My oldest was sitting on the kitchen floor playing with wooden blocks. He had brought them in to play while I finished making dinner. Over and over he would build them up and knock them down, the same way he would every other time he played with those blocks. But on this day, every time the blocks hit the floor, it annoyed the piss out of me. I would grit my teeth and close my eyes, knowing good and well that I shouldn’t be getting mad at this.
The baby was fussing, getting louder and louder. My husband had just texted me and said he wouldn’t be home until after 8:00. I hadn’t showered in days. I hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep in months. All I’d had to eat was scraps of food here and there. The kitchen was a mess for the 18th time that day. And when I looked up, I saw a laundry basket spilling out clothes everywhere onto our dining room table. It had been there for three days, untouched (unless someone was rummaging through looking for clean underwear). The sight of that laundry basket, and the other two that looked just like it upstairs, overwhelmed the hell out of me. The idea of folding them felt impossible. I had reached my limit.
The blocks crashed to the floor one more time, and that was the straw.
“Gray! STOP DOING THAT!”
He just looked at me.
“But why, Mommy? Why?”
“Because it’s annoying!”
I turned around to head toward the refrigerator. On my way I kicked one block, stepped on another, and had to leap over my child to avoid stepping on him. I turned around and every block that I could make contact with, I kicked across the floor.
“GET THESE BLOCKS OUT OF HERE!”
Gray started to cry. He ran to the couch and buried his face in a pillow. I just stood there feeling guilty and defeated.
I put my head in my hands, and told myself I was terrible at this. I felt so alone and so embarrassed.
But the truth is, I’m not alone. None of us are.
This past week I asked 10 moms a couple questions about what it looked like when they hit their limit. Their responses made me laugh, made me look inwardly at myself, and even made me throw up my arms and say, “OH MY GOSH, ME TOO!”
I’ve decided not to use names for the sake of being respectful, but here are the things I learned from these incredible women. First, I asked:
“What does it look like when you’ve reached your limit?”
1. “I Snap At My Family.”
During my brief convos with the mamas, not only did all 10 women say that they snap, but they all said it first. Which, to me, is a huge indicator of just how much they love their families–it’s what stands out to them the most. And what’s even more incredible, is not one person blamed their partner or their children for getting them to this point, and they all said they wanted to be better.
“One time my husband was telling a story about his day, and I looked at him and said, ‘Let me know when you want to hear about MY fucking day.'” He quietly walked away, and I felt terrible.
“Lately I feel like I’m always at my limit. I know my kids wish I was nicer.”
“I become crazy, loud, mom. I always regret that my first response is to get louder.”
“I have a great mom, but she had an awful temper. I try to be more aware when I’m getting to that point because I don’t want to be like that as a mom.”
“I become such a bitch. I say the meanest things about everyone under my breath. I would hate it if they heard me, but for a second it feels pretty good.”
“I got so pissed once that I told my kids if they didn’t stop fighting I was going to leave and they would never see me again. My daughter lost it, and it took forever to convince her I wasn’t leaving. It was one of my worst moments as a mom.”
2. “I Can Feel It In My Body.”
Many of the moms also talked about their physical reactions when they start to get overwhelmed.
“I start to get headaches and neck pain.”
“It feels like the walls are caving in.”
“My chest gets really tight and I can feel my heart beating faster.”
“It may sound weird, but I will feel sluggish like I’m exhausted, but my body feels keyed up and kind of hyper.”
3. “I Can’t Think Straight.”
For a lot of us, our minds are going 100 miles an hour from the moment we get up until the moment we go to bed. We are thinking about, planning, and trying to remember a whole mess of stuff. So when life becomes too much to handle, it can be hard to focus.
“My thoughts become chaotic, as if I have a million things to do. And sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it’s not. And whatever I have to do feels impossibly complicated even though that’s rarely true! I’ll just start walking around the house cleaning random things.”
“I will forget what I’m doing at the drop of a hat. I’ll just mindlessly start opening cabinets without knowing what it is that I’m actually looking for. I’ll know I was looking for something, but I’ll forget what it was. So, I’ll just start opening whatever door is closest and hope that I’ll remember.”
The second question I asked was:
“What do you do to make yourself feel better?”
1. “I Have To Take a Step Back.”
Not surprisingly, this was the number one response.
“I’ll put on a movie for the kids and put the baby in the jumper and I will go to my room and breath and pray. If that doesn’t work, I’ll reach out to my best friend. Sometimes it’s just nice to take a moment to tell someone your kids are being jerks.”
“I get the hell away from my kids and I drink a big glass of water. I don’t know why, but the water makes me feel better.”
“I’ll run a bath and sink my head back into it until my ears are covered to drown out the chaos.”
“I have to physically step away and breathe and remind myself that this, too, shall pass.”
Mantras can change your thought process immediately. Some of the mamas shared these with me:
“I’ll just say to myself over and over, ‘You can do this.'”
“This is just a season.”
“It won’t always be like this.”
“Do what you can, let the rest go.”
“Today will be what it is. I will be who I am. There will be beauty in both.”
3. Get Moving.
At least four of the moms said that when they move their body for at least 20 minutes, they feel an immediate shift. Some even said if they can manage this three times a week, their stress is so much more manageable, even when it does start to boil over.
But this one is so hard. Because for a lot of us, when we get a free moment, we just want to sit down. But these mamas reminded me how important it is to get up and get moving!
4. Talk to Other Moms.
We need each other. That single truth is basically the reason I started this blog to begin with. If there was one thing I learned from talking to these moms, it’s that motherhood is unique and motherhood is also uniform. When we reach out to other warrior women who are walking right along side us, even if they are super far away, the loneliness vanishes.
So, next time you reach your limit and think that you’re alone in this, just remember that you’re not. And you’re certainly not a terrible mom. You can even make your kids run away in tears and hide their faces in a pillow, and they’ll continue to adore you. It just may be time to take care of yourself a little bit. Because hey…
Ur a Mom Now.