How I Use the Days I Suck as a Mom for Good
Unfortunately, these kinds of days happen. The ones where I most definitely should have paid more attention to my son, the ones where selfishness motivated my decisions, the ones where I was too short tempered and over reactive, etc.
Maybe those days don't make me suck as a mom overall, but they can definitely be demoralizing and make me feel that way. Those days I take responsibility for. I am human and it happens so I offer myself a little grace. But I also do my best to make sure those kinds of days are few-ish and far in between.
So, how do I do use the day I sucked at a mom for good? I can’t take it back so the next best thing is to somehow learn from it.
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These kinds of days are perfect check points.
Check points can be more than just looking back on that day and agreeing that I could have done better. It’s an in depth look about what drove me to that point in the first place, and seeing if there’s anything that needs some extra attention.
For example, I noticed one day I was extremely irritable and in a generally foul mood. Not like “Oh, she’s having a bad day” irritated, but “who the hell kicked her puppy?” kind of day. Borderline angry for no reason. It was a day when the tiniest request would be met with an exasperated remark and a “do it yourself” snap followed with rapid guilt. I spent that night journaling and wrote down why I was feeling so irritated and what might have led up to it. It was during that time that I took inventory about how my days leading up to that have been. I’m not a morning person and when I’m tired, I’m cranky. I noticed I had been getting into the habit of hitting snooze a million times and wasn’t sleeping well. I also had gotten out of my morning routine and started going to bed later and later. That day was the crescendo of too many nights of restless sleep and bad habits.
Once I identified what was building up, I took steps to prevent it.
You see, the days when we’ve fallen short typically don’t just come out of the blue. I’d bet my money that it’s something that had been accumulated and/or left unresolved.
Finding out exactly what's making you cranky or irritable however isn't always easy, especially since single moms end up doing so much. It can feel like everything. The lack of sleep, not eating well enough, being lonely, the kids crying, etc. It helps to break down your day into chunks and keep track of where it seems like you're day is declining. If you notice that you wake up cranky right off the bat, you're probably burnt out!
- Start by keeping track of the basic needs and seeing what you're possibly neglecting. There are some awesome habit tracking ideas for bullet journals on Pinterest that will help you keep track of how many hours of sleep you're getting, how much water you're drinking, what you're eating, etc etc. Meeting those seemingly simple and basic needs can have a huge impact of how your days flow. You can also download a couple of apps like "sleepbot" (this one helps track sleeping habits) if that's easier for you to just use your phone.
- Look into your self care routine. You might find that you've been severely neglecting taking care of yourself period and don't really have a life or activity outside of managing your household, work and taking care of the kids. A self-care routine is especially important for single moms as it can become all too easy to get caught up in the rush of motherhood. However, your kids do better when mommy is doing better, so some self-care shouldn't be a "maybe" but a priority in your life. Take a look at the last time you've done something you enjoyed or really rested.
- Look at how you're using your time as well. You might be feeling down in the dumps if you're feeling constantly busy, but not actually productive. There's a difference. Being busy can feel like you're doing something, but in the end there's not much to show for it. Things like constantly cleaning up after your kids, running late all the time, or packing your schedule with a million activities and outings can become exhausting. Look for ways to become more efficient, avoid multi-tasking (tons of studies show that multitasking actually makes you less efficient), prioritize your to-do list, and find ways to get your kids to help out around the home (even toddlers are capable of being independent to some extent)!
- Also be mindful about how you're using any free time you do have. It's tempting when we get a small window of time to breathe to sit down and scroll through Facebook or Instagram but that's not actually resting or doing something that helps you unwind and feel better. Scrolling through social media has actually been shown to make people feel worst, less motivated, and more mentally exhausted!
Once you've gotten an idea about what might need some more attention from you, it's important to actually do something about it. As I mentioned earlier, my outburst came from days of being exhausted and not getting adequate sleep. It's great that I realized I was feeling the way I was because I was sleepy, but acknowledgment is the first step, not the only step. I needed to do actually do something about my lack of sleep. I made sure to start getting into bed by 10:30 and deleted Facebook off my phone (I had a bad habit of checking Facebook in bed, only to end up scrolling through funny videos and baby photo's for another 2 hours). I also came up with an "official" morning routine which helped eliminate the mad rush of trying to figure out what still needed to be done before I left. And although it was a pain, I willed myself to stop hitting the snooze button.
Whatever is making your days not so bright might not be related to sleep, but either way it's not going to fix itself without you taking some kind of purposeful action. Reach out to some friends, your community, or your family if you're feeling overwhelmed with your kids, research and sign up for a class you're really interested in if you feel like you're all work and no play, or sign up for that dating app you've been holding off on if you're craving a conversation with an adult. Whatever you plan make sure you follow it up with an actual action.
You also don't have to only reserve taking time to "check point" yourself for when you're cranky or feeling a bit out of wack. This could be a good habit to do every couple of weeks or however often you feel like it to make sure you're taking care of yourself and be a preventative measure!
Check points for me are always an eye opener. Sometimes this results in me reestablishing my self-care like getting better sleep, sometimes it’s setting some clearer boundaries for my son like limiting his screen time, other times I just need to acknowledge that I could have done better and move on. Either way, these kinds of day’s can point attention towards something that might have otherwise stayed buried. So, take heart, because even the bad days can shine some light that point towards good.