No matter how much a child is yearned for and loved, there are times when the pressures of motherhood drive us to new levels of frustration, anxiety and anger.
Even the most relaxed woman can lose it with her children. But there are steps you can take towards being a calmer mum.
1. Make a commitment
This is the first and most important step to becoming a calmer mother, says Heather Irvine-Rundle, clinical psychologist at the R.E.A.D. Clinic.
“It’s not enough to tell your brain how you don’t want to be. You need to give your brain a clear direction about how you are going to be. This makes it far more likely that behaviours to support that change will fall into place,” she says.
Literally say aloud and write down: ‘From now on, I’m going to be a calmer mum‘, or use your own wording.
2. Establish the rules
Set clear rules for yourself about what is acceptable behaviour from you when you’re angry, says Irvine-Rundle.
“If you’ve never thought about what you can do when you’re angry, all you have available to you is what you usually do. This means in times of stress you’ll automatically do what you know, even if you don’t like it.”
Write your rules including what you won’t permit yourself to do when you’re angry. Importantly, include what you can do instead – things to release your anger that won’t harm your children. Jumping rope or calling a friend – it’s whatever works for you.
3. Chill out more
Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys and Raising Girls, says that calmness is at the heart of what a parent gives to their child because it conveys a deep feeling of security.
“Children depend on their mum and dad for their sense that the world is a safe place,” he says.
“We might be sad or angry, but if we create fear, which is what the opposite of calm really is, then we undermine their trust in the world around them.”
This can be a real challenge for a habitually rushed or worried parent, but Biddulph explains why it matters.
“Basically, a baby or child taps into our level of stress and goes with it – they are like a cork on the ocean of the adults’ stress levels. There is no way that a baby, for example, can be more relaxed than its mother. She is the bedrock on which the child’s sense of calm depends.”
Confront your tendency to rush about, fret or crowd your life.
“Hurry is the enemy of love. Do what you can to make family life more fun, less rushed, and to chill out about the things that don’t really matter,” says Biddulph.
4. Put yourself first
“When you don’t take good care of yourself, anger and resentment build up over time,” says author Cheryl Richardson in The Art of Extreme Self-Care – Transform Your Life One Month at a Time.
“If a mother takes extremely good care of herself first, she becomes an even better parent and models healthy life skills for her children,” she says.
Think about where in your life you feel deprived. What do you need more of? Less of? What are you yearning for? Make time for you.
5. Drop the idea of perfection
Sarah Napthali, author of The Complete Buddhism for Mothers, says we need to fight the obsession with getting it all done.
This mindset almost guarantees a harried home life for your children.
“There is such an overwhelming number of tasks to be done in a day that we are in danger of becoming perpetually grim-faced and driven, with no time for friends, hobbies and hanging out with family, let alone time to take stock and enjoy precious moments with our children,” says Napthali.
Don’t engage with the whip-cracking voices in your head. Strive to accept and expect imperfection in life.
6. Breathe through the tension
Your breath is your best friend when you want to return to a calm state, says Scott Wright, principal psychologist at Sydney Emotional Fitness.
“Bringing your attention to your breath brings you back to the present moment and enables you to take a step away from the noise of your thoughts.”
Decide to pay attention to your breath, then do it. Thoughts and feelings will try to distract you, but each time they do, notice them, then bring your attention back to your breath. Observe the flow in and out of the nostrils until you feel calmer.