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Recovering from a Mom Tantrum and Meltdown

Recovering From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Morning

By Mir Kamin

I’d planned a piece about Halloween, today. ‘Tis the season, y’know? But instead, I had one of those awful mornings with my family where I feel like I need to do penance.

Last night I had a lively chat on the phone with my father, and he commented—for not the first time—that I appear to be holding up well under a tremendous amount of stress. This made me laugh (it always does), and I said, “You know the saying about how God doesn’t give you more than you can handle? That’s crap.” We chuckled and the conversation moved on; I suppose that most of the time it really does look like I’m handling life with a modicum of grace. And most of the time, we don’t talk about the time when it doesn’t.

Well, today was one of the days when it didn’t.

I wouldn’t say that I “struggled” this morning so much as I “melted down and had a spectacular tantrum.” Go, me! All of the stuff I wrote about continuing to parent through depression is still true, and it’s still the standard to which I aspire. Most of the time, I manage it. Most of the time, I think I’m able to give my children the best parts of me even when it feels like I have to claw my way through the dark to do it.

Sometimes, I’m in the middle of switching medications and I feel raw and wobbly. Sometimes I’m relieved to be off the old medication (which made my brain feel fuzzy and left me lethargic), but it turns out that the new med makes my stomach hurt all the time. Sometimes, my homeschooler keeps forgetting to hand in work for his virtual classes the same week where I find out that public funds are no longer available to pay for said classes, so we’re about to shoulder an additional financial burden so that said child can get some more zeros for work he can’t seem to manage to turn in. Sometimes my public schooler needs two different Halloween costumes for school this week (because one has to be fun! and one has to be history-related for class extra credit!) and only figures this out on Monday morning. Sometimes neither child remembers to empty their lunch boxes and leave them on the kitchen counter, and when I retrieve said boxes and empty them, I find a ton of unconsumed, now-wasted food. Sometimes I have a lot of work I need to get done but the kids have appointments and need rides and it feels like my husband gets to take care of all of his “stuff” as he pleases while I have to take care of the stuff of three people, putting two of those people ahead of myself. [Note: My husband is a saint. That’s the depression talking, and I know it.] Sometimes my husband leaves for work without putting the coffee on (arguably the hardest-to-deal-with issue on this list).

All of those things happen, sometimes. In fact, lots of those things happen really rather a lot, and most of the time it’s okay.

This morning, it wasn’t okay. I started off trying to talk to one child about a difficult issue in a reasonable manner, but this provoked an angry reaction, and the next thing I knew, we were yelling at each other. The other child walked into the middle of this wanting something else, and when I tried to say, “This would be a good time to just go take care of your own stuff and not get involved,” somehow that turned into cries of “Why are you so mad at me, I didn’t do anything!

Things spiraled out of control from there. In very short order, all three of us were crying and my husband had worried eyebrows (as well as a desire to Fix It, but unsureness about where to start).

I took a break, then went back to talk to the kids, and tried all of my standard “I’m sorry I behaved badly, I am just frustrated about these things” sorts of mature and logical communication. One of my children, true to standard form, was sad and apologetic, immediately. But the other child—I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty sure this kid is the reigning world champion in grudge-holding and persecution—was angry and disrespectful, and I found myself yelling (again!) about how I am trying, here, and you don’t get to talk to me that way, and no, the irony of raising my own voice to deliver that message is not lost on me.

On a later, third pass, to try to right this with the angry child, tempers flared yet again, and I ended up stomping out to our porch and just sitting out there in the cold, crying, trying to pull myself together. My husband came out to talk to me, and all I could manage was some disjointed whining about how I am never allowed to have feelings or be upset about anything, and I am always taking care of everyone else but heaven forbid I need a little extra care, myself, and how come I can put up with a hundred instances of Children Behaving Badly and be patient and loving and endure things I most assuredly had no idea lay ahead of me when I was a new mother, and no one ever says thank you for that, but the one time I don’t manage to be my best self, well, it’s like I’m the very worst mother in the whole world, because I am simply not allowed to struggle. It’s not fair.

To his credit, my husband let me rant. He hugged me and brought me inside and reassured me that I’m not a terrible mother and we will get through this.

I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that someone was playing with my phone this weekend, and thanks to the miracle of technology, I think we patched things up, and I got a bonus chuckle. Meet my vegetarian child, Pork Rind:

Onward. (Even though I have no idea what’s up with the whole Pork Rind thing.)

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • […] Well,the advantage of really screwing up and knowing it is that there’s nothing anyone can say to you that you haven’t already said to yourself. (Silver lining, right there.) So come what may, today at Alpha Mom I’m coming clean about the giant tantrum I had this morning. […]

  • abbeyviolet

    October 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    That sucks. I totally am with you though as I had a literally ‘hopping mad’ scene with my 4 yo last week.  Looking back I’m not sure why the situation made me that mad, and feel horrible, but was a straw breaking the camel (my) back moment with her, I guess. Anyway, you are an awesome mom and days like this happen (I think you knew all that).  In short, big virtual hugs coming your way.

  • Nancy R

    October 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Pork Rind sounds funny, duh. 😉

    I don’t think any of your feelings are out of line – they just collided today. My guess is it’s scary seeing Mom NOT in control.

    I too sometimes envy/resent my husband’s ‘escape’ to work.

    Hang in there.

  • Crickett

    October 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Well just come sit over here by me, and we’ll pour a glass of something, and exchange Bad Mommy stories. 🙂 You’ve managed to put into words how I periodically feel. I’m married to Mr. Oblivious Man, so I am the one in charge of remembering all the important things/dates/events/birthdays/anniversaries/etc. My sympathies, and (as you know) don’t be so hard on yourself. They don’t come with damn instruction manuals.

  • Jen

    October 29, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Yeah. I know. I know. I have similar but different struggles here, and it’s all I can do to not run away or send the boys to boarding school or both of the above. I had a sob session in the shower the other morning, and that took enough of the edge off that I’ve avoided screaming at them the last 36 hours. No promises for the rest of the week, though. We’re just all tired, there is little out there to help us, and what we thought was going to be there to help suddenly isn’t (in your case, the funds for the school, in my case…well, too many to list).
    I don’t have any answers, but a virtual bottle of wine and calming words. 🙂

  • Bob

    October 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    A) you’re allowed – because 1) you’re human, and 2) no one is perfect;
    B) kids are resilient – so 1) they’ll get over it, and 2) learning to deal with other people’s problems is part of growing up anyway, so this is a good learning experience for them;
    C) no one should be expected to be the parent 100% of the time anyway, that’s why its always better with two.

    don’t look at this as if it were a parenting failure, look at it as just another day. it wasn’t the best, but guess what – there’ll be another one tomorrow where you get another try at it.

    P.S. if MY child suddenly remembered that they needed TWO costumes right beforehand, ONE would be all they would get AND they would DAMN well help put it together. ESPECIALLY a high school-aged child. No free rides anymore. time to grow up and take responsibility.

  • Joy

    October 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Sorry you’re having a rough time – it has to get better eventually. I used to wonder why God kept giving me more than I could handle – why he seemed to think I could bare more than I could. Tried to find the verse in the bible and lo, and behold – it’s not in there. He never made that promise.

    The actual verse is Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it”

    I was somewhat relieved to realize that all the crap in the world is not some grand test of how much humanity can stand and as usual, humans misinterpret the bible frequently. Made me a little less angry at the Almighty for things I couldn’t cope with after all.

    Hope everything evens out for you soon.

  • kdblya

    October 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I think it’s good for kids to see us lose it every once in a while. It shows them that things aren’t necessarily easier for us adults, but that we’ve just learned how to hold it together most of the time. And just like them, sometimes we can’t. Empathy and stuff. As long as we don’t try to pass off our tantrum as the right thing to do, you know?

  • Cheryl S.

    October 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I have had this moment SO many times. Unfortunately, my hubby is usually adding to the problem not helping it. (sadly, but I love him anyway) Hugs to you.

    I am never allowed to have feelings or be upset about anything, and I am always taking care of everyone else but heaven forbid I need a little extra care, myself, and how come I can put up with a hundred instances of Children Behaving Badly and be patient and loving and endure things I most assuredly had no idea lay ahead of me when I was a new mother, and no one ever says thank you for that, but the one time I don’t manage to be my best self, well, it’s like I’m the very worst mother in the whole world, because I am simply not allowed to struggle. It’s not fair.

  • My Kids Mom

    October 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    The child who is at home is in his bedroom without permission to come out until he can treat me with respect. He gets frustrated over anything- school, teachers, friends, the weather– if doesn’t matter what causes it, but I get the brunt of it. A therapist said that it was because he trusts me that he takes it all out on me. Well dammit, stop trusting me so much!

  • Christl

    October 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for your Egypt mummy ideas. It’s exactly what my daughter Emma wanted to dress up as.
    Honestly, I didn’t finish reading the post, because it was stressing me out too much. You may want get your cortisol levels checked. Mine were high, but now they are very low. As an athlete I ran my adrenals to the ground.

    Love the site!
    All alpha’s unite!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  • Lara

    October 29, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    You are so not alone. I’ve had more than I care to admit over the last year. I apologize each time but still feel like the worst mother ever. I’ve always hated that “god giving what you can handle” crap. If that were true, I wouldn’t be having toddler meltdowns at 40 and there wouldn’t be anyone in psych wards or living on the street!

  • Brigitte

    October 30, 2013 at 7:37 am

    *sniff!* You made me have FEELS!
    I think we all feel like the crappiest mom ever at times, but my kid USUALLY still loves me, so I have to tell myself I’m doing OK.

  • Claire

    October 30, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Hugs. Just lots and lots of hugs xxx

  • Devon

    October 30, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Thank you so much for this. We ALL have these days and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one. Things will get better!

  • Arnebya

    October 31, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Third to the last paragraph. All of that, absolutely. And unfairness as childish as it sounds.

  • Maureen

    October 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Listen. There is no better or safer place to learn the art of conflict and reconciliation than with one of the very few people in the world who love you unconditionally. It’s practice. S(he) (I am guessing she but I don’t want to jump to conclusions :)) learned something from this. You are allowed to have moments. You’re doing it right.

  • Kristin

    November 1, 2013 at 7:53 am

    What I’ve discovered about meltdowns and/or not being your best is that apparently that’s all the kids remember. I feel like I’ve done fairly well over the last two months of taking care of my crippled husband and yet, apparently, I have not. So then I think “I worked THAT hard EVERY DAY for two months to maintain my sense of control and obviously it wasn’t worth it. Because OBVIOUSLY my struggle to remain calm and collected was a big ol waste and I should just give up now.

    I truly hate depression. I’ve been waiting for the Cymbalta to go generic (does depression hurt? commercial) because that’s the only med I am willing to try…I’m done with the rest of the antidepressants. Fat load of good they do me…after my kids told me how not okay I was all summer, I just dumped them – I think I was on, what was it, Zoloft. The only reason I’m willing to try Cymbalta once it’s not 5 bucks a pill is that it’s a whole different group and I’ve not tried that group yet.

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      November 1, 2013 at 8:37 am

      I am so sorry, Kristin. I truly hope you can find help in the short-term. Have you looked into talk or cognitive therapies?

    • Mir Kamin

      November 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

      Cymbalta is the med that made me insane, by the way. I’m taking Vybriid now, and so far so good. *knocking on wood* Adjusting psych meds truly sucks and I feel you on the weariness of it all.

      I second Isabel’s suggestion of a great cognitive therapist, plus I urge you to keep talking with a specialist about the right meds. Going med-free when you’re really struggling is probably not a great idea, and I’m worried about you. My PCP was willing to write me prescriptions, but it wasn’t until I got in with a psychiatrist that we really started to see a better approach than “let’s try this… now let’s try this…” etc.

      Hugs to you. I promise that is NOT all the kids remember. They will remember that you kept trying to make things better.

  • […] small, Mom, GEEZ, so Otto started calling him Medium Boy. And there was that whole thing where Chickie changed her nickname to Pork Rind on my phone for reasons which were unclear to […]