My cute Spencer is now three, and he's growing up beautifully, but when he was two, we had meltdowns just about every day. Whether we were at the store, church, school, the library, or the park, he never wanted to leave, and he would throw huge tantrums and run away from me.
I would try to reason with him, I would try to get him excited about our next activity, and I would try to hold his hand and gently lead him to the car, but he wouldn't have any of it.
Finally, my friend Saren taught me the "barrel hold." I would carefully scoop Spencer into my arms, hold him on the side so his kicking legs couldn't bruise my shins, and get home ASAP. One day I had to get a photo because this was such an integral (and frustrating) part of my life--it's important to document the bad and the good.
But today's post isn't about Spencer's meltdowns. It's about MINE. For some reason, moms seem to feel better when they know that other moms have meltdowns, so I am going to spell this reality out on my blog:
I have meltdowns.
I try not to have them often, but sometimes I get so frustrated and tired and upset that I cry...a lot. One of my recent meltdowns happened while I was on a date with my husband. We'd arranged a sitter, we ate dinner at a lovely restaurant, and we were looking forward to having a nice evening together. Instead, I cried all over my husband's shoulder, smeared mascara all over his light blue shirt, and said something like,
"I'm so TIRED! There is too much to do. I'm not doing well at anything in my life. I'm not getting enough sleep. Why am I even trying to do anything extra with The Power of Moms? The reason that moms don't do stuff like this is because it makes them insane to juggle so many things, and who am I to try to be a help to other people when I am struggling so much with my own challenges?"
It wasn't a pretty sight, and it went on for quite awhile. My husband was incredibly patient through the whole thing, and after some comforting discussion and a good night's rest, I was fine (but a little embarrassed about my display the night before).
Even though it's normal to have meltdowns, it's preferable NOT to have them, right? I've been working on this pretty seriously for the past six days (since my last meltdown), and I think I've discovered a few ideas to avert future meltdowns. (I'll have to report on this in a few months to let you know how it's going!)
Method #1: Get enough sleep.
I know this seems obvious, but how many of us are actually getting enough sleep? At the Power of Moms Retreat we held in June, we went around the room and each listed one thing that would make the biggest difference in how we felt about our lives, overall. Nearly everyone said they needed to get to bed earlier.
This requires more discipline than I expected, but it's working. I've given myself a bedtime, and if that means I don't get to watch that TV show or finish up that project, then so be it. My sanity is more important. I've been helping my children get to bed between 7 and 7:30, and then I'm done by 10. It's amazing how the world looks beautiful when you're well-rested.
Method #2: Give yourself a break.
As mothers and women, we work long hours, and we do lots of great things. It's wonderful to have high expectations, but if we start getting grumpy because we're we're overwhelming ourselves with visions of pefection, it's time to give ourselves permission to relax.
I'd love to be a daily blogger. I think it's a fun way to catalog lessons learned, and every blogging conference will tell you that daily blogging is important to your blog success, but that's not realistic for me right now.
With my current blog, I'm planning to post once a week, if the stars are aligned, but if I don't get to it, the Internet won't implode. It's not worth the stress.
I'm applying this same logic to many other areas in my life. If the counters are crumb-covered until morning, that's all right. If a load of laundry gets wrinkled sitting in the dryer, that doesn't make me a bad person. If I can't be a classroom volunteer this year, that doesn't mean I'm a neglectful parent. If I don't implement a new marketing strategy this week, then we'll just do it next week.
I'm not trying to set up mediocre goals here, but I have a tendency to want to do everything perfectly--right this minute, and that doesn't make for a mentally healthy mom.
Method #3: Anticipate your "meltdown triggers."
We all have them. In a college Psychology class, we studied our "stress indicators," and meltdown triggers aren't any different. There's always some sort of warning sign before we turn into emotional wrecks. What is it, really, that throws you into that downward spiral? Is it hormones? Relationship issues? Overscheduling?
A big one for me is deadlines. I like being a responsible, deadline-meeting kind of girl, but when my first priority is my family, external deadlines create too much stress. Spencer (as demonstrated in the photo above) doesn't care if I have a meeting tonight or a presentation to make this weekend. He's more concerned that his line of Hot Wheels is completely straight along the edge of the table, and he wants me to "ooh" and "ahh" right along with him (which I WANT to do).
Now that I know deadlines are a weak point for me, I'm taking steps to reduce the number of deadlines in my life. For example, I'm not attending the New England Power of Moms Retreat (though I'd LOVE to be there) because traveling is too stressful for my family right now. I'm also not putting my children in a ton of extracurricular activities or committing myself to scheduled writing deadlines because I know it will only cause more meltdowns.
Maybe it sounds like I'm turning into a pansy, but what I've found is that when I am rested, relaxed, and free of deadlines, I am actually MORE productive. I move my business forward at a faster rate, I am open to more creative ideas, and I am actually enjoying the process.
If you have meltdowns, try these methods and let me know how it goes, okay? I've got this vision of a happy, productive, meltdown-free life. It will be fabulous. Want to join me?