This year has been a real refining fire for me as a mom. We had a baby, so there were all the normal stresses that come along with that: sleep deprivation, constantly being behind on laundry and dishes, and the additions of a newborn and her stuff and need to nurse whenever we were planning to go anywhere. But this year, more than any other, I feel like God has been working on me to quit yelling at the kids so much. Has He been working on you too?
You’re not alone.
In my house, we’ve been in the midst of potty training multiple kids and I’ve never been so (literally) surrounded by poop. I hate poop. I. HATE. IT. Cleaning poop from a newborn who’s breastfeeding? No prob Bob. But a two, three, or four-year-old who knows—and says (everyday)—that she should poop on the toilet, yet continues to stare at you blank-faced while she sits in front of you pooping her pants? That’s a whole other level of rage.
Yes, I said rage. It’s cool, you can judge me. Just know, I have the curse of both German and Irish ancestry. Anger is an easy emotion to access for me. It’s time to come out and say publicly, “I’m a Christian and I struggle with anger.” (And I know I’m not the only one.) But God’s teaching me how to tone it down.
For you the stressors may be different: a teenager testing every word you say, a pre-teen in the throws of moving from cute snuggle bug to a hormonal drama-fest, a diagnosis that makes even the most normal conversations so, so difficult, your husband’s illness or untenable work situation. There are so many things life throws our way, and anger is an easy emotion for a lot of us to access.
Recognize you have a problem.
You know if you’re prone to anger or not. When something doesn’t go right, do you lash out? Do you blame others when things are out of place or tasks undone? Some moms react differently: they’re more likely to cry or get so busy trying to fix everything that they wear themselves thin and don’t stop to care for themselves. Not me. I’m more likely to get pissed off and say things I regret.
Then that’s what happens, I get mad and regret it, over and over and over. Anger, regret. Anger, regret. Story of my life. But at least I’ve recognized the pattern. I’m not at all saying I have this thing figured out, but when a situation keeps occurring and we handle it badly over and over, it’s time to develop a new strategy to deal with it. Recognize we might need new tools. A book, a conversation with a friend, a nutritional supplement, an essential oil, a therapy appointment.
There are tons of tools. These two are easy and they’ve helped me:
This is what I consider emergency intervention. Or at least that’s how we’ve used it. When the poop is hitting the fan, it’s time to leave the room and go hide in a closet or bathroom–preferably with a lockable door. Put in some earbuds and sit down. Pay attention to your breath and slow down. This doesn’t have to get all mumbo-jumbo philosophically or be complicated at all. Just sit down, close your eyes, breathe in, and breathe out. Even 3 minutes will work wonders.
It’s amazing how long I’ve known this. So at age 33 I finally gave up and made a concerted effort to do this.
I started with the Headspace app since my awesome sister recommended it. It’s super user-friendly and even has meditations for kids based on different ages and what emotions they might be dealing with. It’s really full-featured, but it’s pricey for an app at about $13/month if you want all the features. Give the free stuff a try, though, and see if meditation might be an idea that fits your style.
I also tried the Abide app, when I was looking for some meditations that might include Scripture. I found its meditations to be a little less calming and more like devotionals, but that might be just what floats your boat. You can just listen to background noise in the app, and I really liked that feature. One kid actually uses Abide to drown out his sisters when he’s having trouble focusing. This one also offers a free trial before a paid subscription of $5/month.
Last post I talked about habit training, and that’s a theme that will definitely be back. As I’m reading Charlotte Mason’s volumes, I’m seeing her talk about it over and over as the crux to a rich educational life. She calls it the “dominant idea” of her life, actually, so it’s good to pay attention.
“The formation of habits is education, and education is the formation of habits.”
Habits happen–for good or ill–100% of the time. In Mason’s day, they talked about habits in terms of patterns being forged in our brains every time we do (or don’t do) something. We’re conditioning ourselves with every minute.
So, what single habit could be better to develop than being in God’s Word regularly?
When I started working more to get back to a habit of daily, personal reading I was convicted. I just felt bad about myself. The Law can do that. When you’re sinning and you read Scripture, it tends to point out the fact that you’re sinning and prick your conscience. Let’s just say my conscience has bled this year more than usual.
But then God started bringing me Peace. It may have helped that I got out of the Old Testament prophets and into the Gospels and Psalms. I should know this by now, but I wanted to forge ahead with my reading plan and it turned out that as I was reading the Old Testament prophecies of doom and condemnation upon Israel, I was feeling the weight of my sin heavily. Duh, right?
Anyway, I started by just digging into some reading plans in the YouVersion app, and that lightened things up. YouVersion offers short devotionals centered, like Headspace, on what emotions you’re dealing with at the moment. The internet is amazing like that. I got helpful spiritual guidance while nursing my baby in the dark and reading on my phone. But I had to read the right stuff.
One thing I love about the YouVersion app is that it keeps track of your days in the app, and I really didn’t want to break my streak, so I kept reading the Word. Thus, small steps toward a stronger habit.
The more I’m in the Word, the more I feel like I need it. If I want to stay on an even keel through the highs and lows of homeschooling, five kids, the newborn phase, and potty training, I need more of God’s Word in my life, not less.
The same is true for you, no matter what your stressors are. The more stress, the more our need to lean on God and hear His Word spoken into our lives.
With everything we have going on during the school year, most of us barely have any time for self-care or any kind of personal time at all. (Toddler peeking under the bathroom door, I’m looking at you.) But the more that gets piled on, the more intentional we need to be about spending time with God, or getting centered or whatever you want to call it. Honestly, for me that just looks like me laying in bed longer while I nurse the baby and read some scripture on my phone. I could jump up immediately when I hear the house waking up, but I’ve learned to covet that time and let God use it to speak to me.
I hope you can find a similar practice. Summer’s a great time to try out some new practices like these so the cycle of anger and regret can take a backseat. Peace, friends.
(But seriously, message me on Instagram @rhikutzer if you feel like you’re going to lose it on your kids and I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to drink a glass of wine with you!)