When I was a first-time mom, hard days caught me by surprise. Here I was, raising these amazing little people, and I thought life as a mom should look like a commercial – sunshine, laughter, and fun – all with the fresh smell of laundry detergent throughout my house.
But as moms, we all know some days stretch you to your limits.
At first, when I experienced more of a “rain clouds and wailing” day as a mom, the difficulty of it was compounded by the guilt and frustration I felt in the day’s aftermath. I felt like I handled everything all wrong, and our day had spiraled from bad to worse.
Over the years, little by little, I’ve learned how to handle the hard moments of being a mom in ways that get to the heart of the issue and can turn bad days into great ones.
Here are 10 steps I’ve learned to turn around a bad day as a mom:
1. Stop what you’re doing and take a time out.
I mean, YOU, Mom. When everyone is screaming and you feel like you’re about to explode (or maybe you already have), make sure your kids are safe (in their crib or watching their favorite comfort TV show, and take a time out in your bedroom. Leave your phone behind, don’t turn on the TV… take 10 minutes to breathe and calm down.
2. Ask yourself, “Why I am so upset today?”
When I’m having a bad parenting day, some of my distress is based on my kids’ behavior, but more often, it’s based on my own unmet needs or expectations. Whether it’s disappointment over what I hoped to accomplish, an unresolved conflict with my husband, unexpected sickness in the house, or too little sleep the night before, it’s helpful to identify why every little problem feels like a disaster. That way, you can acknowledge what’s really bothering you, and address it head on.
3. Speak the reality of the situation out loud.
When my emotions take over, it can feel like EVERYTHING. IS. THE. WORST. I want to say, “She’s been screaming all day!” But often, the reality is that we’ve had a really difficult 30 minutes. There may have even been some bright parts of the day. It helps to hear myself say, “We are having a terrible 30 minutes, but it’s just 30 minutes.”
4. Stay off social media.
When my kids are falling apart at the seams, sometimes I just want to mentally check out. I want to hop onto Facebook or Instagram and temporarily escape. Please hear me when I say, this never helps. Your kids will spiral downward further in attempts to get your attention, you’ll compare yourself to everyone else, and you’ll have lost another 30 minutes to chaos.
5. Seek encouragement.
At this point, I stop and pray. I believe that God’s intervention plays a huge role in shaping my reactions and perspective. I think He loves to step in and help moms out. For others, you may want to send a quick text to a friend or your spouse simply saying, “I’m having a hard morning/afternoon as a mom. Can you remind me that this will pass and I can turn it around?”
6. Adjust your expectations.
If your kids are sick and you were hoping to conquer the world today, the best thing you can do is adjust your expectations to a more realistic level. Set a new definition for what a “good day” will be today.
7. Accept responsibility and ask forgiveness.
Acknowledging when you’ve been wrong and asking forgiveness from your kids never feels easy. It’s easy to justify how their actions merited your (over)reaction. But some of the most beautiful moments I’ve experienced as a mom have been when I’ve knelt down eye-to-eye with my children and said, “I’m sorry.”
8. Read a book (or five) together.
Sometimes kids just need some undivided attention from Mom to fully recover from a hard morning. Sit down on the floor, snuggle them on your lap, and open a book. I’ve found reading books together is one of the best ways to reset our day.
9. Problem solve as a team.
When you’ve all calmed down, ask for help from your kids. “We had a rough 30 minutes, didn’t we? I want our day to end much better than it started. Does anyone have some ideas how we can turn our day around?” My kids are always excited to help solve the problem.
10. Recognize goodness at the end the day.
After hard days, it’s tempting to want to mentally write off the entire day. Instead, I choose to reflect on the moments of beauty, goodness, or redemption I’ve seen. I can guarantee they’re in there if you pause to look.
I hope you’ll learn, like I have, that each day with my children, even those that push me to my limits of patience, can be used to grow me into a better mom – and that’s a beautiful thing.