As a teenager, I remember a time when my dad seemed to be perpetually cranky. Years later, I found out that he was suffering severe insomnia, something I wish I’d known at the time as I would have (I hope) been more sympathetic.
Lately I’ve been feeling like a similarly cranky parent. Some days, after being up half the night caring for my new baby (3 months after birth, my preemie is developmentally about 3 weeks old), I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. The dishes are dirty in the sink, the baby needs feeding, the older kids need breakfast, and no matter how many times I sweep the floor, it always seems dirty. Those are the days that it’s hard not to feel cranky–or to fight the temptation to hide in my room and disappear into a book.
Other days, I struggle to find sympathy for my older kids. My oldest, always sensitive to disruptions in his routine, has struggled with the adjustment to first grade and all-day school on top of the adjustment to a new baby brother (not to mention his brother’s long hospital stay). Some days, the smallest thing sets him off: the other day he was mad at me because his name didn’t have as many syllables as his siblings or the other kids in his class. Last week he came back from a field trip complaining about everything from the food for lunch to the bus ride. I tell him that happiness is a choice–and then feel like a hypocrite as I struggle to make that choice myself. My middle child, a daughter, is generally well-adjusted, but even she seems to be screaming at her brother more often these days.
I don’t want to star in my kids’ childhood memories as their cranky mama. Unfortunately, cranky is often an easier default temperament than patient or happy. (At least for me).
It’s not that I expect everything to be sunshine and roses: I’ve been a mother long enough to know that not everything about motherhood is joyous or glamorous. It’s more that right now I find myself struggling to appreciate the good moments like I should. Or maybe as a trained pessimist (my mom always thought that if you expected the worst you couldn’t be disappointed), I haven’t quite caught the knack of positive thinking.
So today, I’d like to appeal to the brilliant hive mind of Segullah: what are your tricks for getting through tough times with grace? How do you avoid being cranky in stressful times?