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MomTalk: Mommy Frustrations - How Do You Handle Them?

The Patch Mamas share some of their strategies for coping with Mommy Frustrations. What are yours?

Jillian Sallee
The past few weeks have been crazy busy with end of the school year activities. I am wrapping up my school year this week, the kids end next week, and then the summer schedule starts. It’s a lot of fun, excitement, and chaos wrapped up in a pretty little one month package! The day-to-day stuff with the kids doesn’t frustrate me too badly, it’s the deadlines and activities that make me lose my mind. Sure, I lose my patience with the kids like the rest of us...daily....but overall I’m a pretty calm person.  

With all the stress building up in our house, I found myself last Friday night, amidst a pile of laundry on the bed, picking up one of my favorite books and rereading my favorite chapter, A Prince’s Tale.  It was as beautiful as ever, it totally took my mind of all of the things going on, and it kind of energized me to finish putting the laundry away. Reading is my main outlet. I love it for its simplicity and its complexity all at the same time. To just pick up a book and get transported to another time, place, to another person’s life when you want to escape yours, even just for five minutes...amazing.  

Scrapbooking is another way I like to release stress. The only problem is I do not have a house big enough for a scrapbooking room, and so my supplies are tucked all over the house. If I want to scrap, I have to go on a mission to find what I need and these days it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Online scrapbooking has become my new passion, no mess, I can do it in front of the Bachelor - it’s a win win! This is one I wish I could do more, but it requires a little more creative brain power than I have at the moment.

I exercise more these days than I ever have and I think that helps with my frustration levels. To be honest, I exercise mostly to support my eating habits, but I think physiologically it enhances my mood automatically. The part of exercise that helps me the most (besides the rock hard abs) is the fact that I mostly exercise with someone! To run the lake with my friends or my mom and chat the whole time, releases some emotion as well as toning my legs right up! Enjoying the feeling of success after a good run also does wonders for my mood.

There are so many ways to send your frustrating feelings right out the window; the key is taking the time to actually do them. I can think of a million things I should be doing rather than snuggling down in my cozy blanket with my book club book, but if I don’t take that time for myself, I won’t be a happy mama.  And if mama ain’t happy...

Regina Martine
Being a parent is frustrating in ways I never, ever anticipated. I am annoyed a lot of the time. Annoyed at my kids, but more often annoyed at myself for how I handle it. It has been a little easier lately (please, parenting gods, please do not strike me down this time) since my kids are all of an age where they understand reason and are not yet in the full throes of puberty. Ironically, two different friends described me as “very Zen” this past weekend, but in reality I am anything but. I have no patience whatsoever. Apparently I hide it well.

When my kids were little, I think I was more patient because they were babies and toddlers and couldn’t do things for themselves. Now they can do pretty much everything for themselves, but they don’t. They whine and bicker and squabble and refuse to pick up after themselves or pretend they don’t hear me and it drives me up the wall. A lot of my parenting frustration stems from arguing with kids about things they are going to have to do anyway. A lot of what I want to do in any given day gets lost in completely meaningless kid squabbles.

Just like when they were little, the easiest way to head off these problems is to not give the kids something to complain about. I try not to spring anything on them without warning. I try to go over what activities and errands are happening in any given day so no one can complain that they didn’t know what was happening. However, it seems that I can say what we are doing about 50 times and then as soon as I say “put your shoes on and get in the car!” someone says “Why? Where are we going? Why do I have to go?” Ugh.

Now that they are a little older, I do have a lot more freedom than I did even a year ago. All three kids are in school. I have been getting more freelance work and getting more involved in the community. I have things in my life that I do for me, not for my kids. I have an identity beyond being someone’s mother. My oldest daughter can stay home alone sometimes. I can go to yoga without leaving a crying kid in the babysitting room at the gym. My husband works from home a lot, so I can usually escape to take a walk or run an errand alone if the kids are really driving me bonkers. For now, my frustration level is pretty low. I still don’t feel very Zen.

Melissa Schools
Writing for MomTalk is proving to cut a little too close to the bone, lately. In last week’s , I felt compelled to confess my struggles with maintaining a positive attitude. This week, our topic asks us to discuss ways in which we manage the frustrations of parenthood.

Coincidentally, this past weekend was not only rain-soaked, but my husband was away. (Cue the tiny violin, please!) I have friends who handle single-parenthood of varying degrees on a regular basis. These friends are very kind to refrain from calling me a big, fat, sissy-pants when I admit that I found the whole weekend completely overwhelming and exhausting.

The kids were actually pretty well-behaved and the weather wasn’t that big a factor. In fact, the rain led to the cancellation of several (yes, several) activities for which I would have had to have been taxi otherwise. We went to the school block party, the library, the Home Depot for the Kids’ Workshop and mass on Sunday. I also managed to feed everyone at least three times a day (takes bow) and did some laundry and other cleaning.

Reading this over, however, I am not convinced it warrants the complete break-down I had about three and a half minutes after my husband walked through the door Sunday afternoon. Yes, I could blame pregnancy hormones, I suppose. Also, I just had been engaged in a serious head-to-head with my oldest son over the decidedly mediocre nature of the project he intended to pass in the following day. Maybe these two things drained my coping energy. In any event, I was a hot mess of crying, wailing resentment and self-pity.

As I listened to my husband and kids play outside, happily reunited after the weekend, I started for the stairs to throw myself down on my bed for a good tantrum to be followed by a nap. That will show them! But then I started thinking about having to write this article…

Patch Readers, (to paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie, As Good As it Gets), you make me want to be a better person!  Even if it really boils down to fear and shame about having to report my failure to deal with frustration in a grown-up way (or to lie about it), still, I resolved at that moment to avoid the tantrum/nap route.

This is what I did instead: I got my headphones and put on the Pop Rock station on Pandora. I turned up the volume and took my frustrations out on my housework. I never clean so fast as when I am mad about something. Dishes? Git yerselves in the cupboard! Toys on the floor? Shoveled into bins. Laundry? Folded within an inch of their lives. The tunes pounded and began to drown out the negative mutterings of my mind. The tears stopped (mostly). I felt my mood begin to lift, and then, as I grew pleased with my productivity, blood pressure came down, normal breathing returned, (steam disappeared from my once-flared nostrils) and then…

My husband appeared. (Cue doom music.) He patiently listened while I frothed at the mouth and, in letting me vent, allowed me the space and time to calm-the-heck-back-down. He’s a keeper, that one!

I will leave you with a handy reference guide for ways to deal with frustrations, parental or otherwise. I’ve divided them into three categories for your convenience:

  • Healthy/productive:

Prayer: Sadly, my prayers are more often prayers of desperation than of praise or true meditation (“Please GOD! Help me remember I’m the parent. Please get me through this!”). I’m not being flippant, however, when I say I believe God takes any prayers offered and interprets them in the kindest light possible. I hope for my sake (and Tina Fey’s), that I’m right.

Exercise: I always, always feel better and have more energy when I exercise. Always.

Expedited completion of household chores: See above anecdote.

Listen to good music on headphones at a decently elevated volume: Ditto.

  • Unhealthy/unproductive:

Drink a half bottle of wine per night. Yum. But still…

Barricade self in room and read or take a nap, punishing the family with my absence.

  • Just Plain Immature:

Make self fancy lunch/dinner when serving kids standard fare.

Sneaking treats without kids’ knowledge: ice cream, slush, candy, dessert. Muwa-ha-ha!

Laurie Hunt
Oh there are days… no matter how much you love your kids there are times when it is really hard. 

Aside from calling my husband to yell vent I find talking to other Moms helps. Writing this column each week helps, I appreciate very much the comments from those who read us. There is a lot to be said for knowing you are not alone, knowing you are not the only one who feels the frustrations of motherhood. 

Parenting frustrations can stem from having very young children and having everything take so much longer to do, never having any privacy and feeling exhausted from lack of sleep. When the kids get older the frustrations may be with the irrational behavior of a tween or a teen who is wrestling with their own hormones (while you may be fighting your own battles with hormones at the same time), returning to the workforce or just being done with saying and doing the same thing over and over and over…

I feel the single most important thing when I get frustrated as a Mom is to take a time out. Whether a phone call to someone willing to lend an ear or even a few minutes alone with a People Magazine - it can make a big difference. Do something that makes YOU happy – whether for an a few minutes or an entire afternoon.  I have my fair share of things that make me happy that include, but are not limited to…

  • Church each week.  It really does make me feel good.
  • A nice long ride, sometimes with loud music – preferably Janis Joplin, CCR or a little Norman Greenbaum.
  • Photography. I love taking my camera for a walk.
  • Twizzlers. The big bag.
  • A trip to .
  • Days of Our Lives. (I can’t believe I am admitting this…)
  • Going to a museum.  Alone.  Just me.

I am also sure to plan some one on one time with my girls.  This is good preventative medicine for all of us.

Tasha Schlake Festel
Never has anyone been able to frustrate – or downright piss me off – as much as my two children. I think it’s because I love them more than anything else in the world. And because they’re so important and I care so much about every detail of their precious lives, I want to do everything right and am sometimes filled with rage when it doesn’t happen that way.

Enter: Mommy Frustration.

We as a society have discussed, ad nauseum, the frustrations we all feel as mothers (and fathers). I don’t have anything new to add. Like just about every other mom out there, I wish I wasn’t known by most of the people in my life as somebody’s mom or “Mrs. Festel” or “Miss Tasha.” I wish I had more time to explore my creative and intellectual pursuits. I wish I was given the respect by my underage, blonde bosses at home as I was by those I respected at the office. I wish I wasn’t sick of hearing my own voice, saying the same things, falling on the same deaf ears. I, too, wish I wasn’t last on the list of people whose needs I tend to.

But that’s the life I took on when I became a mom. We all know the story. It’s not as easy as we thought it would be and we all thought we’d be better at it than we are. Now we just need to accept it, stop bitching about it and move on. Let’s take a look at all we have and how lucky we are to have Mommy Frustration. Remember, it means we are mommies.

I have grown more emotionally in the 8+ years I’ve been a mom than I ever did in the 30 years leading up to it. I am evolving and have my children to thank for the woman I have become. And you know what? I really like that woman! She is tough. She is strong. She is smart. She is resourceful. She is intelligent, kind, caring, creative and fun. She’s a rock star and never could have become that person without the unique brand of Mommy Frustration.

Mommy Frustration is a worthy opponent and rears its head in two ways in my life: frustration because of my children (as described above) and frustration on behalf of my children. The latter is much more difficult to manage. We all have pretty standard ways of dealing with the other stuff: exercise, art, cooking, music, Mom’s Nights Out, writing, weekends away all alone (which I highly recommend!). Every mom will find her way to deal with her frustration or she will shrivel. It’s do or die, and clearly the only choice is to “do.”

But how do we handle the things we can’t fix? When my kids were younger, the Mommy Frustration scale was heavily tipped to frustration as a result of my children. As they’ve gotten older, the balance has changed and I find myself less frustrated by them and more frustrated for them. 

I feel so helpless when my kids come to me, crying because someone was mean to them at school. My hands are tied when they tell me that someone said they didn’t want to be friends any more. I am powerless when they tell me about the stress they feel about the schoolwork they didn’t finish or the game that’s coming up. When they were little, I could butt in. I could talk to the other mom about why little Billy was mean to my kid. I could ask the other mom why Susie Kabloozy said she didn’t want to be my kid’s friend anymore. There was no stress over not finishing up their coloring in preschool or the game of tag they will play at recess. But now the helplessness makes me want to scream.

Now all I can do is hug them tight and try to give them the tools they need to fight their own battles, survive and thrive. I hate that they are old enough to feel the sting of the slights, but not mature enough to look past or solve them. While I always feel like time races by too quickly, it’s those times at bedtime when I am holding my sobbing and hurting child, listening to the latest story of kid drama, when I wish I could fast forward to a time of more context and maturity to make the hurt stop. But I can’t. And I hate that. I used to be able to kiss the boo boos, put a band aid on them, and send the kids back out to play. Unfortunately, these kinds of hurts don’t get fixed that easily.

I thought that I had gotten through childhood and adolescence relatively unscathed. But the cruel reality of motherhood is that you live through it again and again through your children, only this time you can’t do anything about it. All you can do is watch and coach from the sidelines. Sometimes they take your advice. Most of the time they don’t. They need to learn it themselves just like we did. What do we know? We’re just moms, after all.

And that, my friends, is frustrating. 

Jillian Sallee June 06, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I think I sound goofy happy...I'm really very crabby :)
Melissa Schools June 06, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I read once about a family that saved any broken or chipped glasses and dishes for a special corner of their basement where an angry or frustrated family member could huck them at the foundation wall in a controlled tantrum environment. I fantasize about this like some people fantasize about a pool.
Tasha Schlake Festel June 06, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Melissa, I'd use that a whole lot more than I'd use a pool...
Tom June 07, 2012 at 02:17 AM
You are not that crabby. I like goofy happy.
Tom June 07, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I love reading - but it is not my go to for frustration relief. Melissa - I am totally with you on the music. Nothing like doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen while rocking out. Getting out the guitar? Even better.

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