggressively putting on seatbelts, its right up to my shins.
Quarter of a tank of anger simmers in my socks.
But, after school drop and a hurried baby hand-over, the main instigators are gone for the day.
Time to let other humdrum, mundane tasks annoy me for the next few hours.
I growl as I wait on the phone to Centrelink only to be cut off as they answer.
I curse as I wipe up toothpaste from around the bathroom sink.
I grumpily pull washing from the machine and shove it in the dryer.
I plump the cushions, take dolls out of the washing up bowl, hang damp towels on the line and pick up an assortment of toys, pasta spirals, pegs, beads, sweets, twigs and stickers from the floor so I can hoover.
As I do it, I’m not thinking:
‘Gosh, I love my children so much, look at all these things they play with, they’re so creative, I’m the luckiest woman alive’
What I am really thinking is how annoying it is that I have to clean up everybody else’s messes.
I wanted children and I love them more than anything in this world and the next; however, some days I need something back, something to show I am appreciated, something that will re-set my mood.
Before I’ve even had time to sit down and have a nice cup of tea, it’s time for pick-up.
They come out of class and wriggle their back packs over their shoulders and straight away ask,
‘What’s for dinner mum?’ Can we watch TV when we get home? I don’t want to do my homework!’
By the evening, it’s all culminated. The little aggravations have added up and are all sitting on my shoulder blades making me feel stressed. The mercury has risen to its highest point and I’m ready to explode.
During bath time, tiredness, theirs and mine, means patience is something that has dribbled down the plughole along with the contents of a brand-new shampoo bottle. I come into the bathroom to find their game called ‘wave machine’ means the entire floor is flooded.
I never thought I’d be one of those mums that shouts, I thought I’d be all hippie, all ACDC T-shirts, quinoa and amber necklaces. But as they refuse clean up the mess or go to bed, doors are slammed and I hear my own voice boiling over.
It gurgles in my throat like a bubbling volcano.
And I unleash the beast and it’s not pretty.
I’ve tried talking myself down from these monumental outbursts.
Don’t shout, I think. It doesn’t work anyway, it just makes you sad and them scared. Just breathe through it. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
But there I am standing in a bedroom doorway, yelling…
‘Don’t you talk to me like that!’ I say in a voice that resembles Pazuzu from the Exorcist.
As soon as it happens, I feel terrible guilt. After all, they are just children and it’s my job to be the person they look up to, not some deranged demon that has steam emitting from her ears.
Within seconds of the awful din, I’m cuddling my child and apologizing.
‘Sorry, sweetie, Mummy didn’t mean to shout. It all just gets a bit much sometimes’.
My heart sinks as wonder if my eruption has traumatized my precious child. Is what I’m doing going to make them shouters, too? Is it going to make them hate me? Is my parenting causing them to feel unloved?
By the time I go to bed, not only am I exhausted and grumpy, I also feel like a shit mum.
Then the alarm goes off and I do the same thing all over again. I wake up with a plan in my head to have a good day, a better day. Be the mum I know I can be.
The mum that gets down to eye level and talks them through a meltdown. The mum that does timeouts, naughty steps and number countdowns.
But, I forget.
Techniques I have learnt in the past get soaked up by the moment and instead I lean on my voice to try and take control of situations that arise and before I know it … horns are sprouting from my forehead and a forked tongue has unfurled from within my mouth.
I mean well, I love hard, yet I shout. I lose my temper and it doesn’t help anyone or achieve anything. It just ends with me having an early night and a house full of people that think I might need to be sectioned.
It seems the only way for me to be able to stop shouting is to try not to get annoyed about the small stuff, because it’s those tiny things that push the thermometer up. Frustrating daytime inconveniences that cause my anger to brim over by the evening onto my unsuspecting family.
It’s not always like this. Sometimes my family re-set me.
‘Mum, guess what?’
‘What? You can’t find your tennis racket and the baby has done a poo in the dog’s bed?
‘No, I just wanted to say thanks for cleaning my bedroom and I love you.’
‘Oh, right, I love you, too.’
Back down to zero I go.
A re-set can be many things, a kiss, a cuppa, the doing of a chore when not asked, a foot massage or even a thank you as I put the dinner on the table.
It is something so easy and simple to do and can make a huge change to my mood. It takes me right back to the start of the day when the mercury sat at cool, calm and collected.
I don’t think my family really knows how easy it is to get me back.
Parenting, even though it doesn’t always feel like it, is a two-way street. If they take a moment to re-set me, with a kiss or a thank you mum, they can revive me, bring me back from the brink.
Get back the mum they want.
It really is that easy.
Just one word is all it takes to keep the shout monster at bay.
The one thing I feel as a mother, like all mums, is a lack of appreciation.
So tonight, I’m going to sit down and explain The Global Re-Set for Grumpy Mums to my dearest, beautiful ungrateful children. I’m going to tell them how to avoid that demon, tame it.
‘I just want you to say thank you every now and again, so I don’t feel unappreciated. I hate shouting at you guys and think if you value me more I might not get so grumpy’.
‘Yes, mummy, we will try and be nicer to you….
but just so you know…
the baby just emptied a packet of flour on your bed and I can’t find my shoes….’
In through the nose and out through the mouth….
In through the nose and out through the mouth….