just had a meltdown

Some days in motherhood are really hard. This past week has been particularly hard.

My kids are off track, and I can’t seem to keep up with them, the house and work. Year-round school is not for the weak. This on-again, off-again schedule has us jumping ship just when we get use to the rhythm of our week.

A break from school is meant to be spent outside in the sunshine, playing with friends. Yet here we are in February, which until this week as been cold and wet.

Very few of the neighborhood friends are even available to play, as they are still in school; and my kids have just about had enough of each other. When tempers rise, they can’t as easily defuse with a bike ride around the block.

I’m the only one complaining; they are just glad they are out of school. The other day, however, I crumbled.

I could no longer take the messy wake my children left behind. I was done with the tattling, whining and obnoxious laugh track from tween sitcoms. I was loosing control. The house felt as if it was caving in.

I quietly collapsed on my kitchen floor, hidden down between two rows of cupboards, and let myself have a good quick cry.

These moments of occasional collapse also happen beyond the realm of parenthood. Life is hard.

This week I naïvely wondered if others momentarily break down. Do you have meltdowns as often as I? We have overwhelming goals we are working toward, difficult projects at work that need our focus, big challenges staring back at us; yet we rarely talk about how we handled that moment when we just couldn’t take it anymore.

In these times of being completely overwhelmed, I’ve noticed a couple things that help me refocus and carry on.
1.  Let it out
The buildup of tension needs a release. Ugly cry, if necessary. The hard part is making sure we don’t aim our release directly at the people around us. Often it’s my kids I snap at, and that’s not effective. Ideally, I want to create a haven of love and safety that doesn’t include yelling. It’s healthier when I release the frustration on my own — or confide in a good friend — and rally the kids with a calm, firm tone.
2.  Ask yourself: What’s next?

The single question “What’s next?” can help us move forward with a difficult dream or journey or simply make it to that sweet moment at the end of the day when our head hits the pillow.

After my aforementioned breakdown, I took a deep breath and then asked myself, “OK, what’s next?” What was the one thing I could do next to take a single successful step toward the end of the day?

I am often reminded of a phrase my father-in-law would use to encourage his adult children through college: “Eat the elephant one bite at a time.” The metaphorical elephant we face can be daunting. Where do we start? How do we make it to the end of the week? What’s the best approach to accomplish our big dream? How do we face the challenge waiting for us on the other side of tomorrow?

The answer to all of these questions: one juicy elephant bite at a time. We ask ourselves what’s next and then take one single step in the right direction — at least until our next little meltdown.

This column originally published on KSL.com in February 2014
Stock image from freedigitalphotos.net