This is not the article I had intended to write.
My original plan was to finish up a charming little piece called “Mommy Needs a Mantra,” and it explained how I often use positive affirmations to help me get through the frustrating moments of motherhood.
That was before I found myself alone in my car bawling my eyes out with soup all over my skirt. In that moment, a mantra just wasn’t going to cut it.
Allow me to explain…
The day started pleasantly enough. My in-laws were in town visiting, so we headed downtown to walk the Purple People Bridge and wander through Smale Park for a few hours. We were all enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, including my seven month old, who smiled at every stranger we passed. It seemed like a great idea to cap the afternoon with dinner at Cincinnati’s own Tom+Chee.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a terrific combination. Grilled cheese, tomato soup and baby who loves to grab everything in sight? Not so terrific. We’d had our food for approximately fifteen seconds before said baby reached out and threw my tray to the ground. Soup went flying, leaving giant puddles of liquid tomato all over the floor, chairs and my outfit.
I scrambled to soak up the mess using an embarrassing number of napkins. Our sweet server hurried over to make sure the baby was okay (bless him for asking about the baby first!) and wanted to replace my food. I was so overwhelmed by the sudden catastrophe that I couldn’t even remember what I’d ordered in the first place. The more soup I sopped up, the more my head started to spin. I felt hot tears building up, and knew I just needed to get away.
A few minutes later, I was in my car alone and sobbing. It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t really about soup. It was the culmination of lots of small frustrations that has been building for a long time. The nights of interrupted sleep, the crankiness of a child who cut seven teeth in two months, the pain of three plugged ducts and a bout of mastitis, the frustration of trying to eat enough calories to keep my milk supply up. First-time motherhood had been throwing me a whole lot of curve balls lately and tomato soup ended up being the breaking point.
I’d intended to write about my mantra for dealing with rough situations, but this time around, Mommy didn’t need a mantra… Mommy needed a meltdown!
At first I was embarrassed, ashamed even, about not having it all together. But the more I though about it, the more I realized that the occasional Mommy Meltdown may end up being beneficial. Here’s why:
As I sat in the car with tears streaming down my face, I was able to stop and think about what was really going on. I allowed myself to reflect on all of the events leading up to this one and tried to evaluate what I might have done differently. Ordinarily I’m too busy to give it much thought, so positive changes are harder to come by.
2. Increased Communication
When my family joined me again, my husband was understandably concerned. He spent the rest of the evening reaffirming that we are a team and will continue to face parenting obstacles together. Subtle hints don’t work for him. But a wife who is crying tears of frustration speaks loud and clear.
A Mommy Meltdown is the equivalent of waving a giant flag in the air that reads, “I’m not perfect! No, I can’t parent with a smile on my face every moment. No, I don’t always have a pep in my step with only three hours of sleep. My life is messy and I don’t always have it together.” Having that kind of humility can relieve a great deal of pressure from self-imposed expectations.
The night of the tomato soup fiasco, I rocked my baby boy to sleep like I always do. I sang him the same lullabies and love songs as every other night and it dawned on me that I meant every single word I was singing. My heart swelled inside my chest. Despite the challenges, frustrations and the emotional mess I’d found myself in, I was loving that little boy as fiercely as ever.