Every so often, not too frequently, I have a day when I wish I could completely check out as a parent; when I wonder, why am I staying at home with my still(!?!)-nursing toddler instead of putting her in daycare and going to work where I can interact with grown ups and go more than five minutes without being touched? A day when I find a constant stream of mini pep talks running through my mind: just breathe; relax; it’s not a big deal; slow down; does it really matter?Don’t cry over spilled milk. There’s a reason why they say that.
Today was just. like. that. I’m not really sure why, but I woke up not quite ready to parent (despite going to bed early after accomplishing quite a bit), and, today, my ability to be patient was no where to be found. Normal every day toddler behavior was suddenly grating. Of course, Nora was able to pick up the vibe that something was off with me, so she was super sensitive too — which does not help matters when all I feel like doing is yelling, “Leave me alone!” and walking out the door, never to be seen again. It’s very hard to explain to a toddler that Mama needs a time out, especially when we’re supposed to be on a week-long YouTube video and “show” hiatus. “Go entertain yourself,” only works for six or seven minutes, if at all.
So, we had a rough morning. Things I care about were broken. Milk was spilled. Toys were tossed all about. A brand new shoe was thrown out of the stroller (a new, very un-amusing phase) which resulted in twenty extra minutes spent searching for it and fuming about potentially lost money. Three separate walks were taken trying to encourage my sometimes-napping, sometimes-not-napping toddler to fall asleep. The whole time, I was doing my best to remember Housewife Challenge #5. Finally, at 2:40 when I thought I couldn’t take the tired cry-whining anymore, I crouched down next to the stroller and said very quietly while looking her in the eyes, “Nora, you need to please be quiet, or Mama is going to get mad. Please stop whining, close your eyes, take deep breaths and relax, and go to sleep, because Mama is feeling very frustrated and I don’t want to get mad.”
Instant silence. I stood up and started walking again and, not a block down the street, she was asleep.
I’m not sure why that worked. I found myself thinking, that’s all it took? Why didn’t I try that earlier? As if it were some great parenting triumph, when really it was sheer desperation.
I used nap time to sit, read, and drink the best glass of chardonnay ever poured. I told myself it was very 50’s housewife of me…but really, I didn’t need the justification at all, and I did, actually, feel much better after that glass of wine.
Nora woke up from her nap, and we went out to a birthday party for one of her little friends. At first, things weren’t really looking up. Nora was definitely out of her element and a lot freaked out by the older, more enthusiastic girls. For a moment, I thought we were going to have to leave.But then she started to warm up, and by the end she was having fun.And so was I.
I hate days like this. I never see them coming and I often have a very hard time working through them in the moment. I don’t spend more than an hour of daylight here or there without Nora, so I know frustrating moments (hours/days) are inevitable, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I had handled them better.
How do you handle frustration in the moment? Any tips on dealing with parenting burnout when you don’t have a partner available to step in? I’d love to read how you deal with days like today.