Mommy Needs a Time Out!

Deep breath.

Alarm off. Eyes still shut. Inhale, exhale. I’m gonna do this, you think. Today is going to be a good day. Happy thoughts. Good vibes. Only love today. And, if you’re like most moms, I’m not going to yell today.

Somehow I don’t think my kids’ days start with such positive affirmations. They often wake up whining — literally the first sound out of their mouths is whining or crying about something. They’re fist fighting before breakfast. The attitude is out of control. Hitting. Complaining. Disobeying. Oh, the back-talking.

Then I feel it, bubbling up from within, a roaring boil of mama bear emotions: GET IN YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW AND DON’T YOU DARE COME OUT UNTIL I SAY SO!!!

Well, so much for affirmations.

If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. In fact, 88% of parents say they have yelled at their kids in the past year (the other 12% either have infants or they’re lying), the majority reporting multiple times per week. Truthfully, some yelling is okay. If your child is about to walk into the street, touch a hot stove, or otherwise endanger themselves, yelling is often the fastest, most effective way to get their attention. And then there’s the less-okay but totally relatable kind of yelling; the I-have-told-you-no-less-than-15-times-to-get-your-shoes-out-of-the-freaking-kitchen-why-can’t-you-just-listen kind of yell. If the number of times I have seen this picture in my Facebook or Instagram feeds is any indication, I think we’re all in the same boat with this one:

Why must every wife and mother become a stark, raving lunatic before anyone in her household takes her seriously?

While we can all relate to that feeling, anyone who has been there probably also knows yelling loses its effectiveness when it becomes the norm. So how do we stop the cycle? Your household may need to introduce the Mommy Time Out.

While the traditional idea of “time out” for kids is fading out, the purpose remains to remove them from the situation, practice self-calming tools, and reflect on how the situation should have been handled. These same ideas apply to Mom’s Time Out:

  1. Remove yourself from the situation.

    This is not always easy, especially with littles, I know. But taking just a minute to lock yourself in the bathroom, hide in the pantry, or sneak out to sit in your car to get away from the situation that is upsetting you. Maybe you have to set the baby in her Pack & Play, strap your toddler into his high chair, or otherwise contain your brood so they don’t harm themselves, taking a physical break is often the first step to getting the mental/emotional break you need. 

  2. Practice self-calming tools.

    “3-2-1, 1-2-3, What the heck is bothering me?” If you recognize that little limerick from an old episode of “Family Matters,” you probably remember it wasn’t terribly effective at warding off Urkel-induced rage. You may need to employ some deep breathing, more genuine self-reflection, or check out these 10 Steps to Stop Yelling. When my kids were very small I read this amazing blog that completely changed my parenting. Now when I am in Mommy Time Out, I pray not to “fix” my kids or make them more obedient, but that God would help me raise my children to be who they are meant to be. Whatever works for you, do that.

  3. Reflect on the situation.

    The hope is that my Mommy Time Outs happen before I yell, so I can take a moment to think through how I want to respond, what I want them to learn from the situation, and how I want this moment to shape our day. Thinking beyond this immediate reaction and considering long(er) term effects helps me make better choices in the short term. Of course, no mother is perfect, and there are still times when I have to send myself to time out after the fact. In those circumstances, I reflect on what happened, how I should have responded, and how I am going to follow up with my kids to ensure they understand their own transgressions, but that I also own up to mine.

Taking Mommy Time Outs has given me the opportunity to be more honest with my kids about my own emotions.

I tell them when I am feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, and I ask them to hold me accountable. The most miraculous thing about it all? My kids have become better at managing their own emotions. I am more forgiving of their bad moods, and they are more forgiving of mine. They see that emotions are powerful, and we work together to identify and name our feelings, recognize how they affect us, and evaluate our responses in a healthy way. 

If emotional self-control is a problem in your house, ask yourself (or, if you’re brave, ask your spouse!) if it starts with you. Maybe Mommy needs a time out.

If your emotions often cause you to feel wildly out of control, irrational, or overwhelmingly angry, there may be more going on. Anger is often a symptom of depression, and postpartum rage is just as real as the baby blues you have heard about. Don’t let shame keep you from reaching out for help — talk to your doctor and get the support you need.

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