Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Bad Mommy Shame Spiral

I'm feeling bad right now. I lost it last week and yelled at my kids. Not just a little bit, either. Like full out, Disney-villian style yelling. I holler to make myself heard over all the noise in my house, but I don't scream like that very often. So right now I'm at the tail-end of what I call The Bad Mommy Shame Spiral.

Perhaps you're thinking: "What the hell are you talking about?" Basically what happens is the kids do something crazy; I react by being more crazy and screaming my head off; then they freak out because I freaked out, and we all end up crying. Then I spend a week beating myself up because I'm the worst parent ever. 

Here's how it often breaks down - at least at my house:
  • Everything is quiet. Never a good sign. 
  • Kid(s) do something naughty or potentially dangerous.
  • Ask them nicely to please stop.
  • Toggle between the last two bullets until you feel like ice picking your own brain.
  • "You're going to break the chair/hurt your sister. Please make a different choice." Times 100.
  • They do it again.
  • Use Mean Mommy voice to tell them to CUT IT OUT. 
  • Kid(s) then look sad/surprised and ask(s) why you're yelling. Tilt your head like a dog because "Whaaaa??? I have asked you nicely several times to stop but you only seem to hear me when I yell."
  • Now kid(s) tilt(s) head because whaaaa??
  • "JUST DON'T DO IT AGAIN" and leave the room. 
  • Hear suspicious noise. Return to room in time to see kid(s) doing the exact thing that you just told him/her/them not to do.
  • Try not to freak out. Say slowly and quietly: "What. Are. You. Doing?"
  • Kid(s) exhales loudly and rolls eyes. Shrugs. 
  • Make angry face. Point finger. JUST STOP. Leave the room.
  • When just enough time passes that your blood pressure returns to the safe/normal range, you hear the sound of something breaking/someone wail-crying.
  • Walk into the room. It's a full-on OSM (Oh Shit Moment). Stuff is broken, someone's sobbing, crap is everywhere. 
  • There is silence for a long pause when the children realize they're busted. Then the room erupts in cacophonous chaos, with everyone yelling at once. 
  • It's a bad sign when your throat is actually burning from how hard you just screamed.
  • "Why aren't you guys going upstairs? Oh... Don't cry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I yelled like that." 
  • Hugging. Explaining. Cleaning up. Then they go to their rooms like angelic, yet sullen moppets.
  • Everything is quiet. Never a good sign.
  • The shame descends. 
  • I will not do it again. I will never scream at them like that again.
  • Tears start. What's wrong with me?
  • Phone a friend. It's OK. We all do it. They'll be fine. You're a good mom.
  • Breathe in. Is it OK? It doesn't feel OK. It feels horrible.
  • Spend the next couple of days pretending to be sweet and calm and good, while my stomach churns from the shame of knowing how horrible (and horribly loud) I really am.
  • Kids are really well-behaved, probably because I'm an evil tyrant and they're scared of me. I feel a little like the warden in Cool Hand Luke, but with a guilty conscience and clearly no failure to communicate.
  • Smallest child walks over to me, steps up on chair (as if she wants to give me a smooch), then punches me in the boob and laughs. So maybe they're not that scared of me.
  • Big kids kiss me before they get on the bus, even though their friends can see. I try to act cool about it, but get all choked up as the bus pulls away.
  • Exhale. Is it OK? I think it's OK. Thank God. 
  • Everything is quiet. Never a good sign.
And with that, the Shame Spiral resets itself. The thing is, I hate the spiral, and I really just want it to go away. So I'll try to explain why it should.  I'll do this in part to convince you and in part to convince myself. Because I still feel really bad, and it's more normal for me to beat myself up than to deal with things like an adult.

There are two reasons why we as parents should totally reject the Shame Spiral. First, shame is apparently really bad for you. It's like smoking or eating Taco Bell every day, except the damage is to your soul or self-esteem or whatever. Shame is the thing that whispers all the mean thoughts to your inner monologue. As you know, my inner monologue is already an a-hole and it doesn't need shame to feed it new material.  

Second, the spiral isn't actually helping anything. According to the internets: "In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point." The central point is those precious little monkeys.  I want to curve in close to them for as long as I can (or as long as they'll let me). Feeling horrible about myself doesn't make me a better parent, in fact it does the opposite.

From the very awesome Don't Be A Dick Day website.
In life and in parenting, I aspire to live up to Wheaton's Law ("Don't be a dick.") I don't want to be a dick, or do dickish things like scream at my kids, or even worse - raise little people who grow into big people who think dickish behavior is normal. Yes, I had a bad moment. But I apologized, and I'm going to learn from my mistakes and try to do better next time (no, I mean it this time!). And more importantly, I'm going to show my kids that's how we handle the moments when we slip up. 

The people who make mistakes and don't feel bad, or apologize, or try to make it better?  They're the ones who should hop on the spiral and curve progressively farther away, perhaps from us all. 

And with that, I feel a lot better.  I think I'll be just fine.  But why did they all of a sudden get so quiet . . . ?

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013

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