Monday, June 6, 2011

anger and what lies beneath it

I am a quick tempered woman.  I grew up in a house with a lot of anger and sometimes even frightening rage.  But this isn't a post about placing blame on my parents or my situation or how I was raised to excuse my own behaviour, but one about standing up and owning up.
It is true what they say, that a child will bring out both the best and the worst in you.  They will coax it out of the most unexpected places I assure you.  The good, the bad, the brilliant, and the cringe-worthy.  My biggest flaws are my fast anger and easy frustration.  I snap quickly and recover quickly, but my words during that brief and red hot time are no less hurtful or unproductive.

As a stay at home mom of two little ones I am taken to my edge everyday.  By the time Mike gets home I am often mere moments away from twitching and rocking on the bathroom floor.  I wake up with grand visions of a day filled with frolicking in the fields wearing a sun dress taking beautiful photos of my beautiful children just like so many other bloggers I follow.  They rarely, if ever turn out like that.  I am usually running around from one chore to the next while intermittently changing dirty diapers and re-filling empty sippy cups until I finally get to go to sleep only to have our 9 month old wake up 5 or 6 times in the night only to refuse any comforting, singing, swaying, rocking, or patting that isn't accompanied by nursing.

I know I am often my own worst enemy as I flail and muddle through our unstructured days.  I crave boundaries and rhythm just as much as children do and when I don't get it I get unruly.  

I recently had a shocking realization that if I were paying someone for the care I am providing for my own children I would be incredibly disappointed and disheartened.  

That was hard for me to say out loud.  

I still stand by my decision to stay home and believe wholeheartedly in its importance.
There is no other job I would rather do.  
But it is hard. 
Damn hard. 
Harder than I had ever imagined or prepared for.  
It is often a lonely, mind numbing job.
And some days I am just angry.

This isn't to say I am giving up.  No, no, no.  I may be a lot of things, but a quitter I am not.  I am simply lacking the tools and structure I need to make these early days good ones and I have access to plenty of wise women both online and in the flesh to remedy that.  I have armed myself with many of the great books I see recommended by other bloggers I admire including Seven Times the Sun, Heaven on Earth, Creative Play for Your Baby/Toddler, Living Simply With Children, Above All, Be Kind, etc.  I have even tried following some of the guides offered through Little Acorn   Perhaps Poppy is still too young or perhaps I should just keep to the routine and wait for her to catch on.  I don’t know, I’ve never done this before.  All the books paint a lovely calm picture of free play and helping with house work, but it never happens that way.   She would rather bang the broom over Silas’ head or dump all the water on the floor than “help” with sweeping or dishes.  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I expecting too much from her at 2?  We don’t have Waldorf schools nearby to observe so I really don’t know if I have a good grasp on what to do in daily situations.  And it doesn’t have to be a purely Waldorf day either, I just appreciate the calmness and ritual aspects that a lot of daycares can provide.  Let it be known that I am in no way against good daycare, but would like the best of both worlds in which I can watch my kids grow and change while giving them the benefits and activity daycare provides.

I would love to hear your suggestions on life with the under 2 years of age category, but in the meantime I have created a plan in hopes of getting on track.  I have found that the best way to get my mind in the right headspace is to treat this as my job and our home as my “daycare”.  I know this may seem odd, but it really hit home when I thought about what I would want in an ideal daycare provider and then realized I wasn’t giving that to my own children on a daily basis. 

I started with a list entitled “Daily Rhythm” with the outline of how our days will flow; our inhale and exhale is you will.  It includes things like waking, chores, meals, snacks, outdoor time, nap time, story time, crafting, baking, family time, bedtime routine etc.

I then broke it down into a daily work sheet to fill in so I can organize meals, snacks, and activities for the day and added a weekly colour, letter, plant, animal, and number to work into our daily activities.  I did this so I can be sure to have all the necessary supplies in the house when the time comes.  These will evolve as the kids do and as I become more inspired.

I am doing this for my own sanity as much as I am doing it for my children.  My anger is deep rooted and often more than spilled milk and broken items, but sometimes it is just that.  

I am working on it.

go gently + be wonderful



  1. oh man...
    i relate to this so much hun. i feel your pain (and anger, for that matter). a lot of books give what sounds like really amazing advice but...i think at the end of the day, the truth REALLY is that NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO DO THIS. what works for one, or even 50, will inexplicably not work for you. and it isn't your fault. it's it is.
    maybe some therapy might help you? i have a lot of anger issues from growing up with an angry father. i've talked to a professional before and have thought recently of going back. it really helps, just to have someone who is professionally trained to listen and help you deal with this kind of thing. <3
    best of luck. you can always e-mail me if you want to chat!

  2. I am not a mom, so I have no helpful advice (sorry!). I have been an aunt for 27 years & a Godmother many times over - children are a constant influence in my life. But, I don't know what it is to raise a child; the joys or the trials & stresses.
    This post is one of the most honest, most beautiful ones I have ever read about parenting. I hope some fruit comes of your new Daily Rhythm focus. I know structure (as well as knowing when to be fluid) can really help a child know his or her boundaries & when to push them (which is equally important).

  3. Bless you, bless you, bless you. You have spoken what I find so hard to articulate. I too have outrageous anger issues (my kids are 6,4, and 2) and after a full day of catering, refereeing, trying to keep ahead of my kids and just tidy ONE corner...wishing they got along sweetly like those waldorfy kids I see in other blogs, wondering what I'm doing wrong, worrying that I'm irrevocably damaging them when I lose my cool. It is such a hard job. I'd love to talk with you or email you. When my youngest was born, my other two were 3 and 1. I don't know how I didn't lose my mind. Here I am today, still wondering. What a brave post to write. I'm going to try to contact you later when I have more time...until then...breathe, breathe, breathe, and forgive yourself for your failings as a parent...we are doing this from scratch, and all the experts in the world are not in your kitchen when you're wiping up the sixth spill of the morning...

  4. If I may be so bold as to offer my opinion - as someone who also struggles with temper. (I am an avid lurker here, I'm not sure if I've commented before.)

    It looks to me like you are doing an awful lot! Your daily schedule is jampacked. My advice would be to keep things very simple. Have your basic daily routine, probably based around meals, and the rest of the time just be in the world. Notice the sun against the carpet. Walk barefoot through the grass. Be mindful, and show her through example how she can be too, simply by being with things, noticing things.

    Sweep the floor, and tell her you are sweeping the floor, but don't ask for her help. Maybe sing a little song while you are doing it, and she might come over and be interested. For chores you find essential to teach her, perhaps like cleaning her teeth, make a story or game from it.

    Also, keep things very quiet. That has always been my greatest protection against temper - sinking myself into quiet. It resembles calm! I only talk if I think it's necessary and nice. Oh, I sing, and tell stories, etc. But for example if I wanted my dd to help me with carrying a plate to the table, I would give her one, give me one, and walk with her to the table, very slowly and in an almost sacred quest mode, rather than tell her alot of instructions. If I wanted to talk with her, I would stop what I was doing and get down to be in her space.

    Okay, ideally, anyway! At least half ... okay a third ... of the time. ;-)

    Also, slow down! Do less, do it more simple and slowly. Your life will fill up in the most amazing and beautiful way.

    I was blessed to have an aunt who was a Waldorf kindy teacher, who advised me. But I also got a lot of stuff from Waldorf school websites. You could google for ideas.

    Sorry for such a long comment.

  5. Quick to anger...
    been there.. done that.. still do.
    anyone that doesn't know me can't understand how I can snap and then just carry on as if nothing happened. It's easy for me to let it go. Almost impossible to stop it from happening in the beginning. Maybe it's a gene.
    But somehow my children have never held it against me.
    You really do set high goals for yourself.
    Caution.. there is no "fun" in perfection. And you owe your children that as much as you do an education and shelter and food. They will expect the essentials from you.. but it's the Fun that they will remember and cherish.
    Children require and thrive on routine.. and Silas waking so many times a night is not that. I guess you're tried letting him scream for several nights in a row? (cannot criticize any mother that has to contend with a waking child.)
    I think maybe you do have expectations that are too high for a two year old. I seriously question blogs that make life with wee ones sound perfect. I dont see how that can be.

    Honestly Erin. You are doing just fine. More than fine.
    People don't admire women that aren't more than just fine.
    and you have a lot of admiration here, including me!!

  6. you are a kindred spirit. My children are four and two, we stay home together, looking to create rhythm and succeed sometimes. I understand the image you have for those "perfect" days but how quickly little things get under your skin and you need to take a minute before you go crazy.
    My only waldorf community resides in books and online but there is hope for you and me. "one moment can change a day, one day can change a life, one life can change the world."
    If we take each moment as it comes we can change the pattern of anger and show patience and love. Our children will see our methods and begin to use them when they are upset.
    I would love to hear more about your intentions for the day, my daily rhythms are still in formation. :)
    Again, thank you for sharing. I wish you strength and quiet moments of peace.

  7. Here is a big big hug. From everything you mentioned, I did not hear you say you have a friend or community of other mamas. Do you? It is very helpful, and I know you cant go to the store and pick one up, but once you decide to look for one ( I prefer ten), they seem to pop up. It is the single most important part of my day. As I say this, I know one of my dearest loves your blog and will read this. She has a similar handful right now. Its all about those ah-ha moments, like the one you mentioned about if you paid someone else for this care. But take care, and heart, because my ah-ha moment may help with that. About 7 years ago, my first was eighteen months old I realized: I spend my days with the most amazing people in the universe, and all they want is to be with me. Pretty awesome, expect when all you really want is a lonely shower and a moment of silence. But, when you can't have it, at least we have that! And most of the time, only pretty things are posted on blogs. If it makes you feel better tomorrow we will post a picture of everyone tantruming. Seriously, I'll do it.

  8. Have you ever thought about sending your oldest to daycare/playgroup one day a week - might do her some good to get to play with other children? You never mention anything in your posts about other children playing with your kids. Kids need playmates as well as siblings. Your daughter is only two but maybe she's bored. A perfectly quite world is ok for an adult, but kids like to be entertained and interact with others. Try a play group or daycare and give yourself a break once a week. Take that time to get done what needs to be accomplished and then take advantage of the quiet and take a nap.
    You're not a bad person if you send your kids out every once and a while so you can get a break. Lots of moms send thier kids out daily while they go to work and their kids are still great kids.

  9. I think you are expecting too much from a two year old, yes, if you want an honest opinion. I agree with another commenter - keep it simple and slow down. You are doing way too much.

    And hugs to you. I remember feeling like that a lot after having #2. I was so overwhelmed, they were 25 months apart. Now after the third has joined us I am a much more calm mother most of the time. The two biggest factors in helping that? A regular running practice & getting sleep at night. Probably not helpful advice but it is what it is.

  10. This is a powerful post and I thank you for sharing it here. It is never easy to admit our weaknesses, but not only is it a powerful step in the right direction, but it is so brave to say it here on the web. I am sure many can identify with your feelings and words here - I know I do! I send you peace as you move forward, each new day ahead of you. Thank you so very much for these words.

  11. Same here :) And I think all mothers in the world would be saying same here with you. We love our children so much, but boy they can drive us crazy! I thought I was a really patient person until I had kids :) ha! I have a 3 year old and nearly 5 year old and they have always been at home with me, and I wouldn't want it any other way, we are also planning on homeschooling so they will always be at home with me. Firstly, you know what i think, sleep deprivation has a LOT to answer for, honestly, tiredness because of children waking in the night REALLY affects how we handle the day, and how our children handle the day. Now that my kids are older and finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, the days just flow so much easier, and if we do get a disturbed night, things just turn to custard, everything seems so much worse, i'm less patient, snap more easily, the house seems messier :), and we kind of feed of each others grumpyness.
    Also, anyone that has children in their lives has chaos, truly, they just go hand in hand, so if it looks like someone has it all together with their children in perfect harmony, it's just not the case, it may be like this some of the time, but certainly you must know there is chaos also, it's unavoidable.
    Another thing, everything takes 10+ times longer when you have kids with you, I've learnt not to set my expectations too high, because I was always dissapointed. I have become much more realistic in what I can achieve in my day and have tried to slow down and just go at the pace of my children, rather than trying to expect them to keep up with me.
    One of the big things that keeps me sane is having a friend who also has children and who truly understands the chaos that they bring with them. We talk to each other on the phone every day, normally just a quick call, but everyday, we talk about the sweet things our kids have done but more often than not we are laughing histerically about the crazy things our children have done, and it's just nice knowing we're not the only one. It's really so therapeutic to laugh at the crazyness.
    Anyway not really saying this all as eloquently as I would have liked, but anyhow, must go and try and do some housework. Today is supposedly 'house work day' and so far all I have done is cleared the dishwasher and fed the children and my eldest has spent all morning cutting up magazines and leaving small pieces of paper strewn from one end of the house to the other. But we've had cuddles and chats and time together, and the housework will wait till I'm ready to get it done, and Liam has had plenty of practice in his 'fine motor skills' :)

  12. hello erin,
    it is funny but the picture accompanying this post is so beautiful. please keep that in mind as you see others in peaceful beautiful mama blogs. it seems you achieve quite a lot in the way of beauty at home with children. that room is lovely and your daughter too.
    my daughter turned three in april and today was the very first day that she exhibited some of the 'helpful' behaviors regarding chores i had expected perhaps a year ago. we mopped the floor together and scrubbed the kitchen table and made a pizza together. she dumped half a jar of sauce on the pizza and ripped out holes in the dough for tastes, but it was encouraging. she still banged the dog's bowl all over the floor and cried for twenty minutes in exhausted frustration because i didn't put the bread on right for her jam sandwich. for some reason i was able to breathe through that, because as other posters have commented, we have been keeping things super-simple lately. i also think life with very little ones is easier if there are older siblings about. we have new neighbors with kids who are 6 and 7 and my daughter is so totally engaged by them i feel like i am practically on vacation.
    and one more thing: try to be gentle with yourself, forgiving of your anger. sometimes it helps me to regard myself as i do my daughter in a tantrum, with loving kindness. and i try to talk to my daughter as well, i tell her mommy is having a hard day, or mommy got really frustrated and that was scary, etc. i think it helped me to hear her feedback about this (she is rather verbal, but even less-so they do understand so much), and i think it helped her to have me acknowledge what happened when i was calmer. i used to take time-outs when i was so angry and go in another room, but when we talked about it she asked me to stay in the room with her even when i was angry. so now i say i am so frustrated or losing my patience that i am taking a time-out, but i stay in the room, and sing a kind of yoga song, and the two of us usually calm down together. again this kind of interaction may be too ambitious for a two-year old, but if you have not already begun i think it is useful to think about how you address your anger with your children, as it is a very human feeling and part of life.
    good luck to you with all of this and with your exciting new home and farm.

  13. Oh gosh, there are big parts of this that could have come straight from my heart <3 Much love. You're doing a wonderful job, mama.

  14. I have been thinking all day about you, and wanted to come back and apologise for my obnoxious comment. I didn't mean to tell you what to do as if I was the font of all wisdom! Your post just got me to looking back on what I felt I did right for my child (eg keep it simple), and also what I did wrong (eg worry that she needs socialisation). I actually think you're doing a marvellous job for your family, and it's normal to worry and have bad days. I admire you so much,your weblog is one of my top ten favourites.

  15. Most of what you wrote could have come directly from my own inner monologue. My children are virtually the same age, and equally lovable/taxing. I have visions of these waldorf-perfect households, but our downtown apartment and lack of "rhythms" belie these daydreams. My anger flares, too often, and leads to hurt and regrets. Yet even at my wit's end my toddler sings a made-up "I love my mommy, I love my daddy" song and I wonder - hope - that maybe it's not completely wrong.

    I think as parents we are all inventing the wheel over and over and over again. It's not enough to see other people rolling along, we have to do it for ourselves with each new child. Maybe that's ok too.

    I hope you find a bit more peace and joy for yourself this week.

  16. Oh my, this certainly strikes a chord with me. I often struggle with anger in parenting. I think it happens mostly when I am not doing enough for myself (and I don't mean reading blogs, surfing the net etc ;)). Just this morning, my 2.5 year old daughter woke up screaming and I awoke with my blood boiling - it wasn't the way I wanted to start my day. Like you, I have morning visions of lovely days of outdoor play, sibling harmony, and a calm, singing mama holding it all together. The reality if typically FAR from that. I would love it if you would share what you have put together for routines and rhythms as this is something I have a hard time with.

    Thanks for being so honest in your post - it made me feel a little less alone.


  17. Everyone has their struggles, no matter what they blog or what books are read - intention, love and being there will help bring you the rhythim and parenting style that works for you. In terms of book, check out "Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma" by Nancy Samalin (she also has a good sibling book "Loving Each One Best" which naturally touches on anger as well). All the best!

  18. a hearty "amen" to the above comments and two quick thoughts:

    1: perhaps try a letter/animal/ect a month before trying to do every week? monthly themes might leave more room for seasonal things and flexibility.

    2: you could NEVER pay anyone to do all that you do. even if you had a nanny/babysitter/daycare person, they would not do the house stuff, food, shopping, cleaning, caring, ect. you are immesurably valuable: priceless!

  19. As usual, we have so much in common. Only two days ago I was crying in my bedroom worried that my temper was ruining Maya's childhood. I think we'll have lots to discuss on Friday. :)

    Regardless of everything, please know you are doing an amazing job. Everyone can see that online, and I can see it in real life.

    Hugs and love.

  20. Thank you so much for putting into words what so many mamas struggle with everyday. My children are older -- 9 and 6 -- and I still experience many of the emotions you described. In some ways it gets easier, but in other ways I find the challenges are greater as my children grow and my role evolves, which is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Your post is both beautiful and brave. Thank you for sharing...

  21. Like so many have already written, I really could have written this post myself. My temper, anger and frustration are things I struggle with on a daily basis. I know I do too much, I probably expect too much ( I know I do), I just don't always know what to let go. Letting go... I know this is key, for me anyway. Letting go of my expectations, need for control, need/want to DO so much. I thought long and hard about this just the other day and thought what I want more than anything is time to just *enjoy* my children. I'm sorry, I wish I did have advise to you. nothing but a big ((HUG)) and thank you for your honesty. You are very brave to be so forthcoming about your shortcomings.

    Oh, and to the commentor 'Sarah', I didn't think your comment was 'obnoxious' at all. as someone else who struggles with anger and frustration in parenting I do appreciate your suggestions.

  22. You are so not alone. And each of the comments is so valuable. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on parenting--it is brutal. Ease up on yourself, and see all the wonderful things you are doing for your children. (In regards to anger, you've explained it so well, but think too--some of the behaviours that we deal with from our children--we wouldn't tolerate from another adult! LOL ie. tantrums, screaming, etc--to hold our cool, or not, is very difficult.

  23. Thank you thank you thank you. our youngest is three months old today and I feel like I'm drowning - even with mom here to help. rhythm is so hard to find and sustain when life just isn't as simple as it used to be. waldorf concepts are beautiful - but they don't always have solutions to spouses with 12 hour work days, fitting in grocery shopping, or really anything that has to happen outside the house, it seems. but we can try, we can do our best, and we can keep trying to breathe. the little ones love us, watch us, and need us. it's as sustaining as it is suffocating.

    and to all your commenters - thanks to you, too. i read every single comment and learned loads.

  24. First time reader...somehow wound up clicking over to this know how that goes ;)

    At any rate, I'm far from an expert, but I have a 4 and a 3 year old, 13 mos. apart, and had two under two at one point, so I can relate on some level. I would second what Kelly said above're expecting too much of a two year old. And how do I know this? Because I was the same way. I remember asking my mom if my then- three year old son could be expected to sweep. She laughed at me. And yeah...she was right. That's not to say I didn't try it, anyway, but she was right. He's almost 4.5 now, and he's just beginning to be helpful in the sweeping department.

    Really, at two, she's not going to be of much real help, but the point is to get her to enjoy working along side of you. So when you're cleaning the kitchen and she comes in, offer her a damp rag and let her wipe cupboards or something. Of course she's not going to be cleaning much, not really, but she'll be learning.

    I think my kids were about 3 when they really started being of some help. I got them a little electric carpet sweeper that they use to vacuum under the table after supper.

    Anyway, my point is, relax on the idea of her actually helping with chores. Really, just relax in general as far as what you think needs to be done.

  25. Thank you for saying the things that I have struggled so greatly with! I always found that if I had things i needed to get done (including making a meal or having a shower...going to the bathroom), I was always setting myself up for a frustrating day of conflict, anger, frustration and demanding children. If I focus on the children, meet their needs, the moments arrive quietly where I can get done what I need to do and everyone is happy. I fail at this repeatedly but the rule of thumb remains. After yelling so much I had to wipe my spit off the table last week - I keep having to reset my way of being the world. More kindness, patience, forgiveness, acceptance....
    Thank you so very much for this read!

  26. In my experience working with many different children and families, 2 years old is still way too young to expect ANYthing from. They flit around like butterflies, occasionally landing on something for quite a while, and then for no apparent reason flit to the next thing and the next. The longest I've gotten a 2 year old to "help" me with anything is for about 30 seconds at a time (i.e. stirring the scrambled eggs for a bit, then going off to play, then coming back and pouring in the milk for a few seconds, then going to play again).

    Also, I often wonder and may have said several times - how come you don't ever have the occasional babysitting help? One of the families I'm working with right now is very similar to yours - 2 year old girl and little baby girl. She asks me to come and just play with the older girl for a bit while she has quality time with the baby, or does laundry, or goes grocery shopping. Occasionally she'll leave me with the baby and take the older girl out with her to do some errands and then have lunch. And sometimes, in the early evenings, she and her husband will go out together and have me give the girls dinner and put them to sleep. Would you not benefit from a similar sort of reprieve, even if its just once or twice a month, for even 2-3 hours at at time?

    And like another blogger said (although this would be more of a commitment), a playgroup or preschool or something, one or two days a week, wouldn't be a bad idea... both to give you a reprieve, and to start exposing Poppy (gently) to other children and help develop some of her social skills.

    You don't have to do it all yourself... in the "old days", children were raised by communities... mothers would get the chance to rest as grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, etc., would help with the caregiving. Sometimes you're expecting too much of yourself, I think... <3.

    It's okay to need some space, and take some time for yourself, even when you have a tiny baby. And, speaking from the babysitter's point of view, I've never met a parent that wasn't extraordinarily grateful for that couple hours of break! Sometimes I just take care of the dishes/meal prepping/laundry/garbage while the mother gives her full attention to the children.

    Something you might want to consider <3.

  27. Hi,
    I notice you read Light and Macaroni and I am wondering if you followed one of her links back on May 31. I, too, have anger (at times rage)issues with my children, so I loved reading this "Dear Sugar" column. My story is not all that similar to the woman's who wrote in, but Sugar's response just moved me so. Made me full of emotion and longing to do better. It is #74 "Ten Angry Boys" in case you are interested.

    Much Love,

  28. So much of what you write could have come from my own hand. I, too, struggle with anger and there are awful times when my little one witnesses this--typically, directed at my husband after a long day home with only an active two year old boy for company. I make it a point to calm down and apologize in front of my son, to show him that anger is an impermanent state, that Mama can regroup and reground. I also talk very simply...Mama got mad and it was scary. But Mama is feeling better now. Then I try to do some soothing.

    I think as far as rhythm goes...Keep it Short and Simple. Work first on establishing rhythm around meals and sleep and wake times. Then gradually introduce some activities during the week.

    This summer, after we move into our new house and unpack, I plan to start a weekly "circle time" for my Gabriel.

    I tend to want to do things whole hog. I wrote out a circle and put it on my blog. But then I was re-reading somethings I received in answer to a question I posted on one of my Waldorf yahoo group posts. Now, I am seeing that I need to simplify and start slow.

    It is easy to become frustrated that life doesn't look like some people's blogs. Sometimes I look at your photos and think..."Wow, so beautiful. Why doesn't my house look that charming?" But to be honest with you and speak frankly..I don't think any Mom has it all figured out and there is no one with little kids who has a perfect pretty life.

    I bet you anything Soule Mama, as lovely as she is, gets pissed at her kids. I bet sometimes they piss and moan about having to churn butter or stop their games to try on yet another knitted sweater. I bet her kids have vomited on her vintage quilts.

    And I bet even some of the best Waldorf blogging Mamas on the web have days where they just want to throw the broom through the window, take their kids to McDonalds, and fill them up with chicken mc nuggets just to get a few minutes of peace and quiet.

    It's normal. What is beautiful about you is that you are so honest about it. It's why I love reading your blog. Because it's real. And that is worth more to me in my little corner of the world than reading about someone's pretty perfect life.

    You are wonderful. Be gentle to yourself.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...