We’ve all been there….You know that moment when you really just want to scream bloody murder, or lock yourself in the bathroom for five minutes.
Let’s look at some scenarios just for fun…
Your toddler or baby will not eat anything the whole day, and seems to have been on a two-week hunger strike. He’s going back-and-forth from crying to tantrum and just plain difficult. And all you want to say is “please just eat something!” The less she eats, the more worked up you get…(No, don’t react. Let me do it for you: AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!)
When your seven-year-old who can read, brings home yet another superhero book from the library, and you just can’t bring yourself to read another comic….Why can’t we read something a bit more literary, like Winnie the Pooh or even George and Martha…anything!
And when your colicky baby just won’t stop crying – its been going on periodically throughout the day and you move them from the swing, to the bouncer, to the playpen, to the play mat. You walk them around, you repeat the first four, you put them in the crib and stick on the sound machine. You turn on the water in the bathroom and let them listen to the sound (that stops the crying for about five minutes…sigh). It starts again. You turn on the vacuum cleaner or the washing machine. (You have beads of sweat running down your forehead.) The baby stops for a minute and starts again. The kitchen sink is flooded with dishes, you need to put in some laundry. The screaming continues…..And then, you finally just cry, “Why isn’t my baby happy? What am I not doing?”
Or the dreaded ice cream van parked outside the playground or school every day. (Your kids can’t keep having ice cream every day, but then again, we can’t keep avoiding the playground or the school)…
And how about the toy store and the murderous cries each time you try and depart in a civilized manner without that “Thomas” or yet another Barbie or remote-control car.
So why do we feel the way that we do? Are we bad parents? Are we impatient? It’s complicated. I think aside from the colicky baby and perhaps some toddler tantrums which can be explained by the child testing his limits or having difficulty communicating, parenting is truly the most challenging thing in the world. It’s the constant straddle between being a friend to your child and being a parent by setting boundaries. It’s knowing which battles to fight every day and when to give in.
My coping mechanisms are the following:
1) A toddler who does not eat will eat eventually. In the same way that babies won’t starve themselves to death, neither will toddlers. And no, I don’t know why toddlers don’t eat. Are they teething, not feeling well, or over tired? Is there a new baby or something else going on in their lives? Are you a bad cook or are they just NOT hungry? Do they only want to eat chicken nuggets and pizza every day, no matter how hard you try? If there isn’t a fever or a virus, and you have it all checked out, CHILLAX. The more of a big deal you make it, the greater the deal it is. I highly recommend Tracy Hoggs’s book on toddlers for tips on feeding. For instance, Tracy suggests sitting down with your toddler and trying to eat something with them at every meal. My pediatrician has also suggested putting my toddler on the table with a meal in front of her and if she refuses, don’t make a big deal, just take her out of the high chair and let her carry out her day. But DO NOT – and this is very important – DON’T offer them anything else until the next meal. This suggestion, really, is a battle of wills.
2) When dealing with a colicky baby (this really is the worst), stick him in the stroller, put on some headphones with a great tune and power-walk. This will do YOU a lot of good. I’m not sure it really helps the baby, but sometimes it gets them to sleep or calms them down in the same way that driving does.
3) Don’t get stuck in the house all day because you are too afraid to face the disapproving glances of the people in the local drugstore and the constant advice from the well-wishers (the baby is cold, he’s too hot, he’s hungry, he seems to have gas, etc. YES, I know that!). If you can, hand the baby over to a spouse or grandparent or a friend for an hour every day so you can catch a break. And make sure you get out of the house. (Sure, you will probably hear the screaming in the back of your head even when you’re not with your baby – amazing isn’t it?) If you have other kids and can’t leave them easily and are at your wits end, stick the baby in the crib, close the door, put on some music and just take 10 minutes to yourself.
4) The dreaded ice cream van that you must confront every day is like that person you never ever want to run into ’cause they go on and on – only worse. You are just going to have get firm and allow a tantrum a few times. It’s a nightmare. Nobody likes the public tantrum, and you will always feel judged by others as all eyes are upon you. But at the end of the day, are you doing your child a service by letting them have ice cream every day? What values are you teaching them? Are you saying that it’s okay to cry each time and we will give in? This really gives meaning to the phrase, spare the rod and spoil the child. Be prepared for a super-sized tantrum, and commit to having the will power to ignore it. Same thing goes for the toy store. I’ve known people to avoid shopping for birthday presents with their kids ever, and that’s a shame. It’s nice to be able to walk into a toy store with your child and have them select birthday presents for their friend with a pure heart and asking nothing in return.
5) Getting one uncooperating toddler or screaming baby out the door every morning can be tough! When it’s two or more kids, good luck – just kidding! I’ve heard some moms give toddlers a snack just to get them into the stroller. For multiple kids, you just have to give yourself more time. I wake up 30-45 minutes early and get myself showered, dressed and fed. Then, I wake my kids and get them ready. Whenever possible, I lay out clothes and pack lunches and the diaper bag for daycare the night before.
6) Relax when your child brings home a comic book, but maybe set a deal with him – he has to try and read some of the pages himself and you get to pick the next book.
7) Go online to a mommy blog or join a playgroup and vent. Commiserating with other friends gives you a sense of community and helps to validate some of your emotions and struggles. Plus, many moms find really great friends through a blog or a playgroup. Parenting is challenging so its nice to have a support network. Remember it takes a village to raise a child.
8] Give yourself a break and give in. No harm done, as long as it’s not every day and it’s not reinforcing bad behavior. Sure, have that chocolate cake – go ahead eat the whole thing!
9) Practice yoga or consider meditation. I try to, but this hasn’t been something I have been too successful at. Definitely something I’m working on.
10) When all else fails, turn on the television and your kids will be glued to the tube – nobody’s perfect!
What are your coping mechanisms for when parenting gets tough?
Milbert Kiggundu-Bentham is a former fixed-income professional turned stay at home mom. She is working on a children’s book and a clothing line, and lives in New York City with her husband and three kids. She enjoys reading, writing and travel. You can find more from her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter (@ihaveyouneed) and Pinterest.