tantrum

When Mommy Throws a Tantrum

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Categories Behavior, Emotion, Feeling Overwhelmed, Mental Health, ParentingTags ,

Last night, I lost it.

After over two years of holding it together, I went off the deep end. I screamed at my kids. I don’t mean that I just raised my voice to get their attention. No. I screamed a throat-tearing hair-raising scream, letting out all the frustration of getting dumped for another woman, parenting alone, managing the house alone, our cats seemingly trying to kill each other, cat feces on my rugs, post-divorce drama, extended family drama, and kids who just don’t listen. I lay down on the floor and invited my daughters to kick me while they sobbed and begged me to stop being a monster. I marched into their room, threw everything on the floor that didn’t belong there into one of two 20-gallon totes until both were filled beyond the brim, and put both totes in the garage.

I lost it.

tantrum

I’m Sorry

I’m ashamed of myself. I would love to pretend that last night never happened, but I believe in parenting transparently and admitting my mistakes. I believe in letting you who come here to HDYDI to know how we really do it know that we mess up too, sometimes in epic fashion.

Both my daughters called me to task. J told me that I was supposed to be a role model to her and her sister. M told me that she didn’t want a monster mommy. M told me that she didn’t want me to sleep in her room… something I’ve been wanting for over a year, but not this way. J told me she wasn’t sure she would ever trust me again.

I apologized. I acknowledged all the things I had done wrong, all the things I should have done. I told the girls that while I wanted their forgiveness, I knew I hadn’t earned it and I certainly didn’t expect it. We cried together.

I told the girls that I think I understood a tiny part of how they felt, because they had gotten a glimpse of what my childhood had been like. I never wanted to them to have experienced that, and I would never let them see it again. I thanked whatever vestiges of self-control had kept me from letting my daughters see the depths of ugliness my own mother unleashed on me regularly when I was their age.

Where Did This Come From?

I’d noticed that I was starting to have depressive symptoms over the last couple of weeks–eating poorly or not at all, sleeping as long as the kids and letting the house slide even more than usual, having horrific nightmares, getting in conflict at work where usually I could swallow perceived incompetence–but I hadn’t done anything about it. I hadn’t forced myself into a routine of healthy sleep and nutrition. I hadn’t pulled out my sunlamp. I could have done things to prevent last night from happening and I didn’t.

Fixing It

So, starting today, I am taking action. I am going to take my antidepressants first thing in the morning, instead of whenever I happen to remember. I am going to use my sunlamp daily. I’m not going to let myself sleep in on weekends, no matter how tempting it is. Who knows, perhaps the science behind light treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is bunk, but if it’s the placebo effect that gets my mind in the right place, so be it. One would think that living in sunny Texas would be enough to combat SAD, but there’s something about the length of the fall and winter days or the quality of the light that puts me in a semi-hibernating state and messes with my mind.

The Kids’ Role

I reminded my daughters of my “brain disease” of depression. J told me that she’d noticed me acting strangely for a couple of weeks but didn’t want to hurt my feelings by bringing it up. I told her I needed her help, that she needed to let me know when I wasn’t myself so that I could take steps to fix it.

The girls also admitted to being able to do more around the house to help me. They’ve actually been enjoying having an open space in the center of their room, even as they rescue some toys from the bins in the garage. I have had to remind both kids to pick clothes up off the floor, but each item has required only one reminder, not dozens, and I haven’t had them whine at me about it.

School

We talked about where their kicking has been coming from, J’s kicking me having been the final straw last night. We’ve never accepted violence in the home, so I wondered out loud where in the world they’d learned to throw out a leg when frustrated. It turns out that boys at school have been kicking them and other kids. When I told the girls I’d like to speak to their principal about that, J asked me to hold off so she could talk to the school counselor about it herself.

What’s Next?

The children seem to have forgiven me. I’m not pretending that last night didn’t happen, but J and M don’t seem to want to talk about it any more. I suppose all I can do know is show them how I recover from seemingly unforgivable offenses, that deeds are the way to redeem oneself, that the non-monster mommy they’re accustomed to is who they can rely on. And I can confess my shortcomings to the world, manage my depression, and hold myself accountable.

Have you ever let your kids see your own ugliness? How do you recover?

When the Dust Settles

 

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

18 thoughts on “When Mommy Throws a Tantrum”

  1. Hey Sadia, first time commenter (and a long time reader!) here, and I just couldn’t move to the next blog on my rss feed without saying this: You are being too hard on yourself, and probably because of it allowing your girls to judge you too harshly. From what I’ve read here before, I know your girls have a lot of compassion and empathy for 7 year olds, tell them to use some of those skills on their own mother?

    1. Thanks for commenting, and even more for delurking! Yes, I think I need to remind them to help out more, to be more appreciative of me, and to cut me some slack. That said, acting out in frustration or anger isn’t something I accept from them, so I shouldn’t accept from myself either.

  2. I’m so sorry. Depression and anxiety are awful. They are the biggest challenges I face as a parent. I can vividly remember totally losing it with the boys over a pair of goggles. I’d been trying to keep my anxiety under control for days and I just couldn’t do it one. more. second. I screamed and cried and threw the goggles out the sun roof of my car. After that I was able to breathe again and start making healthy choices. The boys remember that episode, but have no lasting trauma. Your girls are wonderful and will show you the grace you should be showing yourself. I’m here if you need anything. Be kind to yourself.

  3. I like that Hulsta commented. :) But, I do think your daughters need to forgive their imperfect mother, just as you always forgive them even though they repeatedly don’t listen (and hit you).

    But, thanks for sharing this Sadia. You are a great mother. And honestly, it’s okay to lose it. It’s helping you get back on track. It’s helping you grow and find your balance again. You are NOT your mother, just remember that.

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Sadia. I don’t know of a mom who hasn’t “lost it” to some degree…most of us just don’t talk about it in black and white.

    I love that you parent transparently, and I believe your girls ultimately will learn from this incident. We have to take care of ourselves, of each other, and of our families, and they will continue to see you doing that.

    Sending hugs to all of you.

  5. Ditto the other comments. My sister and I remember our mom losing it, but definitely are not traumatized. (She also practiced “transparent parenting” and talked to us about it.) And I’ve only been a parent for a year, and I’ve already had some moments! Sometimes it’s good for the kids to remember that mom is human – imperfect, needing help, and experiencing emotions. Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone the actions – just that you are human. :o)

  6. Lots of hugs Sadia, for some reason you were on my mind a lot yesterday. Its OK I too loose it with my kids it took me sometime to realize that they are soft targets and I do tend to take out some other discontent onto them. Now I have started telling them that I am upset and would appreciate some time off and they listen.
    Just chill lady and feel good that you have such understanding kids without whose support you wouldn’t have come this far. Cheers

  7. Ditto what everyone is saying. Hands raised in the air, this mom misbehaves too. I think what puts us on the right path is recognizing that we’re wrong and not being too proud to apologize to our kids.

    It’s amazing what your kids can forgive. Like PPs said, don’t be too hard on yourself :)

  8. Hello Sadia, I hope all is well with you and family. I am chiming in because I’ve noticed you seem to be taking a break from the blog, but please don’t stop writing! You are an amazing mom and your stories help us all so much in our lives, at least I know I’ve thought of you often when facing different situations with my 5 year-olds. This “losing it”, at least for me, is kind of inevitable. I am not proud to say it has happened more than once here, but I also know how incredibly distant this is from the environment I had at home (not that much different from what you have said your childhood was like) and as others have said, it is also good that they know we are human and have limits. Not as in “watch your every step and fear for your life every time your parent raises their voice” (that was my childhood), but more like “let us not push limits all the time because Mom is a person with feelings and she may get overwhelmed sometimes, just like we do, and we do not want her to feel that way”. I also don’t like to make kids feel responsible for what we feel but I think they should be able to empathize and try to help here and there, as age allows them to.

    I wish you a great holiday season! Big hug!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Julia! The only reason I haven’t been quite as verbose as usual in the last week or so is that my girls and I celebrated an early Christmas yesterday, so I was busy cooking and playing Santa in anticipation! Never fear, I’ll come back to writing way way too much immediately. :)

      Yes, I agree that empathy is important, and by showing my kids that I have limits, they can understand that it’s okay for them to have them too. Recently, I’ve been pondering how my patience may be setting up unreal expectations in the girls for their father. I’m hoping they’ll be able to start to repair their relationship with him over Christmas when they get to spend a couple of weeks with Daddy at their grandparents’.

      Happy holidays to you too!

  9. We are all human, for better or worse. I think the fact that you are showing your children your failings, apologizing for what you can and creating a plan of action for the future is parenting at its finest!

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