A year and a half ago when I was deeply troubled with my relationship with my child, I embarked on the hair-splitting task of scrutinizing my life to seek the elusive answers.
It’s unnerving to mutter the truth even to our own selves when you’ve convinced yourself that the problem lies elsewhere.
I started with seeking answers to what had been the real issue at hand.
What was the idea behind this journey?
The idea behind this journey was to acknowledge the unknown powers in an attempt to defuse the bomb that was threatening to blow up my life, any minute.
“My child doesn’t follow my instructions.”
“My kid has a mind of her own.”
when I am plagued by the disappointment (not guilt, mind you) of having yelled for no concrete reason was clearly not working.
If you’re a parent, you’d agree that almost 100% of the times, anger and yelling don’t lead to a productive outcome. They only add to the resentment in both parties and widen the gap while snapping hearts with every shriek and tear that rolls down the cheeks.
What was troubling me the most was the fact that I was unable to keep calm with the one person whom I loved the most in this universe.
I was on the edge of an emotional meltdown for each argument with my child (which were in plenty). These arguments left me feeling like a monster, an adult incapable of shouldering the responsibility of being a parent.
And here I was, a single mother whose only child had no one but me to look up to for all her emotional, psychological and worldly needs.
I just couldn’t let this golden period of our growing up together be lost. I didn’t want to paint our togetherness with guilt and regret.
Parenting is one those things human beings have excelled at (well, somewhat) since the start of our species. This was proof enough that if I invested enough time, effort and energy, my relationship with my child too could change for the better.
This was why I embarked on this journey of searching for the loving, kind, empathetic parent in me.
My guiding light was my firm belief that I wanted this to work more than anything else in this world.
I was ready to push the boundaries and embrace the worthy struggle that this journey demanded.
Before I started, I made sure I had the ‘Why I wanted things to change between me and my child’ written down in my journal. I knew it well that when the going will get tough, I shall have to revisit this ‘why’ to regain the motivation to keep going until the very end.
How it all started?
This understanding dawned upon me when my child was as young as 2.5 to 3 years old, though I failed to comprehend what exactly I needed to do to fix it.
At this point, I wish to add that I am a slow learner. I did pick up cues from people around me, the Internet and more, but my ability to learn from other people’s experiences is almost non-existent. I need to go the whole way and stumble on the rocks that others warned me about to be able to learn the lessons I need to mature.
This is exactly what happened.
My journey started with me ranting about the fire within me on the blog.
I couldn’t for the life of me, feel at rest even in the most pleasant of settings.
I spent sleepless nights wondering what had been bothering me so dearly.
I knew something major was wrong, something constitutional was out of place. But I didn’t have the understanding to pinpoint it.
I was angry most hours of the day. Even while sleeping.
Knit brows were my constant companion. I had grown so accustomed to the frowned appearance that it took me a lot of effort to stay frown-free without actively relaxing my muscles.
I was well-aware of these signs, but I was crediting them wrongly.
I had a mental checklist, that listed the problems I needed to work on (in no particular order):
♥ I need to stop being angry.
♥ I had to invest more hours in writing (which indirectly meant making more money).
♥ I had to understand my child’s behaviour.
♥ I need to learn to meditate (this was the top advise I was constantly getting).
♥ I need to get more sleep (I used to sleep hardly 4-5 hours a day)
♥ I need to stop comparing my child’s behaviour with that of her father (I was endlessly doing this in my mind despite being fully aware that it only added fuel to my anger).
It was the time when I was busy doing was trying hard to find a quick fix that could magically transform my relationship with Pari into an amiable, loving one.
The kind, a mother-child relationship is naturally expected to be.
I’d be honest, that despite being an eternal optimist, I had no clue how I could ever make it happen.
My relationship with my child was deteriorating faster than yoghurt spoils in the sun.
Yes, things were palpably bad.
Not just me, but even Pari had a clear understanding of the fact that her mother transformed into a possessed woman when she was angry.
It was the time when patience and peace were non-existent in my life.
I was anxious most hours of the day.
I was losing my mind and it had begun to show in my work. I was never content with whatever I wrote. I spent endless hours editing with no understanding of what was agitating me.
Did this happen 24*7?
There were days when I’d feel things were beginning to make sense. There were occasions when the tips I’d been relentlessly learning (from parenting books) gave positive results.
There were moments when Pari and I bonded lovingly.
There were hours when I blogged that perhaps I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this life of a single parent.
In the core, lay the real issues, thriving on my well-being, feeding on my peace of mind and constantly nibbling on my soul. When the writing was clear on the wall that I could no longer carry on with life the way it has been going on, I did what I did around 18 months ago.
Now was the time to take action!
And action I took.
I sat myself down. And started creating another checklist. This time around, I wanted to analyse the core issues of my life because the most precious relationship of my life was at stake.
I started with taking stock of my long-term and short-term goals under these heads:
♥ Relationship with my child
♥ Life goals
♥ Career aspirations
Once I had them drafted with utmost honesty, the next list comprised of identifying the triggers to my anger.
To say, I was an angry mum would be an understatement.
Though I seldom heard anyone talk openly about their angry-mom moments. From my own mom to the relatives in my family to my friends.
I talked to a lot of women who are mothers. Many of whom seemed to understand where I was coming from but none mentioned they could relate to what I felt.
I’m sure this was merely an attempt to not let their vulnerabilities as a parent be seen or be talked about publically.
Quite understandable, actually.
Does that mean, I was the only not-in-control-of-her-emotions mother on the block?
I can say this for sure because if you’re reading this, most likely you are or have been in my shoes.
Besides, I had made these two observations that favoured my case:
One, I had on numerous occasions seen my mother have an angry meltdown. Not only during my growing up years, but also in my adult life and even with her grandchildren.
Second, in the block of apartments next door, I can frequently hear parents (mind you, not only mothers but fathers too) yell at their kids on the daily basis.
This affirmed my belief, that I wasn’t the only parent who felt agitated. I wasn’t the only mother who’d been resorting to yelling when her buttons were pushed.
And certainly, I wasn’t the only mother who felt the heat was on every time her child pushed her buttons.
This realization was a huge relief.
Though the fact that this problem was pretty rampant didn’t mean that I could continue being the angry mom. I had to work my way to become the peaceful, loving parent my child deserved.
But you know what?
Nothing is easy or perfect in motherhood, and it does take work, but it’s possible.
It is possible to enjoy more happy moments with our kids and experience less anger in motherhood, it takes effort, but it’s doable.
It begins with two things.
1. Knowing your Triggers
2. Knowing what can calm you down
Knowing my Triggers:
Regular journal writing came to my rescue when I sat myself down to list all the triggers that had been pushing my buttons.
My primary triggers were:
♥ Sleep deprivation (owing to overwork), and
♥ Loss of control over my life.
In the back of my mind, I knew this, but it took me a lot of soul-searching to agree that THIS was the real issue.
I had been bending backwards for a long time to accommodate too many requests from the people around me.
My divorce led to the death of the one relationship I was deeply invested in. My financial independence was trashed and the liberty to live a life on my own terms was now (almost) non-existent.
But this alone did not manifest the anger I felt fill my every cell. There was more.
A constant power struggle between me and my parents filled me with a bitterness that often manifested as my need to control my child.
This was proof that my anger had its roots in my childhood. I had a lot of healing and forgiving to do before I could free myself from the anger that had filled up within me.
This understanding didn’t come to me overnight.
It came to me when I understood that,
The things we subconsciously seek from others are the ones we need to gift ourselves. Be it, love, space, care or even control.
There were other triggers too:
♥ Taking everything personally.
♥ Hunger: Especially in the early mornings and late evenings. These were the times when my patience was stretched too thin owing to fatigue and hunger.
♥ Lack of self-care: I’d been investing so much time in tending to the needs of everyone around, including my work, that I often failed to invest even an hour doing things I enjoyed or that made me feel relaxed.
♥ Being stuck with technology for long hours: Working from home gifted this trigger to me. There were days when I’d sit staring at the various screens for up to 12 hours a day. It was tiring, strenuous and let me cranky.
♥ Being stuck indoors: My morning walks did provide respite but there were occasions when I bunked them because of late hours spent chasing deadlines.
♥ Spending most of my time with my child and the rest in elder care: Lack of a social life where I spent most of my time with my kid craving for my attention and the rest tending to the needs to my elderly parents, left little room for me to feel relaxed, cared for and understood.
Self-reflection and soul-searching is one of the steps in the 21 Steps To Build A Positive Life.
Download a free copy of the guide that talks in depth about the steps that are helping me build a more positive life.
The Action Plan:
Once I knew the triggers, I worked on a two-pronged strategy:
1. Short-term Strategy: They comprised of the strategies that helped me calm down quickly to avoid the triggers from playing with my mind.
2. Long-term Strategy: To help attain sustainable results. I wasn’t aiming for a quick fix this time around. I wanted my relationship with my child to change for the better in the long run. I did not want to build a bubble of false hope, but a bridge of trust that shall assure my child of my goodwill and true love for her.
Before I embarked on my action plan, I needed a partner, someone who could, in an unbiased fashion help me assess my success and failures. It had to be someone who kept me accountable and would provide me with the motivation when I begin to falter.
That’s why I decided to start with making my child, Pari my partner in this journey of transformation.
The Preparatory Stage:
♥ I sat Pari down and started with a heart to heart talk on how mommy was sorry for all the times she’d yelled at her. I went ahead to tell her with full honesty how desperately I wanted to change things around. I took time to gain her confidence that her mum was relying on her partnership in making our relationship brimming with love, care and understanding.
♥ I was open with Pari about my problems and the triggers. I started by talking openly like I would to a best friend. This opened up my child to share with what hurt her and what things she resented.
♥ I added special time (15-minute blocks) to every day at a time when Pari said she wanted my undivided attention.
♥ Introduced the ‘No Blaming’ rule. Pari and I agreed upon never to resort to blaming each other for anything that does not go as per the plan. It was interesting that I faltered more than Pari in following this through. Though eventually, I did mend my ways.
♥ I religiously maintained a journal. I took to writing everything I felt worked and also everything that I was failing at.
♥ I let my work take a backseat. I reduced my work hours considerably.
♥ I prepared a ‘Not to-do’ List. In the start when I wasn’t clear where I was heading, how to make things work I started preparing a list of things I did not like happening in our household. Then I shortlisted the things that involved me.
♥ I tackled my key trigger, hunger by making sure I was well fed in the mornings (read the full story here) and evenings well before fatigue could take over my hungry mind and unleashed a fire-breathing dragon in me.
♥ I made sure I stuck to my regular exercise plan while ensuring Pari had enough play-time every day to keep her energy levels and mood swings in check. The trampoline in our home has helped achieve this in a big way.
♥ I made a self-care plan where I started investing a dedicated 30 minutes to an hour daily to reading books, talking to a friend, indulging in my other hobbies and taking better care of my body.
♥ I cut back my screen-time and the time I spent scrolling through the social media channels. I started with turning off all notifications on my mobile and then by being accountable to my child. As I wanted to keep a check on her screen time, she kept a check on mine too.
♥ I started taking Pari to the nearby playground to play. This helped by gifting us both an opportunity to meet new people, interact with people beyond each other and have more fun than we did at home.
The Short-Term or the Calming Strategy:
Simply deciding that from this moment on, I won’t be an angry mum and would not yell at my child doesn’t work.
What works instead is to acknowledge the anger and channelise it on something other than your child or yourself.
This is exactly when calming strategies come to play.
♥ I stop what I’m doing. Get up, take a deep breath and move away from the setting. Check when was the last time I ate, drink a glass of water and fix myself a cup of green tea and a quick snack.
♥ I tell Pari “I need to be on my own for some time” and go to another room.
♥ I ask Pari to come with me for a walk. She likes not being left out and understands that her mum needs some quiet time while we are still together in this.
♥ I resort to writing everything on my mind on a piece of paper and then tear it into pieces before throwing it.
♥ If the anger brings tears to me, I go for a stroll in the garden or sit in the swing and stay there till I feel calmer.
♥ I listen to an audiobook or a podcast. I always have both of these left halfway due to time constraints and when I tune into them, my mind almost at once gets busy recollecting the earlier story while processing what I am hearing next to help me calm down effectively.
At this point I wish to share that just like me, pari too gets cranky and very angry at times. And to help her understand her big emotions, I encourage her to sit with a paper and write or draw whatever she’s thinking/ feeling.
This strategy has helped her immensely. All the emotions she struggles identifying right away, become clearer as she immerses herself in drawing, colouring and writing. And once the emotional storm has passed, we sit together and talk about it, like friends.
The Long-Term Strategy:
This was the tough bit.
Here in I had to address the issues that could help me regain the lost balance and control in my life.
I had to begin by taking a stand for the changes I wanted in my life, which was very tough for a people-pleaser like yours truly.
But, I just had to do it. I was the role model of a child who shall emulate me in the future. I couldn’t let my fears come in the way of her having a life I only dreamt of. I couldn’t let the demons of my past taint my child’s life.
In this direction, I took the following 4 major steps:
♥ I became the mom boss: I made it clear to the family that I was in charge of disciplining Pari. While I was forever open to suggestions, but that had to happen when Pari wasn’t around. (read the full story here).
♥ I slowly but steadily started taking control over my life: Life as an adult, with authoritarian parents, isn’t easy. Moreso, if you’re submissive like yours truly. Though this had been greatly undermining my relationship with my child because I was often left craving for control that manifested as me playing the overcontrolling parent for my child.
I gradually started standing up for myself and began taking the reigns of my life in my own hands. (read the full story here)
♥ I cut down my work hours: As a work-from-home mom controlling my work hours has been a major challenge. But, I had to take a call and decide what mattered most in my life. While money matters, I couldn’t prioritize it over my own or my family’s well-being. This is why two years ago I made some drastic cuts in the amount of freelance work I now do.
♥ I regularly journal and blog about my success and failures: My personal blog has immensely helped me stay accountable. Almost as much as making my child, my partner in this calming journey. Being brutally honest can be tough in the start but in the long run, it helps build trust while keeping your conscience happy that you’re being true to yourself.
My Experiences & Takeaways:
What have been my experiences and takeaways in the past two years of implementing the strategies of becoming a Calmer Parent from being an Angry Mom?
1. Acknowledge you need to change and also that the problem lies with you and not your child:
This is the fundamental step before any change can happen. It took me a while to understand that the only person I can change is myself, not even my child. This perspective shift was crucial in making this journey happen.
When I embarked on this journey of CHANGE, I pledged to invest my all to make it work. I REALLY wanted this to work because I knew, this was my only chance to salvage the one relationship I cared the most about in my life.
2. Write it all down:
Even if you are not in the habit of regularly journaling or do not share personal stories on a blog, you got to start recording all your milestones in writing. One, it creates a record for ready reference. Two, you can always revisit the ‘whys’ that made you start in the first place. Three, it keeps you going because, besides failures, those precious small wins are also written right there. Four, it keeps you accountable and going.
4. Set clear goals:
Be clear about what you want to achieve with an achievable timeline. Set realistic goals and be open to repeated failures from the start. I started with failing in making my calming strategies work. I failed a number of times by forgetting to not to yell when Pari pushed my buttons. But, did I just give up? Hell NO!
In all those times, I acted human. I accepted my mistake. Apologised to Pari for my behaviour. Took time to explain to my child what I felt and patiently allowed her room to express what she felt. Then we made up by hugging each other and promising support for each other before starting all over again.
5. Have a clear understanding of your triggers:
Anger and yelling triggers have roots deep down in our psyche. It takes ample self-reflection to pinpoint the triggers. Regular journalling helps achieve this. Once you’ve recognised your triggers, have a backup plan in place to keep a check on them.
6. Start slowly, practice daily:
When I had a calming strategy chalked out, I struggled to not yell at my child, simply because I had made up my mind to not do so. At those times of despair, I moved away from Pari and yelled into a bucket of water or even at my bookshelf just to vent out the emotions that had built up within me. Channelizing emotions take a long time, especially when you’re like me who has struggled to understand them in the first place. But the good news is, with practice you get better at it.
7. Remember, you aren’t alone:
It helps to make your child your partner. It ensures you always remember, you aren’t alone in this. This isn’t just about you. It’s for the love and well-being of you and your child. It helps to remember that your child is counting on you to model change and to show her that you love her enough to mend your ways and accept her childish self in its imperfect beauty.
8. Quitting is not an option:
No matter how many times I failed, irrespective of how many times I have had to apologise, I have a clear understanding that I am in this for the lifetime.
9. There exist fun alternatives to yelling:
Pari introduced me to these. One day while she was very upset, she started drumming on her study table. Once she’d calmed down she shared with how it helped her feel better. Since then, I have tried a number of fun activities when the urge to yell gets overwhelming.
a. Laughing out loud.
b. Drumming on the table.
c. Drawing funny pictures of one another.
d. Tickling Pari and have her giggle like crazy.
10. The effort is TOTALLY worth it:
I didn’t have to wait very long for the positive signs of my work at being a calmer parent began to show up in Pari. When I can keep myself from getting upset, and instead turn things into a game, fun moment or a joke while still enforcing the rules, Pari doesn’t get cranky.
She has started smiling more often, stopped her habit of biting her nails, trusts me with her secrets, we have started bonding better and is just happier and easier than she ever was. Though the best one till date came a few months back when Pari, in the middle of our bed-time chit-chat session told me,”Mum I love the new you.”
What’s the bottom line?
No matter what your child does, it will be a lot easier to respond peacefully, if you notice when you are getting triggered. And at that vulnerable moment, with full knowledge of your feelings, choose to not react but remember, it isn’t about you (don’t take things personally). It is about your child, who is still an immature human being and counting on you for love and support to learn and grow.
The song on my mind: Kyunki tum hi ho – Aashiqui 2