I’ve had a few Mummy Meltdowns in my 11 years of parenting. I clearly remember the first one when I threw one of my son’s plastic cars across the room in frustration. Yep, upon reflection I did feel like a two year old, but somehow the act of throwing something and watching it smash into an art deco sideboard made me feel a whole lot better. There’s been about one per year ever since and this week, I experienced my annual Mummy Meltdown. It was not fun. Although the trigger was being called “The Worst Mummy in the World”, it was all of the events in the lead up that really caused it.
What started as a perfectly normal week spiraled into spending a day in hospital with a five year old with appendicitis. We then found out the lease on our small business’ premises is about to expire and the future is uncertain. I jumped off the self-publishing cliff and decided to crowd fund my book, the parachute is pretty thin at the moment so I’m hoping it will fill with time. And we got unlimited Internet at home. Unlimited Internet without boundaries and rules in place as to how to use it. Unlimited Internet to three boys with Aspergers Syndrome is like Christmas on a weekday and from their perspective, nobody had the right to stand in their way.
Except me. The Worst Mummy in the World.
Well that’s what I was called anyway, amongst the yelling and screaming. They hadn’t completed their homework and wouldn’t turn off their Minecraft movies. So I turned off the Internet. I cancelled Christmas and for my three aspies, it was all too much. As their behaviour became worse and worse the Internet ban was extended longer and longer, I was left in the parenting pit of knowing I had done the right thing, but feeling like shit about it. It’s hard work being a parent. It only took my pinky finger to flick the Internet switch but it took all of my strength to back myself and be strong as a parent.
After the verbal explosions had settled there was the usual remorse. They were sorry for their actions and begged for forgiveness. And for the Internet to be turned on. Our wonderful tutor Matt was there to experience the whole thing. He left and hour early and offered to go and get me a bottle of wine, bless him. Shame I’m allergic to wine, the offer was oh so tempting. But wine wouldn’t have solved anything.
When my husband arrived home from work the boys were very quick to tell him that they were in trouble and were all very sheepish in their explanations. I’d soldiered through making dinner, Taco Tuesday, then as my son tried to justify his actions, the words “Worst Mummy in the World” came out again. I burst into tears and left the room. Possibly the quietest Mummy Meltdown ever, I think my tears had said enough.
I’m not a crier. Okay, maybe in some movies. But my boys have rarely ever seen me cry and it hit them, they’d really done the wrong thing. As I tried to suck it up in the solitude of my garden, one by one they came to check on me and try and cheer me up. Full of apologies, and for my ten year old, a defining moment in empathy. He cracked some jokes, made me smile, held my hand and walked me back inside the house. After all, the tacos were getting cold.
My Mummy Meltdown was calmed and resolved by a ten year old. A ten year old, who because of his Aspergers Syndrome, probably knows more about meltdowns than most. It was a defining moment for him but also a defining moment for me because I realized I must have been doing something right, if I’ve raised a boy like him.
This is the reality of a Mummy Meltdown. It’s okay to lose your mind sometimes. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to cry or yell or throw a (non-breakable) toy across the room. It may not set the best example of how to handle stress or anger, but it does show that you’re only human, and you do have a breaking point. My Mummy Meltdown taught the boys the power of spoken words and how they can hurt people.
Each day I get a bit thicker skinned to be able to stand up and flex my parenting muscles. But to every parent out there, I want you to know that it’s okay to have a Mummy Meltdown, or perhaps a Daddy Dilemma. But there is a golden rule.
If you lose control, you also lose the right to parent.
If you do hit breaking point, and feel like you have lost your ability to control your emotions, please walk away. Have a trusted friend or neighbour on standby so they can step in for you until you’re back in control.
I make it a habit to offer all of my friends and playgroup families a home to come to if they ever reach the point that they cannot parent any more. At some stage, every parent will hit that wall. For some, ten minutes in the garden will be enough to regain control, for others, it may take more. Let’s look after one another. Let’s look out for those who are at breaking point and let’s make an effort to talk a whole lot more about Mummy Meltdowns.