“Your children don’t need to see you upset.”
“Be stronger for your kids.”
“Children don’t need to know there are issues that make you cry.”
“Don’t expose your children to life’s hardships.”
“Cry on your own time, don’t do it in front of the kids.”
Yes, that’s right. Just a few of the parental advice gems that have been given to me over the years. Y’all, I’m so over being told that my kids don’t need to see me cry or see me feel any sort of emotion except the rainbows and butterflies of happiness! That’s not real life and no way am I trying to set myself up for failure trying to achieve that kind of unrealistic, perfect life.
Most of us have been to hell and back time and time again. We feel like life can’t get much else out of us, and we utter those daring words, “It can’t get worse than this.” Nine times out of ten, that statement is taken as a challenge from the universe! I recently went through some serious life changes myself, and boy let me tell you, I honestly looked around and thought, “This is a joke.” No way are these things happening to me in REAL LIFE! I could not begin to understand how I was going to keep my emotions in check after such devastating blows.
The truth is, as a mother, I knew I didn’t have time to break down and feel sorry for myself when that’s all I wanted to do. A dark hole with blankets sounded really good at the time. I think I did myself a disservice by not fully processing and basically grieving what had been taken from us. I was angry and didn’t feel as though my children and I deserved the hardships we were unexpectedly put through. I will admit, I did try to bottle it all up and pretend to be unaffected, when really I felt like I was drowning.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we can’t protect our littles from everything, and sometimes they do see the impact stress can have on us. Nothing is worse than feeling like you have no control over the things that are happening TO you and feeling like you are letting your children down because you can’t hide it all. I’m here to tell you to stop feeling bad for being human. Kids are resilient and seeing you shed a few tears makes you more human to them. That is just my (un)professional opinion anyway.
Mom to mom, hiding pain and bottling up anger/sadness is so much worse than just breathing it all out. You see, that pressure will build up inside of you and come uncapped at the worst of times. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve been the mom who irrationally bursts into tears because cookie crumbs were left on the couch when it was really all the emotion I was “protecting my kids from” exploding out. No one wins in these situations, so in case no one has told you recently, you are human and you’re allowed to cry and feel in front of your kids.
I am crazy emotional and it doesn’t matter if I’m happy, sad, frustrated, anxious, or whatever, tears are going to fall at some point. It’s my curse, I swear. Over the years of being a mom, I’ve learned how to walk my kiddos through what I’m feeling, and I want to share them with you.
Share with your children which emotions you are going through. They don’t need to know every hairy detail, but I found that my daughter doesn’t carry the stress I’m feeling when I am transparent with her. Saying things like, “Mommy is having a hard time today and I feel little sad, but that’s OK because we ALL have hard days!” goes a long way. I honestly think it teaches them that problems exist, we have to work through them and experiencing different emotions is perfectly normal.
Give Yourself a Breather.
If you feel like you’re about to just lose it and you can’t keep yourself from an outburst, walk away and take a minute. No one will or can blame you from removing yourself from the family to catch your breath. Let it out in the shower, in a pillow, or just in a room by yourself. There is so much power in letting go of the horrible stigma of trying to hold yourself together when you’re about to burst.
This may seem a little strange, but I’ve seen how it works magic in my household. When I have moments of whatever is causing my anxiety and tears in the presence of my children, I refer to rule #1 and then I include them in pulling it together. For example, I would simply say things like, “Man, I could really use some cheering up! What do you guys think of cuddling up and watching a movie with Mommy?” I always try to show them that it’s going to be ok no matter what. Is watching a movie going to cure my problems? NO. But it helps the kids see that even though I am struggling, the situation will be better soon. I also think they get a kick out of being the 2 little things that always make me happy!
Don’t get me wrong, I do not think children should carry adult burdens, but I do think it is perfectly fine for them to see life has its tests. I don’t mean they need to see out of control and damaging outbursts, but a normal range of emotions is not out of the question. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can say that my children are learning to express emotions freely (sometimes freely and loudly!) and I think that is a beautiful thing.
Being a parent is so hard without striving to put off this false impression that life is perfect. I just don’t believe it does anyone any good and it certainly is a stressful way to live. All I’m saying is be human. Stop worrying that your child is going to be scarred for life because you cried in front of them. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you are an inadequate parent because you allow yourself to feel. You are teaching your children some beautiful life lessons by being real!