Monday, April 04, 2016

Grumpy Mom Syndrome - and how to prevent it

My oldest has been joking a bit lately that mom is the "non-fun" one and dad is the "fun one". Some of this is his age (5.5 years old) some of it is an increase in behavior problems lately, but some of it is actually true, Now, I'm not going to lie and say that being a Mom is naturally stress free and all you have to do is let go a little and you'll magically feel better. But, as a fellow GMS sufferer (Grumpy Mom Syndrome) I did come up with a few ideas of what it is and how to help.

Causes:

  • Overconfidence. You know those times that you think to yourself, "Sure, I can take two young kids to the Lowe's and buy 10 bags of mulch even though only 3 of them fit in my car and my husband isn't here to help." No - just don't do it. Don't say yes to everything someone suggests. Even if you think you can handle it, if you are currently (or have recently been) suffering from GMS, don't do it.
  • Overscheduling. I currently have one main part-time job with total work hours that vary between 8-15 hours per week. I am a volunteer assistant coach for my son's soccer team (also responsible for closing up the church after soccer practice now). I homeschool my oldest son and try to keep the younger one out of mischief. I volunteer in the nursery. I have a small group every week that we have to bring food too. I signed up to bring food to an outreach program and mentor someone from that group (in the future). I have park dates and playdates, vacations and family visits. I have fundraisers and planning meetings and occasional delusions of becoming self-employed. All of this can easily lead to flare ups of GMS. None of that even touches on the "normal" mom duties of shopping, cooking, and cleaning (most of which I don't do much of - those 50s housewives made it look way too easy).
  • Overplanning. I have a lot of amazing field trip ideas. What I really want to do is line them up on my calendar so we can get to more of them and I can invite more moms and maybe have a field trip Facebook group and it will be so awesome! Wait - breathe - what I really want is someone else to do all that work of planning the field trips and I'll sign up for the ones that fit in my calendar!
  • Underplanning. Some days we take a break from school, or I have a few hours of work to do in the morning. Many of these days are not planned and I just try to get it all done anyway. Sometimes kids don't nap when they are supposed to. One kid loves screentime, the other gets bored after 5 minutes. If I don't have a back up plan for those times, my planned one hour of worktime is quickly broken up into 3-4 20 minutes work flashes smashed in between long bouts of yelling at the kids and downing mini-Snickers from the economy-size clearance bag. 
  • Unrealistic Expectations. This is probably the biggest cause of GMS. You may have dreamed of being a stay at home mom and always loved babysitting, Maybe you were even a nanny! Maybe you were one of those starry-eyed young-adults like me who thought life was easy because the only two bills you had were the credit card and a rent payment (utilities may have even been included). Maybe you thought having kids was nothing more than playdates and park visits, but you ended up with doctor's appointments and therapy sessions. Maybe you just look at the mom next door and think that she has it altogether (and maybe she does, if so, ask her for me and I'll share her secrets here). The point is, those days that I expect chaos and everything goes smoothly are much better than the days I expect my boys to be on their best behavior and they aren't. 
Symptoms:
  • Your kids call you "grumpy mom".
  • Your first stop at the grocery store is the Wine aisle (if available in your state).
  • You yell at your kids more than you play with them.
  • You find yourself seeking stress relief through chocolate, adult coloring, knitting, gardening, or one of a dozen other attempts at self-soothing.
  • You notice an increase in the number of headaches and muscle pain with no apparent cause.
  • You can't find time to exercise, read a book, or clean the house.
  • Your calendar looks like your kid got to it with a stray pen, but it's really just your actual activity for the week.
  • You miss bills, get easily upset over messes and spills, and don't have time for a sick day.
  • You hand your baby off to your husband when he gets home and walk out the door, or put a pillow over your head at night when the 3 year old is still awake at 11pm.
Treatment:
  • Just say no. Tell the PTA no, tell your husband no, tell your mother-in-law no. If your calendar is full - STOP WRITING ON IT. Don't say, oh yeah there's a double header soccer game that day, but I bet we can still go to X activity in between and write it on the calendar anyway. Speaking of which, I might need to buy some white-out for that one...
  • Ask for help. Hire a housecleaner, mother's helper, or send the kids to preschool (not for school, of course, but just to get them the heck out of your house for a bit). Ask your husband to grocery shop, cook, or play with the kids. 
  • Make a daily or morning routine. I know, I hate routines. I think they are silly and ridiculous. My current non-routine most mornings is to shower, get coffee, and get started on work before the kids get up. But then they get up in the middle of work, and I end up not having a chance t0 eat breakfast before starting homeschool, which is never a good idea. So, maybe I need to take the time to set up an actual morning routine rather than just letting entropy take over.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. If you aren't sure what that means, it means don't expect Pinterest or TV worthy activities or behavior from yourself or your kids. If you have preschoolers, don't expect them to amuse themselves for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Don't expect good behavior if you haven't explained what that is. Assign age-appropriate chores and expect them to be done in an age-appropriate manner. If you don't have good self-control or anger management, don't expect your kids to do better than you do.
  • Play with your kids. Plan a time, preferably in the beginning of your day, to do something fun with your kids. It can be building a sand castle with Kinetic sand, playing race cars, or birthday party. It can be singing silly songs and making silly faces. Tickle games or running games. It can be reading with them or coloring or building puzzles, but take the time to engage directly with them. Look in their eyes, remember that first time you saw their wrinkled scrunched up red faces and remember that they are still just kids.
  • Be consistent and fair in discipline. We've had our share of discipline issues over the past few weeks, and it gets really frustrating. Rather than taking your frustration out on the kids, sit them down and go over your rules and consequences again to make sure everyone (including you) is on the same page - then keep that momentum going as long as you can. If needed, consider weekly or monthly family meetings to review goals and progress.
  • Be a good example. One of my oldest son's young friends is pretty mean. She talks in a nasty tone of voice to pretty much everyone. What I've realized is that she is completely echoing her mom's tone of voice and attitude towards her (as my kids echo my attitude towards them as well). So, when talking to your own kids - be patient, be calm, be polite (please and thank you are great) and try your best not to let your GMS show around them. 
  • Take care of yourself. You've heard it said, before - eat right, exercise, take time for yourself. If you don't have time - make it! If you don't have time to exercise, I highly recommend vacuuming or mopping your floors, gardening while the kids play outside, or popping them in the stroller or bikes for a walk in the park. 
So, if you're truly frustrated with your kid's attitude, and can't figure out how to fix their behavior, consider your own attitude, and put some treatment in place if you may be suffering from GMS. 
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