I belong to the underground group known as “Moms With Tempers.” If you are one of us, you know the feeling of losing your patience publicly when your son won’t take no for an answer because he wants that Hershey bar and he wants it NOW! Perhaps you have even delivered some choice four-letter words to the nice cashier at the grocery store, simply because your three kids are all talking to you at the same time and you can’t seem to focus on anything, and this nice cashier is just person number four chatting to you while you are trying to get three kids to three different sports practices at 3 three different locations at the same exact time. Ugh!
I can’t be sure how I got this way. There is the whole Irish-bad temper stereotype; yes, I am Irish. Maybe it’s as simple as that. Perhaps it’s because I am the youngest of five kids, and growing up, everything was chaotic and busy and fast-paced in our home. I was always fighting with my four siblings for food, time, money, attention — you name it! There simply wasn’t enough to go around. It could even be explained by astrology: I’m a Gemini, and we folks are typically impulsive and lack self-discipline. Whatever the case, I’m wired with a short-fuse.
When Mom Has a Bad Temper: Now What?
I want to change, I really do. I have all sorts of self-help books, mantras, and tools in my metaphorical back pocket, and sometimes they do work. But most times — like when the kids ask for a candy bar for the fifth time in a row after I have said no four times — my heart races, my blood boils and I just can’t control myself: “No! no, no, no, no, no!” I proceed to reason with a seven-year-old, just as if I were a seven-year-old, too. It’s utterly insane, but I go from zero to 100 real fast.
I imagine there are others out there like me. Hell, when I hand my kids off to their dad for a few days and I leisurely shop sans kids, I see you other short-tempered moms. I see you, and I smile; you may think I am judging you as you snap at your kids to stop hanging on the grocery cart, but I am really saying to myself, “Hell yeah, she is my kind of people!” My short temper is part of me. I am working hard to calm it, and while it may never be in full remission, I have found some success in combating my mommy tantrums. Here are three things that have worked.
1. Practice the pause.
When in doubt, pause. Pause your thoughts and your actions. Breathe, close your eyes, and repeat. My quick reactions that I refer to as my “short temper” always begin with physical symptoms: racing heart, sweaty palms, shallow breaths. My thoughts then follow. When I can stop the physical symptoms by slowing my breathing focusing on simply doing nothing, I’m reminded that I do not need to react right now. It can wait.
2. Choose your battles.
Sometimes it is worth it to say yes to that candy bar in line at CVS or concede to the fact that we will be late to practice. When I stop to ask myself what is most important in this moment, it is never that which has pushed me over the edge in the first place. I would rather be a calm and loving mother and say yes to the candy bar than a hyper, crazy mom just so I can say no. Time flies by so fast. Choose your battles wisely.
3. Channel your inner child.
This one is not easy to execute, but it almost always calms my temper. I channel the child within and pretend I am one of them. Some good ol’ fart humor or terribly dumb potty joke will almost always break the kids into laughter and I soon follow suit. It is quite absurd that sometimes at the age of 40 I convince myself to make a silly inappropriate or crude joke to my own children, but the truth is, seeing them laugh will always brighten my mood, and so, I challenge myself: Make them laugh so hard that my only option is to giggle along with them.
It’s not easy being a mom with a temper. Patience is a virtue that doesn’t always come easily. Next time your little cherub is begging for a toy at Walmart, think before you act and don’t underestimate the power of a strategically-placed fart-joke. Patience is a virtue and it can, indeed, be cultivated.
This post was written by Suzanne Hayes.