You are the parent of adorable little kids whom you dearly love. Though most of the time you enjoy being with them, there are those other moments when you don’t. Indeed, the truth of your darkest moments may be hard for you to accept.
Joanna had just put her infant son down for a nap. Her 3-year-old son was in his room, quietly playing with his toys. Whew, a chance for me to relax, she thought.
A little while later she thought she’d better check on her son. When she entered his room, her rage was instantaneous! She grabbed him by the arm; flung the crayons across the room; cursed him out and smacked his behind as hard as she could. What had her little guy done? He displayed his artistry all over the new wallpaper.
Now the 3-year-old was screaming hysterically, the baby was awakened and her 5-year-old would be arriving home from school any moment. “This is crazy,” she thought. “I used to be a sane, normal human being. How did I ever get into this nuttiness?”
“I love you.”
“I can’t stand you.”
“I’m so miserable.”
“I’m so sorry.”
This is the emotional roller coaster of love, anger, depression and guilt that makes up the daily existence of many parents, especially moms who are with their kids most of the day or who arrive home exhausted from work, with little patience to spare.
Yes, everyone knows that parenting is a tough job. Thus, no one — except one who has never been a parent — expects you not to lose your cool at times. But what if you don’t just get upset when your kid doesn’t listen to you, you blow a gasket. What if you don’t just raise your voice when your kid misbehaves, you rip into him.
Such intense feelings, which are more common than many realize, I call “normal crazy.” “Normal” because so many parents experience them. “Crazy” because somehow that nice, calm, reasonable adult finds that she or he (yes, it’s not only moms) has turned into a shrieking, screaming out-of-control loco.
If you experience these heavy emotions, it’s no use just stuffing them, denying them or hiding them so nobody — except your kids — know they’re there.
So what can you do?
I wish there were a magic formula I could give you that would change things for you right away. But I don’t. Why not? Because programming a computer is a piece of cake compared to programming your emotions while parenting. With a computer, you create your own little universe and then it does what you tell it to do. Great! With parenting, you create your own little universe and then your little ones do whatever spurs them on at the moment. Frustration!
So, is there nothing that one can do to quell one’s “normal crazy” emotions?
By far, focused psychotherapy is the best answer. And yet, so many people hesitate to even try it, thinking “who needs to know my darkest secrets; I’ve been doing just fine keeping everything to myself.”
Yet, once you find the courage to talk about it, you become open to learning more effective ways to handle your anger, your anxiety, your expectations, your need for control. In addition, you may not only learn more effective parenting and communication skills, you may also discover how to structure your day so that you create more adult time, more learning time, more alone time.
If intense emotions are getting the best of you, ignoring them may seem to be the best strategy, at first. But living a rose-colored lie works for only so long. In contrast, learning how to manage and express those pent-up emotions will set you free. Free to be a better parent. Free to be a better you.