Survive a Mommy Meltdown
I don’t think that a mommy meltdown is only known to working mothers. A meltdown can happen to any mom because we are all dealing with a certain level of frustrations, anxiety, stress with being a mom. Moms, in general, have a great deal of internal and external pressures and when those pressures are brought to the surface it is difficult to hide those emotions from the ones you love, including your kids. Having these meltdowns can trigger feelings of mom guilt, thoughts of being an inferior mom, and at times feeling like we are failing at life in general.
It can feel pretty bleak depending on how severe and regular the meltdowns are, but I think it is important to share that mommy meltdowns are normal and are very common. Rationally I know I am not the only mom who has yelled at their child, sent them to their room, was quick to be tired of the whining, and telling my husband that he needed to “deal” with them now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take away the feelings of being a bad mom even though I know I am not alone.
This isn’t about becoming a perfect mom (spoiler alert: there is no such thing). This is about having happier moms and providing strategies and methods for handling a meltdown positively. The best strategies that I have found that have worked in handling a meltdown have been similar to how I handle tantrums with my own children. Below are some of the ways that I have utilized to survive a meltdown and recover in a positive manner.
Listen to Others and Yourself
If there is another adult around (like a spouse or your mom) during a meltdown, listen to what they are saying as they are trying to be helpful. There have been plenty of times that my husband has said to me to take a walk, stop yelling, go somewhere else, and other directives to steer away from a meltdown. Sometimes even my mom can hear my frustrations through the phone (because moms are like that) and says let me take the kids for a little while to give you a break. It can be easy to say no and try to fight through the emotions and push through the day, but when I take people up on the offer I am a better mom moving forward with my children.
If there is no one around during a meltdown try and listen to your inner voice. Typically I can tell around mid-way through a meltdown that I am having one and I try to redirect myself once I realize I am melting down with my children. Most times this involves me removing myself physically from the space my kids are in (just to another room) for even a few moments. Usually, all it takes are those quiet moments to realize the meltdown is happening and regroup my emotions to minimize the impact of the meltdown.
Give Yourself a Time Out
Now sometimes a meltdown has happened and doesn’t get redirected and so after a full blown meltdown has a occurred I give myself a “time out.” My kids aren’t at an age that I could leave them alone without supervision. If I am home alone with them I will go to another room, but one that I can still see them. If someone is there with me (typically my husband) I will let him know I need a few minutes and remove myself from the situation. Whether I have 5 minutes to gather my thoughts or 50 minutes to decompress I always do a few things. I take a few deep breaths, reflect a little on what triggered me to get to the point of being out of control emotionally, and then tell myself one positive thing I am going to do for my children today to make sure they know they are loved. If I have more time because I am not alone with the kids I will read a chapter in a book, take a walk, take a bath, watch an episode of something I am binge-watching. It all depends on the moment and the amount of time I have to spare for some personal self-care. It is important no matter what is happening that you give yourself this timeout to refocus and reflect on the meltdown.
Say you are Sorry
No matter how long I was taking a break from the meltdown I always come back and apologize for the specific things I said in the moment. After a tantrum from my kids, there is always a point where they have to say sorry to the person they hurt and if not they are back in time out. It is difficult to apologize to your kids because you feel like a failure, but it is a lesson for both yourself and your kids. They are seeing that grown-ups make mistakes and say they are sorry as well. Kids are quick to forgive and you will feel better after you have apologized for the behavior. With all apologizes make sure it is sincere and that it is specific. For example, “I am sorry that I yelled at you during breakfast as I was having a bad morning and did not mean to hurt your feelings.” The more specific you are with your apology the more they will be able to directly relate your poor behavior to the apology, which is crucial to the moment you have with your child.
Hug Your Children
Lastly, it is important to end the apology with a hug and stating that you love them. This connection to them with put closure to the meltdown and end with a positive embrace. It is also important to say I love you to them to express not only through a physical embrace but also stating through verbal communication is equally important. Even if they are not affectionate it is important that you initiate the embrace so that they know they are loved. This will also help you out and help give you closure and help with the mom guilt that usually occurs after a meltdown. In the end, having the physical contact is important for growing your positive relationship with your children and allows you both to have a positive ending to a difficult moment you had with your children.
If you find that you are having frequent meltdowns and they are starting to impact your happiness and the happiness of your family then I would start to track your meltdowns and the triggers associated with the meltdowns. This may give you guidance in what needs to change in order to reduce the meltdowns and bring stability to your life again. If you find that you are having trouble finding the core reason for the meltdowns on your own then speaking to a professional can be extremely helpful in providing guidance and strategies for your specific situation.