By: Randi Rubenstein
Q: “I was total scary mommy this morning. I had a fit about Henry getting chocolate breakfast bar on the couch. Like a total Mommy Meltdown! I know I’m focused on the wrong thing. I’m choosing neatness over what’s really important…people. I feel super guilty after these meltdowns. How do I realistically maintain order and also begin letting some things go?”
A: There is a sweet spot for moms when it comes to taking pride in your home without driving your family crazy. The need to maintain order and cleanliness in our homes is frequently the catalyst for many a Mommy Meltdown. So how DO we show our kids that we value people over “stuff” while also teaching them to take care of their “stuff” and OURS?
#1: Investigate what’s REALLY going on for you.
Behind every meltdown is a triggering thought. Get curious and ask yourself what’s really going on. Your need for order in your home represents the need for more control in your life. You’re looking to control what you can. Take that in. Breathe. I know we might be in a fight for ten minutes after saying it out loud.
Where do you feel out of control in your life? Is your voice heard at work? What about with your spouse? Do you feel out of control when it comes to your body or food? Really ask yourself WHY you’re using your physical environment as your outlet to feel more in control of your life. Now stay with me. I promise this query is powerful and can lead to some big “Aha!” moments and pattern changes.
We want our homes to be peaceful. We want a cocoon that envelops and protects us after a hard day. We often envision creating a beautiful retreat. Sort of like a home spa. That’s why we put those lavender diffuser things in our bathroom. That’s why we watch HGTV or DIY decorating shows until the cows come home.
AND as we all know…when your family feels peaceful, when your connections have depth, when home is everyone’s soft place to land — well, that’s when the messy feels beautiful and the need to control diminishes. That’s when you look at your child’s “C” written in red marker on your garage door a decade from now and smile. That’s why you may even tell your hubby that if he paints over the “C,” it might be grounds for divorce. Cory with a “C” is now twelve and you’re counting the minutes before puberty.
#2 Reality over Fantasy...All. Day. Long.
As moms, we have a fantasy family. That fantasy family doesn’t fight. The kids are best friends. They make their beds every day. They hang their wet towels from actual hooks. Sounds dreamy, right?
Wrong. That fantasy doesn’t truly exist. Okay, maybe you’ve got a component of that scenario. And the truth is, maybe you don’t care about those specific details. You want the feeling it represents. You want a close family that gets along. You know it’s the foundation of a beautiful life. You want to raise non-entitled responsible people. The type that treat their siblings and parents with respect.
And every time you see evidence that you’re not the mom that raises these types of people, it feels like your dreams are being slowly dismantled. This is why the wet towels, chocolate on the couch and undies on the floor send you spiraling into Mommy Meltdown mode time and time again.
And here’s the reality: Kids make messes. They get our “stuff” dirty. They leave toys all over the place. They almost NEVER clean their rooms on their own.
Your perfectly imperfect reality is where the love lives. It’s the messy red “C” stories that will continue to create the feeling you’ve always wanted.
#3: Clean it up yourself.
“Kids learn from our example, not our opinion.” I love this quote by novelist, Paulo Coelho.
- Investigated and uncovered your need for control, you can tackle that area of your life instead of getting crazy.
- Replaced the fantasy with realistic thinking, you can embrace your connected family’s imperfections.
And now that you’re clean and clear, you’re still saying, “I simply like a clean and beautiful home. I don’t want to give up on that and don’t feel like I should have to!”
Trust me, I get it. This is where it’s time to stop talking and start doing. Come up with a plan. Discuss it with your family at a non-relevant time, i.e., not during the heat of the moment as you enter your teenage daughter’s cyclone of a room. Decide what spaces in the home are “yours” and your rules. Create systems like a “lost and found” box or a Sunday night bedroom clean-up. Close the doors to your kids’ rooms. Make family rules. Repeat them often. Follow through consistently. And when you find yourself about to go into Mommy Meltdown mode because your people are “doing it wrong”…duct tape your mouth shut and simply step into action by cleaning it up yourself.
Your kids will see you being an example. Become helpful mom rather than nagging mom. There will be plenty of time LATER to discuss ways your kids can become part of the solution too. Productively talking about it after you’ve cooled down is how you teach your kids to step into action too. This is how you get the big results where you build your family dream team. THIS feels way better than searching for control by maintaining a pristine house. Promise!