Reflections Following a Mom Meltdown

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Photo by Total due, via Flickr

I had a meltdown on Saturday night.

It was one of Those Weeks. Four baseball games and one practice on top of the ordinary two nights of lessons (Christian’s), one night of choir practice. Piano. Dance. School choir. Oh, and Christian had to stay late at work twice. Oh, and Julianna’s school spring festival. And I woke up at 2 a.m. on Friday and went, “Oh, (redacted), I have a column due today, and I haven’t even started it.”

I tried a couple of times to catch up on the dishes & laundry, but abortive attempts to clean end up making you feel worse, not better. I had to tell my kids five, six, and seven times to do the same thing, finally resorting to shouting because they were completely ignoring me. And Michael kept bringing Tonka trucks and Duplos upstairs, and disassembling Nicholas’ light saber, and they were fighting over the new Matchbox car mat, and complaining every time I told them to do a chore instead of watching TV.

I just wanted to scrapbook for the first time in three weeks. Was it so much to ask to scrapbook for one hour in peace?

Apparently so: the boys were eating candy in the living room, stepping (and kneeling) on my scrapbook materials, bickering about who was going to be a Decepticon and who an Autobot, and throwing couch cushions. And the dishes were still not done, and although Christian had given baths (thank God!), when I got upstairs I found dirty clothes all over the floor…

Well, you get the idea.

There are times when it just seems hard. Like you keep having to give and give and give, way past the time when it is reasonable to do so. You know going in there are going to be tough times, but you’d think once you’ve been in the hospital with kids a few times, the piddly stuff wouldn’t get to you. Except it all dumps on top of you at the same time, with unreasonable tag-alongs like, yanno, hubby having to stay late at work to make it all feel even worse.

Nicholas was begging me for a walking in the woods story, and I’m telling you, reaching inside and pulling out a piece of myself in the form of a made-up story was already an unattractive proposition even before I got upstairs and found the pigsty of dirty clothes on the floor.

After the ensuing maternal meltdown I was leaning against the chest of drawers in the big boys’ room and thinking, Please God, help me to be bigger than myself. Awkward and ungracefully-phrased it may be, but in the madness of life this is my go-to prayer, because I am constantly having to give when I think I have a right to receive, to forgive when I think I have a right to hold grudges, and to show love and affection when all I want is to send somebody to their room until their next birthday. (In case you’re wondering, the next kid birthday in our house is at the end of November.)

Why is it that all of the effort has to come from me? Not only the effort to give the instructions, but the effort to teach how and to enforce and supervise the carrying out. Take the initiative to bridge the cracks in relationships that were CAUSED BY SOMEONE ELSE, DAMMIT. Why is it MY responsibility to bridge the gap?

I think I’ve quoted this line from Grand Canyon before. It goes something like: “All the good and bad things in life are so close together. I see it in you and me, even, in our marriage.” I can be laughing at a kid funny one moment and ready to tear my hair out the next. I love them with a fierceness that eclipses anything I’ve felt before, and yet most of the time I just want them to leave me alone for a while, for the love of all that is holy!

It just feels friggin’ hard right now. I don’t want to be “bigger than myself.” I want somebody to think about me for a change, instead of me serving everybody else’s needs, real or perceived.

These are the days that bring home with such excruciating clarity how parenthood does indeed model the love of God—the gift of self, the self-emptying, the continual bearing of a cross that carries both suffering and glory in one package. And I don’t feel one whit better to say so. I always want blogging to be a nice, neat package tied up in a “There, all better now” bow, but the reality is that I’m on this roller coaster for the long haul, just like a whole bunch of you who read these words. So I just put these messy, scattered-ended posts out there so we all know we’re not doing it alone.

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9 thoughts on “Reflections Following a Mom Meltdown

  1. Betsy Nemec

    THANK YOU!!! for NOT tying it all up in a neat package!! I’m glad to know it’s OK to feel that way.

  2. Kathleen, I recently started following your blog, and have read many of your articles in “Family Foundations.” I’m sorry about your recent trials. I’ve found that it does get better, but it doesn’t just happen. At some level, some change needs to be made. I’ll share what has worked for me, but I know full well how difficult it can be to take advice, so do with it what you will, and feel free to mutter under your breath all those negative thoughts filling your head about me and what I’m writing.

    I have six kids, aged almost 6 to 18.5. I used to have Mom Meltdowns on a regular basis, but now they average about once a year. Sure, there are moments of frustration, but that’s seldom more than griping about dirty dishes on the counter. What has changed? A few things:

    1. My diet. Nearly 13 years ago, I learned that I had celiac disease and went gluten-free. Wow! The changes in my overall health (physical, emotional, and mental) were amazing. Four years later, the rest of the family went gluten-free and all experienced the same benefits: tantrums became few and far between; personalities changed for the better; ability to concentrate improved.

    2. My faith. As I learn to put my trust in God, I learn to chill.

    3. My rejection of what other people tell me is important. Some of my worst parenting moments (especially in the early years) came about because someone else’s voice was in my head, telling me what I was doing wrong. Now, I realize that if other people have problems with me homeschooling my kids, or breastfeeding forever, or saying, “No; I’m not going to this potluck or that meeting,” it’s their problem, not mine. Other people’s priorities may be best for them and their families, but they’re not best for me and my family. Going along with that was the realization that the rest of the world does not need to know every detail of my life. Nobody else is affected by whether or not my baby sleeps through the night, so it’s none of their business. I can teach my kids at home in a very relaxed manner, and I don’t have to explain how I do it to my neighbors or even other homeschooling parents.

    4. My realization that life is not a race. My kids do not have to be on every team, take advantage of every activity that comes down the pike, or head off to college at age 18. They can discover and pursue new passions in adulthood. There’s no need to try everything in childhood.

    People think I’m some sort of supermom for homeschooling my kids. I’m not. I’m taking advantage of the natural rhythms of family life and enjoying the freedom of doing what works for us. We’re not tied to a school schedule: our everyday life is not drudgery so we don’t desperately look forward to vacation weeks and summer breaks.

    Oh, and I’ve experienced that kids-in-the-hospital stuff, too: surgery for a four-month-old and diabetic ketoacidosis with a ten-year-old. Those experiences do lend perspective, but like the seeds that get choked out by cares the world, it can be hard to get back to those lessons learned.

    In the end, I’d have to say, make time for the scrapbooking. Try to be content with accomplishing the creative, good-for-the-soul stuff five, ten, or fifteen minutes at a time. It works for me. Oh, and have you ever tried art journaling? I love it! It’s like scrapbooking but much more therapeutic, without the worry of ruining a page.

  3. Self-emptying IS a pain, is it not? And simultaneously, a blessing — the answer to a prayer we so often make: “Less of me, more of You, Lord!”

    Yes, something has to die in us…to make room for grace. And that “something” never goes quietly, it seems to me. Not even for Jesus. “Let this cup pass me by…”

    Which is why I think it’s accurate to say that I see Christ in you, Kathleen…and in all the Moms who keep loving, long past the point where it’s reasonable for them to do so. God is there, rushing in to fill the void left by your self-emptying. I can see God there…and I am grateful for your witness!

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