It’s by faaaaaaaaar the worst time of day.
You know, the 4pm to 7pm you-wonder-why-you-ever-had-kids, nightmare, the-seconds-are-like-hours time of day?
The time when you’re trying to make dinner, while picking up the 83 kid toys that are littering your living room floor, while asking yourself how it’s possible you still aren’t ready for the day? Oh, and the kids are melting down because they are starving and mad and irritable and want to go somewhere or play outside or go see their friends or poke the dog in the eye? Or want a pretzel. No, a saltine cracker. No, a cookie. No… wait, you realize, it’s almost dinner time so you can’t have any snacks. Cue. The. Tantrums.
Yeah, that time of day. The time of day when you seriously doubt your sanity. And the eight times you’ve asked the toddler calmly to please close the cupboard door to the DVD collection is one Leonardo DiCaprio movie short of becoming a full-out, fire-breathing, psychopathic scream in his face?
Yeah, you got me.
Particularly when my husband’s out of town, the late afternoon to evening is so hard for me. My nerves are frayed. I’m rundown. I’m tired. I’m realizing how much I didn’t get done that day. And to top it all off, my kids are usually on their worst behavior.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t always use the great tips I’m about to share. I’m owning it. Sometimes, I just totally lose it. I scream in their face because I’m so far past frustrated that I don’t even feel like a human being anymore. It’s like prisoner torture mind control, except it’s coming from someone who’s 3 feet tall. Then I look in their sad, confused eyes as they try to process why Mommy’s yelling.
And then I realize it has sooooo little to do with them.
And so much to do with me.
So what can I change so I don’t get to that point?
First, I turn on music. Right in the kitchen, I will blast my favorite Pandora station from my cell phone and have it in the background as I’m trying to get the crazy mess I call dinnertime together. A lot of times, I turn it just a tad louder than the Netflix show our toddler is watching in the living room. (Don’t judge.) For that 10 minutes, I can cut up my onions and kale and throw it in on the stovetop while I listen to my favorite tunes. It’s like the first time a prisoner gets to go outside after being in solitary confinement. It elevates my mood and gets me back in a good mental space. Sometimes, the little ones will even come in, and I’ll pick them up and dance to the music. Those moments are so fun. But usually they’re just coming in to beg for Goldfish, I tell them to wait for dinner and they shriek.
I also like to take everyone outside. I’ll load the kiddos into the stroller, and we go on a 10-minute walk through the neighborhood. It just “resets” everyone, them and me. Or, I’ll take them into the backyard. Yes, with bare feet and sometimes the kids are just in diapers. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m the worst mom ever to let my kids go outside like that, but I know I’m not. I’m doing the best I can. We’ll play out back, and I’ll let them get as dirty as they want. After all, dinner is next and then bath time and then bed (thank you Lord Jesus). So they’ll be cleaned up in no time. Oh, and if it’s hot enough, I get out the hose and spray the kids with a few sharp blasts of H2O. It is an amazing stress reliever to be able to spray those cute little monster butts with some cold water! And they giggle and run wild trying to get away. Seriously. Try it immediately. In fact, I was having so much fun one day that I took this picture and posted it on my Instagram. Amen for #mamastressrelief
If I need to, I’ll go into the bathroom, close the door and take a hot shower. I just make sure the kids are safe: on the couch watching a movie, or strapped into their high chairs with a snack. If you’ve been reading my posts for any amount of time, you know that having kids has left me with a serious lack of personal hygiene. ;) So this kills two birds with one stone. Isn’t it crazy how great you can feel after a hot shower… alone? Yeah, crazy, craaaaaaazy good.
I also like to use the smile trick. It worked on me as a kid, and it works on my boys too. When our toddler is mad at me or throwing a tantrum, I look at him, smile and very slowly say: “Hey, Sullivan, doooooon’t smile.” When I see those sweet little corners of his mouth start to curl up, I pretend like I’m scolding him: “Hey, I saw that! I said don’t smile!” Next thing I know, he’s giggling. Works every time.
I’ll also ask my toddler: “Do you need a hug?” This is a great “reset” when he’s having a tantrum or getting mad over something illogical (which is every second with a 2-year-old, right?). He usually says yes, and then bows his head into my chest as I pull him close. My friend Kelly told me about this years ago, and I think it’s genius. Sometimes, when the kids can’t articulate what they want, it helps for them to know that we understand that it’s frustrating. Let’s hug it out and then do something else when we’re done.
And when all else fails, phone a friend. I call my sister, my cousin or my sister-in-law. They’re all young mamas and totally get it. Sometimes I’ll just text one of my mama friends about what a nightmare afternoon I’m having. And she’ll write back with some nightmare kid story that’s even worse than mine. And we LOL together.
So here’s the deal: you’re not alone. We alllll have bad days. And we alllll have a hard time getting it all together, especially at this time of day. Once you know that you’re not alone, you know that you’re not a freak and neither are your kids! Well, for the most part. (I’m making myself LOL now.)
You got this.
Now get those little tyrants to bed and pour yourself a glass of wine!