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It's OK to Be Irrationally Emotional...! Sometimes...

We can all feel it happening. Like a low-pressure tropical weather system off the coast of Africa, a storm brewing that might get pushed by Westerly trade winds into the headlines of your day-to-day. The skin on your face, neck and collarbones becomes flushed, words are harder to form into rational sentences, and maybe there's just the hint of tears welling up somewhere behind the smile-mask you wear most of the time…all signs that emotions might be about to overwhelm reason a bit and spill into the public realm. Uh-oh...

A woman crying by herself
Crying is Healthy

The why isn’t really all that important. Is it chemical? Spiritual? Mental? Hundreds of years of medical and psychological science have yet to identify the why and when of these events. We can chalk it up to menstrual cycles or menopause, unresolved childhood traumas, or even weather and climate change if we want to, but the net result is still the same: we’re about to have a classic Mom freak-out moment.

But wait…as a Mom, is it ever OK to have a bit of a freak-out? This is supposed to be fun and rewarding, right? We signed up for this, after all. But, I mean, if you think about everything we’re responsible for, from caretaking to feeding to forwarding our own career and helping the household pay bills, the list of tasks seems ever-growing and each task on the list is never-ending. The mental energy alone it takes to be constantly concerned about and aware of your child or children is extremely taxing! Just when you thought you had the whole T-ball thing down, your wonderful child informs you he’s now also signed up for junior swim team. [Aside: Dear school administrators: please don’t have 8-year-olds signing up for classes and sports without parental input, thanks…].

At the same time, we aim to be encouraging, pleasant, rational, supportive, attentive, not to mention all that's required by those strange lifeforms we created together who always seem to be hungry (at different times and for different things), may not want to do as they are told, frequently and inconveniently have to use the bathroom (at different times and with different…formats), and whose form of showing appreciation is a cold-by-the-time-it-got-to-us breakfast served to at 7 AM once a year, complete with a giant mess in the kitchen that we often seem to have to clean up from.

Now back to the question: is it ever OK to have a bit of a freak-out?

You’re darn tootin’ it is! I don’t mean it’s perfectly OK all the time, but it is OK if and when it does happen. The moments don’t have to be big and grand episodes in front of people, and they don’t have to be frequent, and they don’t need to occur at all presuming you find other ways to have catharsis. And ‘crisis moments’ don’t even need to be a surprise…saying “Mom needs a few minutes,” and excusing yourself to have a small moment of meditation, prayer and a little cry in the bedroom doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you’re failing. In fact, what it means is that you’re perfectly normal and healthy.

Give yourself the gift of understanding and patience, invest in some Kleenex® and get a Dove bar, download Steel Magnolias or Like Water For Chocolate to your phone and have some good old-fashioned time to yourself. No guilt, no self-deprecating thoughts, just a few deep breaths and your version of Zen. Let the lists upon lists melt away.

Oh, and for sure recruit dear hubby into this process. If he’s half the man you thought he was when you married him, not only will he understand, but he’ll encourage this process. Your expectations are not HIS expectations, and he will be glad you took some time for yourself to refuel. Walk away from your chores and take the moment(s) you need. Believe me, he’s getting his cathartic moments as well, it’s just different for him: watching sports or chopping wood or tinkering on his car, or finally getting that universal remote actually to be universal are all moments of Zen and recharge for him, even if the man doesn’t know it. Take a page out of his playbook- he has something figured out and you would do well to do the same!

It's different for every mom, too. I have a friend for whom Yoga is her outlet…go figure, finding Zen in Yoga. But for me, Yoga is just another stressor item on the checklist…am I doing it right? Should I be wearing this much spandex at my age? How do other women look so good in purple but it just makes my skin look pink? Why does my cat-cow pose make me feel like a cow and less like a cat?

I have another friend who has carved out time to paint once a week and I always feel a little jealous when I’m over at her house and see the easel in the corner of her perfect little breakfast nook, bathed in sunlight…when I try to do art my kids put it up on the fridge right next to their kindergarten finger paintings, and I have to tell you there’s not much difference in skill level or aptitude. When your fridge art is somewhere between Jackson Pollack and the hand-traced turkey pre-schoolers make each November, displaying it isn't cathartic, it's traumatic.

Jackson Pollack Painting
Jackson Pollack or Mom Art

So I do what’s right for me and what works is a few minutes of alone time and a square of chocolate, even if that means I’m sitting on the bathroom floor with the faucet running once in a while. I’ve learned to forgive myself for the need and the time.

A lot is asked of us. We knew that when we signed up for this, or at least we had some inkling from watching our own Mom and maybe a little something from the Lifetime™ movies we don’t admit we like to watch late at night when we can’t sleep. That doesn’t make it easy and it doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions to process and digest. Take your time. Take a breath. Give yourself the space to have space!

And then, of course, it's back to your regularly scheduled program of stoic, loving motherhood and all the fulfilling blessings that role brings. Good luck out there!

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