When Kids Are at Their Worst, Mothers Need to Be at Their Best

We all have those days or weeks when we are at our worst. You know the times…when you are irritable and the meanness seems to seep out of your pores?

I know I just want to crawl up in bed for the foreseeable future. Before I was a mother, these times were hard. But now that I have young children to care for, there is no such thing as crawling into bed to hide from the day.

But oh how I wish I could because I am so, so tired. Right now, I am at my worst.

We are knee-deep in a cross-country move. I knew moving with two small children was going to be hard, but I never imagined it would be this hard. It’s straight up chaotic. My kids’ behavior is off the hook. The 3-year-old is traumatized. He was (albeit gently) uprooted from the only life, house, school, and friends he has ever known. This was also the time that the universe decided to give the baby 6 new teeth.

And in the move, I have lost my village. I said goodbye to nearly every fellow Mama-friend that I relied on to get me through these times.

So right now, patience isn’t running thin, it’s non-existent. I’m losing any semblance of sanity that I once had. Life just dug a big hole and sucked me down into the depths of it.

The hardest part? As a mother, I am a mirror and my children experience life in my reflection. The stress I feel, my attitude, and the words that I say are directly mirrored onto the lives of my young children.

That means that, right now, my two kids are at their worst. Their patience isn’t running thin, it’s non-existent. They have lost any semblance of sanity that they once had. Life just dug a big hole and sucked them down into the depths of it–right along with me.

Research shows us that feelings are contagious. Mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, are frequently passed on from parent to child. But other common everyday feelings and stressors are all passed along to our children.

Have you ever been so frustrated with your kid that you just wanted to scream? I can guarantee that your child was also experiencing an urge to scream at you at that very moment. 

Have you ever had the urge to hit your kid? I can almost guarantee that your child was experiencing an urge to hit you at that very moment too.

When our emotions run high, our children’s emotions also run high as a result.

As adults, we have a better ability to control these feelings. We can stop ourselves from acting on those urges. Children on the other hand, don’t have quite the same ability to control those urges.

That’s why kids hit. That’s why kids scream. They get pushed to the max and can’t control the urge anymore. As adults, we are their mirrors and they are our reflections. We need to be the best mirrors we can be.

That means when our kids are at their worst, we need to be at our best. 

Easier said than done, right?

The past few weeks have me desperate for the calm life I once had. But in the mean time I am relying on these 5 things to dig my family out of this hole.

I have to take care of myself. If you want to be at your best, you need to give yourself the best. You know the old “can’t pour from an empty cup” analogy? It’s absolutely true. Take the time and energy to refocus and recharge your mental health. This isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity for the well-being of your family.

I have to breathe. I take lots of deep breaths, usually three at a time. Those breaths help to slow my body and mind. My three-year-old is starting to hone his deep breathing too. My hope is that if he starts this practice young, it will be second nature to him when he is grown.

I have to ask for help. Despite my best effort, I can’t do everything all the time. I have called in reinforcement. This means I have explicitly said “I NEED HELP,” rather just hinting around at it and hoping that someone will catch my drift.

I have to think positive. You are what you think. Positive affirmations have changed my life. That means I have to switch up the way I talk to myself in my head–focusing on all things good and positive. This small change in self-talk can have a dramatic effect.

I have to climb out slowly. I don’t expect to be emerging from the depths of this hole tomorrow. It’s going to take time. I am going to take care of myself, breathe, lean on my people for help, and take it one step at a time.

I can do hard things.This too shall pass. Behind every dark cloud is the sunshine waiting to breakthrough. 

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.