It’s okay to lose it with your kids. It’s not great. But it’s the truth. 

I want you to know that because for YEARS I thought I was the only one who ran out of patience. Who buckled under the strain of being up with a sick kindergartener at night and still making a hot breakfast for all four kids…only to receive a chorus of whines at 6:40am.

“Oh-ooooh. Not OATMEAL!”

“UGH! You KNOW I don’t like oatmeal.”  

Because you know as well as I do that these are not isolated incidents. 

The round of breakfast complaints came AFTER several people fussed about dinner the night before. AFTER rejected food tumbled out of lunchboxes, into the compost bin. AFTER driving home from school as a referee of jabs, both literal and figurative, all of it like fingernails on a chalkboard. 

Every day is an emotional rollercoaster as a parent. Gliding up when your 10-year-old wins the read-a-thon at school. Plummeting when your second grader slams his bedroom door because you told him to get his shoes on. It’s so hard not to get swept up in their tsunami of feelings. 

And sometimes I do.

“Stop it! Stop complaining.” I heard myself scream over the breakfast bar. “What’s so hard? You sit down. You eat breakfast! Do you have to love it? NO! But can’t you just eat it? Can’t you just be happy that someone made something for you? Can’t you? You guys are being jerks.”

That got their attention.

My kindergartener cried. My six-year-old shot me a dirty look, huddling deeper into in his chair. The offending bowl in front of him. 

Surprised by my own fury, I didn’t take a breath as much as I just stopped breathing for a minute. 

Screaming at my kids over breakfast seemed like a new low but honestly, I’m not surprised. 

If you’re angry, you’re not the only one

The New York Times launched a new parenting section and the writer of a recent piece about moms who lose it used a term I can’t stop thinking about: relentless provocation. 


Doesn’t that cover it?

Listen, I’ve read the parenting books about brain development. Intellectually I understand that kids “push your buttons” to “test boundaries” and “learn about the world”. Be that as it may, it’s VERY UNCOMFORTABLE when people push your buttons. Especially when you’ve semi-recently pushed those people out of your own body. 

It seems indecent to me. The decadence of it all.

Slithering down in your chair because you don’t like the look of tonight’s meatloaf. Muttering about mushrooms. Choosing hunger, and its companion, crankiness, over a packed school lunch. Parenting requires more patience than I’ve ever had to practice–because it’s about endurance.

Compare the marathon that is parenting with the only thing I have as much experience with: the corporate world. On my worst days at the big media companies I strived to be part of, navigating the boardroom was simple: make it through this meeting without visibly cringing and we’re good.



But even that’s not really true, is it? The story just isn’t that simple because people are tricky. Working with them, raising them.

Ultimately when I felt really burned out at work, I needed a break. A vacation. Or even just a couple of days where I laid low, got things done but tried to be less visible. 

Raising children is a different ballgame because it’s relentless. Their needs. Their feelings. So many hugs, yet so many requests. There’s no clocking out. Because it’s YOUR responsibility. Their every happiness, dream and need. That’s on you.

Unless you decide to pull yourself out. 

The break

“Self care” is such a triggering term for moms of young kids, because how? When? Now there’s another thing I need to get inspired about on Instagram and somehow try to recreate? 

In my case, there was no all-inclusive family friendly resort in sight. So I did what I could: I took a break from cooking for a few days.

I had to. (See “screaming incident” above.)

This hits really close to home. And not in a good way.

My childhood was often a scary one because my dad couldn’t control his temper. One wrong move at the dinner table could end with a vase flying across the room followed by yelling, name calling, threats, fists and more crashing. Huddled together behind a bed, my mom, my little brother and I only knew the storm was over when we heard the sound of his Mustang racing down our gravel driveway.

There’s absolutely no way I’ll recreate that for my kids.

I’m still a person with a full range of feelings–good and bad–but I also have benefits that my dad never did: Age, experience and resources like therapy, books, spirituality, friends with similar outlooks. We’re gonna stop that cycle right here.

Honestly, given my past I thought it would be SO EASY to have kids. Look what I have to work with! We’re married, there are two college degrees, we have good jobs, earn a comfortable living and own a beautiful home. My parents had none of that, so what could go wrong?

I forgot about the kids. 

The kids!

With their needs and their wants. Their tender faces and tired eyes. Kids are kids and if you are worried about yours, get yourself on a school field trip ASAP. You will quickly discover that this is just how kids are. 

Once you get that, once you stop expecting them to be small adults, once you realize that you need to give yourself a break when you reach your end, everything changes. At least it did for me.

So I stopped cooking for a couple of days.

We had sandwiches for dinner. Cereal for breakfast.

No one complained. No one became a diabetic. The only difference was fewer dishes and a less angry lady in the kitchen. 

Then I started making dinner again. The kids started complaining again. But recharged, I’m able to hear my better angels again.

I EXPECT to do a little cajoling at the table. Just start with two bites of everything and take more of anything you like.

I THINK AHEAD about how to position any complaints. I don’t really want to hear about whether anyone likes dinner. Sometimes I do but tonight I’m worn out and I know it’ll hurt my feelings so let’s just talk about our day, okay?

The art of the apology

I often remind my kids that I’m a person too. I have feelings just like they do. And I lose it sometimes, just like they do.

“I’m sorry,” I told the kids on that morning. “I shouldn’t have called you guys jerks. I really am sorry.” 

Little faces looked up.

Then with a grin I added, “But you know, you really were kinda being jerks.” 

You could feel the WHOOSH of tension leave the kitchen.

Everyone laughed. Then they ate their oatmeal. Most of it, anyway.


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