The Best Ways to Parent When You’re Not Feeling Like Your Best Self

Becoming a parent means taking on the equivalent of three full-time jobs with no vacation or paid sick leave. And on top of it all, you still have to make it into the office each day to keep a roof over your family’s head. Throw in preparing meals, changing diapers and wiping snotty noses, and it becomes easy to see why so many moms live in a perpetual state of exhaustion.

As much as you may normally manage to balance your professional and family lives, you’re only human. You get sick, you get tired, you get overwhelmed just like anyone else. But you can’t simply hang up your mom hat and call it a day. Here’s how to cope the next time you suffer from a raging migraine, your toddler tosses your iPhone into the aquarium or you’ve plumb had enough.

Identify the Problem

Often we feel angry without knowing the root cause of the emotion. The first step in managing feelings means evaluating why you’re so cross. Maybe your toddler did spill his milk on the rug, but does that justify flying off the handle?

Chronically feeling irritable means something in your life lacks balance. Maybe you feel resentful of your spouse for constantly “forgetting” to do his share of household chores. Maybe you received a performance review at work that you considered unfair.

Identifying the underlying cause of what irritates us permits us to attack the real problem, not blow up at those we love over minor irritations. And simply making a plan to address the pressing matter provides relief.

Have a Heart-to-Heart

Even children as young as two understand basic emotions such as anger, fear and worry. And they learn how to express these difficult emotions appropriately (or inappropriately) from their parents. Children raised in homes where frequent shouting and emotional abuse occurs regularly carry these habits into adulthood where they pass these behaviors on to their own children.

Discuss worries and cares with your children in an age-appropriate manner, and allow them to contribute ideas for solving problems calmly and rationally. Even when you struggle with mental health conditions that sometimes impact your behavior, let the little ones know of your condition. This teaches them sensitivity toward those with similar illnesses in the future.

Take the Pressure Off

Some days leave us all feeling like a teakettle ready to whistle. Generally, we bring undue stress unto ourselves by demanding perfection when “okay” will do fine.

No matter how much of a stickler your mother-in-law may be for cleanliness, that doesn’t mean you have to make the house spotless before she visits. And even if you and your family maintain healthy eating habits, indulge in the occasional drive-thru visit or delivery pizza after a particularly trying day. I promise, the kids won’t mind!

Ask for Help

Every mom needs a helping hand from time to time. Whether you need help keeping up with house cleaning or a mental health day to restore your inner peace, reaching out shows strength. And it beats the pants off of trying to manage everything yourself!

Moms with friends who have children of similar ages can take turns supervising play while the other enjoys much-needed peace and quiet. While only 42 percent of playgrounds have separate areas specially designed for kids five and under, those living near such facilities can enlist trusted teenagers to take younger siblings out to play. Those lacking such amenities should contact their local parks and rec department to request such fenced areas.

Cultivate Adult Friends

I don’t know about you, but I have a limit for how much baby talk I can tolerate before wanting to scream. Maybe because I make a living with words, merrily chirping, “here comes the airplane!” repeatedly when trying to coax my youngest to eat makes me want to jam a pencil in my ear, so I don’t have to listen to my own voice.

Moms need other moms as friends. Period. If you’re the gregarious sort, simply strike up a conversation with another woman watching her kid at the park. More introverted moms can meet friends online first through apps like Peanut, which was created specifically for mom-to-mom connections. Build yourself a tribe and enjoy returning to adult conversation.

Plan Some Time Alone

I’ve been the introverted bookworm type since I was barely out of diapers, so the toughest thing I’ve had to adapt to as a mom of two is having a pair of mini-me’s chattering away at me constantly, even when I’m on the toilet.

I don’t just need alone time to write — I need alone time to keep from ending up in a padded cell with a funky jacket that buttons up the back. Luckily, my hubby knew this about me long before we married (part of the initial appeal of our relationship included having separate interests instead of expectations of being together every moment of every day). When he realizes I’m going into sensory overload, he gets the kiddos out of the house, or at least into the backyard, so that I can catch a break.

Focus on Why You Love Your Family

Even on the toughest days, our families provide an unconditional source of comfort, acceptance and understanding. Honor the love you feel for those near and dear by taking care of your own needs, too. Every super mom needs to shrug off her cape now and then!

Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, passionate freelance writer, and the blogger behind Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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