I am far from perfect. I probably border on majorly flawed. I know yelling at your children is ineffective, shouting doesn't get the point across, and screaming actually has an adverse effect. I get all of that. Like I said, though, I'm not perfect. I often lose my cool, have a difficult time controlling my temper, and even say things I immediately regret. I constantly rue my actions and try to do better. I know that what my kids are really hearing when I yellis not positive, and for that I feel an immense amount of guilt.
My plan is to remain calm in all situations. I've read enough parenting books and scientific journals to know yelling at children isn't at all useful and, in fact, can have a negative effect. But I've also read extensive studies that suggest all healthy relationships have ups and downs, and as long as every negative interaction is followed by many positive interactions, there is no permanent damage to a relationship, or to the person on the receiving end of a negative exchange. Either way, yelling at my children always leaves me feeling sick to my stomach. I agonize over every word I said and every step I took. I replay the moment in my mind, analyzing what I could have done differently and how I could have handled the situation in a more understanding manner. It's the ultimate mom guilt.
But life is sticky and there is very little regard for family time in our society. Our society doesn't value mothers or their need for time off. Mothers are torn in every direction, with many trying to juggle full-time jobs, kids, and every other responsibility that falls on their shoulders. Mothers are exhausted, undervalued, and are expected to "do it all." It's no wonder I often lose my cool. Still, it's important to remember the following, because what my kid hears when I yell is rarely what I am trying to tell them.
"Mom Is Exhausted"
Most of the time I'm just tired. I am so tired. I work one full-time job, one part-time job, and I am also a full-time human who has a family. Oh, and I also have friends whom I love and want to spend time with. Making time for it all sometimes feels impossible. So, when I ask my kids to do something for the 50th time and they are still pretending not to listen, I resort to yelling.
"You're Being Disrespectful"
Whenever my kids talk back to me, I almost immediately lose any remnants of nice I had. I cannot deal with disrespect, especially since my life's mission is to raise good, respectful humans. I know my kids are good kids, and in public they are usually respectful and kind, but when they mouth off to me or to their dad, they get yelled at.
"Mom Tried To Tell You Nicely"
I always start out nice. I am patient and I speak softly. My tone of voice hardens after about the third request or question, though. I really try to be calm and cool and collected, but somewhere in the middle of the third time trying to talk to them I snap and someone who isn't me comes raging out.
"Mom Needs A Break"
Sometimes I lose all patience and it's not at all my kids' fault. Sometimes, I had a terrible day at work and my kids just happen to do something ridiculous that wouldn't usually warrant my wrath, but they get it anyway. Yes, I'm the adult and I should be able to control myself and my emotions, but I'm still human and sometimes make mistakes.
Children have selective hearing. It's a skill they are born with, I believe. I can whisper, "Do you guys want ice cream?" and my kids will come running from across the house. But I can assertively tell them to come to dinner when they are playing right by the kitchen and they will pretend they don't hear anything. I mean, how can I not yell?
"You're Going To Get Hurt"
If I yell off the bat, that means my kids are about to put themselves into a dangerous situation. Just the other day, my toddler and I are walking out of a supermarket. He runs ahead of me although I told him numerous times to walk by my side, because there are cars in the parking lot. But no, he does not listen. He thinks we are having fun. So, when he darts out of the front doors and towards the street, I yell like an insane person. He stops right away, though, and that's my goal.
"Mom Is Busy"
If I'm cooking dinner after a long day of work and dealing with disrespectful students, and my kids are trying to ask me something and I keep telling them I'm busy right now but they keep bugging me, I sometimes flip. Listen, I said I'm far from perfect, but I always try to do better. I guess that counts for something, right?
Stop whining. Please stop the incessant questions. Please leave me alone for just a few minutes. Let me breathe. Let me live. Sometimes I'm so done I don't want to be anywhere near my house. Some days I am so over this whole work-life "balance" (which isn't even a balance, but more like a juggle), that I just want everyone to leave me alone. Those times I probably yell a little too much, but in those moments I also need to remember to be kind to myself. We all need a break, moms included.