Bad Mom,  Moody Blues

(e)motion dismissed

Is it possible to control your emotions? Normally, I would say no. At least that’s my experience. On bad days I have next to no control over my emotions. I’m just a walking water balloon waiting for something to prick me so I can just gush all over the place. I try and try to hold it in but it never works. However… some people might think differently and this peaks my interest. If there is a way, sign me up!

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Dr. Laura (yes, I’m one of those talk radio listerner types) and a caller called in saying she was getting a divorce because she and her husband had a serious problem (of which I will not name, but let’s just say I identified with it). This problem was so bad, this woman’s kids told her they were sick of their mom and dad fighting and they (the kids) wanted them (their parents) to get a divorce. The kids felt they would be better off living in a broken home than with their parents who made their lives miserable. (Yikes.)

I’m not saying whatever problem I identify with is serious enough to get a divorce over but it does cause me a lot of grief AND Toby and I fight like cats and dogs over it. Of course Dr. Laura completely vetoed the divorce idea. She always does. But she didn’t have a solution for the woman’s problem. That kinda surprised me. It kinda bummed me out actually. If Dr. Laura can’t fix it then maybe it can’t be fixed. But she did tell the woman that she needed to hold it together and NOT show her emotions around her children. She said something along the lines of “mature adults need to control their emotions.” That kinda hit home with me. How do you do that? Is Dr. Laura not woman? Doesn’t even she lose it once in a while?

Does that mean all these years I’ve been an immature adult? Sure, I’ll agree to that. I’ve done a lot of growing up these past few years. A LOT. But I grew up in a family of women who couldn’t control their emotions. I thought it was the family curse. Something to do with hormones and pms and a hot Irish/German temper. At what point can I control it?

What really bothers me a that I use fighting words with Toby in front of the baby. I try not to desperately but it seems hopeless. Toby makes me soooooooo mad that I just flip out from time to time. I try and keep it in but I’m like a simmering volcano and next thing you know I’m yelling and stamping my foot, my eyes are bulging out of my head and I’m ready to toss him right out the window. If I had the strength, I probably would have. I’ve removed all contents of closets in rages before. I’m scary when I get mad. Nothing is sacred.

Minutes after I’ve lost all control, I’m wracked with guilt. It’s terrible. How could I be such a horrible mother? How can I nurture another human life when I’m turning her whole world upside down? I’m her number one care giver and I’m a scary monster with sharp teeth!!! I have so many memories of my own mother pulling stunts like this. (Please forgive me mom. You’re a good mom. I turned out okay, right? Or did I?) I remember the clenched stomach feeling, the wanting to run and hug my mom and make it all okay, the scared lonely horrible place I would feel until my she came back after a fifteen minute car ride to “cool down”. I remember asking my Dad what was wrong and seeing the hurt helpless feeling in his eyes…

So I cuddle my baby and tell her it’s okay. “See, Mommy and Daddy love each other. We fight but we still love each other. See I’m hugging Daddy!” Hug hug hug.

But is that enough? Toby says it is. He says it’s healthy for Baby Bug to see how problems arise and how we solve them. He also tells me that I need not dwell on it so much. That dwelling on this problem is half of the problem. Maybe he’s right. And maybe after this post I’ll never bring it up again. But I just wish that I could keep my cool. I want to break the cycle. I want to stop being scary.

When I was out in Hemet this last weekend, things were really taxed to the limit for me. My brother has moved back into my mom’s house and my mom’s poor little mobile home is busting at the seams to keep all his and my mom’s stuff inside it. Junk and clutter explode out the door and all over the lawn and driveway. I’m constantly overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do first to fix things. Everywhere I look there is squalor.

I consider the situation a “SOS challenge” and as a loving family member I need to do what I can to help out. I can’t help financially but I can give them my time. My sister-in-law is working full time, my mom is getting old (not really, but her health is not what it should be), my brother has debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome and my nieces… well my nieces love entropy! They grew up with it. The messier the better! So it’s just me, fighting off the clutter like a valiant warrior. It’s a full time job doing laundry, cooking and cleaning for a house full of people, not to mention trying to take care of a baby at the same time. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not trying to make myself into a hero. My mom does this day in and day out. I only visit a couple weekends a month.

But what I’m getting at is that I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world… working working working to make things better at my mom’s (which is really just an exercise in hopelessness) AND then my oldest niece (the constant talker) starts bugging me. EVERYTHING is a negotiation with her. I feel like all I do all day long is say “No.” No, we can’t go to the park. No, we can’t play fashion plates right now. No, we can’t make pancakes. I can’t even find the kitchen sink. No, you can’t hold the baby right now. Her head is like a cantaloupe. I don’t want to see the seeds squashed all over the cement. No. No. No. No! NO!!! PLEASE JUST STOP BUGGING ME!!!!! It makes me so sad when I turn into this, “NO” person. What happened to the fun Auntie who played with them and drew pictures and made forts out of cardboard boxes? I’m always on my mom’s case to be more positive around the kids. What kind of hypocrite am I?

My sister-in-law comforts me and tells me it’s okay to lose it with Rapunzel. Rapunzel is going through a stage and she needs to be admonished. She tells me it’s okay that I’m crying all the time. She tells me that I am a good aunt and mother. Rapunzel will remember the good times, not just the yelling. But it’s hard to believe my sister-in-law. Sometimes I just want to check out and not visit them anymore because I can’t hold it together. I’m scared because I know this is my future. Soon it will be Baby Bug who is pushing my buttons and I can’t just drive away from her. How can I teach her not to be like me? By not being like me. How do I do that?

Or maybe I should just take Toby’s advice and not dwell on it so much. Everybody loses it now and then. The important part is that you pick up and move on.


  • Amanda

    Ooo, this is a hot topic. When I first got married I was of the thought that “I’m a woman, so when I get moody and mad at you, dear hubby, just deal with it. It’s who I am. PMS happens.” But after a short while it became clear that I was hurting him with my behavior, even though I didn’t mean for him to take it personally. We spent many hours in the first year of marriage discussing my tendencies and eventually we came to the conclusion that I cannot change my emotions, but I can choose what to do with them. Bah! Easier said than done. It’s hard to think of the other person, especially when you’re PMSy and not rational in the first place. When I am feeling growly now I give my husband a warning and let him know, “I’m feeling extra sensitive/grumpy/irrational/enraged today” so that he’s aware but I don’t use it as an excuse to treat him poorly. Again, easier said than done, and I sure don’t have it down pat after four years of marriage. Now we have a new baby and adding sleep deprivation to the mix is a new challenge!
    It’s just really healthy that you’re aware of your tendencies, and of what was modelled to you in your childhood. You are a great person from what I have deduced from reading your blog for over a year now. Hope you find a way to deal with those darn emotions. :)

  • beck

    I can relate to you re: fighting loudly and dramatically (albeit occasionally) with someone who is just as stubborn as I am. I’m concerned about it for our baby’s sake, too. How can I be ready for children when I exhibit such lack of discipline/self-contrl!? What a horrible example I’ll make, etc., etc.
    Since I have found my words (usually said with calm/cynical and cutting sarcastic indifference) to be such a devestating tool, I do all I can (chew my lips/tongue off in the heat of the momment) to prevent them from being said even though it would feel SO GOOD to say them. The whole counting to ten before speaking thing is something to try (hard! so hard!) I know how my words chip away at his character and I don’t want that in the end. I dont want that at all, especially to be coming from me.
    I just hope that my efforts have resulted in the incidences becoming fewer and farther between…

  • Heidi

    It’s healthy for couples to argue and it’s important to remember people argue in all different ways. Some are LOUD and fiery, while others “have discussions.” I think it’s important for children to see their parents argue and that it doesn’t mean they don’t love eachother. They need to see that people can disagree, but still care for and respect one another.

    However, I think it is unhealthy for children to see parents become violent or lose repect for one another.

    With the right balance of fierce debate (or heated arguement) and love and understanding, children can benefit. They gain the abilty to stand up for their own beliefs and respect others who disagree with them.

  • hazelblackberry

    I really hated that line about not showing your emotions in front of your kids. What?? I agree that kids, especially younger ones, need to be sheltered from some of the extremes but I agree with Toby, it’s good for kids to see that conflict can happen and that it can be worked out. The answer is not for kids to think that their mum & dad never disagreed or fought but that they had constructive ways of approaching their problems.

    I also agree with Toby: maybe you do think about it too much. I know I do and I’ve been trying to change it, with gradual success. Sometimes when you want to kill him, or you think it will kill you for him to be right, just let him be right. Try it. See if it helps. If it doesn’t, then never listen to me again.

    And, you know, GOOD LUCK.

    (Also, don’t try to fix things at your mum’s place the next couple of times you go there. Just enjoy everyone’s company.)

  • Daisy Mae

    Kids know more than you think they do. so if you are having a problem with your mate they know it even if you don’t verbalize it. Sweeping it under the rug or arguing behind closed doors does no good. Toby is right on this one, it is better for them to see you confront the problem and come to a resolution. It teaches them good problem resolution.

  • Saartje

    Hm… on the way you behave when arguing or upset, I’d say try a bit of anger management therapy. My father used to have outbursts like what you’ve described here; it terrified me as a child, and I have to work *very* hard not to repeat that pattern. It is a learned behavior. I do not agree with the idea that you shouldn’t let your kids see that you have emotions; rather, you should let them see that you do have emotions, that things can make you feel good or bad — and you should also demonstrate for them how adults cope with those feelings in a healthy way. That does include withdrawing from an argument when you’re too upset, or talking things out, or That does not include having rage-filled outbursts in the child’s presence.

    Find a therapist who can help you learn new coping mechanisms — because as I said, it’s a learned behavior, and you can’t unlearn a behavior: you have to learn a new one to put in its place.

    As for the mess in your mother’s house, I’m with Hazelblackberry. Stop trying to be the hero. Your family would probably rather have your companionship than your overwork. If you can get permission to declutter the house, having fewer things there would vastly reduce the amount of work it takes to keep it clean, and you could take on a small decluttering task each visit (say, decluttering 1-2 shelves) without feeling overwhelmed from trying to do everything, all at once, and finding it all undone the next time you visit. (Visit for advice on systematic decluttering, if you haven’t been there before.) But mostly, stop trying to change things for your family; they have to want to change things before any real change can happen. You are not Sisyphus.

  • Beck's Mom

    Based on my experience with a family “messy,” attempting to declutter someone else’s turf is counter-productive. You end up worn out, and they’ll discover several ‘new’ things to fill the freshly liberated space. Your efforts haven’t changed the reason for the clutter. In our case, the clutter seems to meet an emotional need. All the neat tricks in the book don’t help because our messy isn’t truly motivated to change. I’ve had to accept that’s just part of ‘who they are,’ which possibly is a result of their unique wiring? deep hurts or injuries in their past? patterning in childhood? I can’t control their decisions, but find myself struggling with anger because of how their (poor, per my perspective) choices affect me/intrude into my life. That’s the point where I need to deal with my emotions – without sinning. According to a guest on Focus on the Family, messies are truly caring people.

  • Jennifer

    This hit home in so many ways. We’ve had arguments in front of my 4 year old and a few times it got ugly (not physical) just loud and husband and I have mean tongues when we’re in arguments. It took ONE time for me to see a look on my daughter’s face that I don’t ever want to see again. Nowadays when it starts to get ugly we just both walk away from each other. The argument is by no means over, but the few minutes of breathing space tones it down a lot. If you can have a civil discussion then by all means let your child witness it.

    My 4 year old is a button pusher. She likes to debate anything and everything. She can’t stop at no and there have been times that I’ve felt like I was going to split into a million pieces out of frustration. It’s hard to believe that your sweet little babe could do that to you in just a few years but sometimes it happens. I’ve learned so much through being a parent. Sometimes, somehow you CAN control you emotions. It takes some work but it can be done.

  • carrien

    I so identified with your post about needing a break from your mom’s house. I would say from experience that you need to stop STOP RIGHT NOW trying to fix the problems in your family, esp. the mess. NOT YOUR JOB. You do not need to parent your parents, or your sibling. You are a daughter and a sister and your role is not to fix them, they are grownups, much of what they are living with is their own choice, let them live with their choices.

    Your choices are what you are going to do about you, and how you choose to respond, to them, and to Toby. You can choose not to explode, also something I know from personal experience. Start paying attention to what happens at the moment you lose control, what thoughts, feelings etc. These are your triggers, you can plan what youa re going to do about them when you are calm, you can learn to avoid them and find ways to talk in more productive ways. Or ways to vent that are less potentially frightening for Baby BUg.

    Also, as a kid whose parents eventually divorced, I was relieved because I thought the fighting would stop, but it didn’t really, it was just less loud. I didn’t worry about them fighting at the beginning, because they always made up, and I wasn’t afraid. It was the constant never ending with threats to leave from my dad, and my mom going to her room to cry and stuff that scarred me. NOrmal conflict was not the same.

    hope that helps.

    ps. If you’re still working on your crib problem I saw this the other day.

  • josephine

    I think I’ve crossed the line. I shouldn’t write this way about the people who love me unconditionally. I didn’t mean to dwell on the clutter and belittle them. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and this is what came out. I guess I’ve just been troubled lately. Maybe I will have to take this post down. But if I do. Please know that your comments have been meaningful to me and I appreciate them.

  • hazelblackberry

    SAJ, it is obvious from the way that you write about your family that you love them and, even more, that they are very loveable. Your sister-in-law sounds wonderful. Don’t take this post down if you think it gives the wrong impression; it doesn’t. But do if it has hurt the people you love. All of us have families we could kill at times.

  • Laura

    I don’t know for sure what your issue is so if I’m totally off please forgive me… but this sounds a lot like me and a month ago I finally blew my top and now I’m getting help for depression and so far it’s working. I was moody all the time and couldn’t let things go and my glass was always ‘half empty’ and now things have changed but not totally which I didn’t expect but I can smile more now and yell less. My son is 3 and if Baby Bug is anything like him at age 3, you should fix this now.. you were warned. 3 yr olds SUCK.

  • jailgy

    I can relate. You know I can. The previous commenters have some good advice, for the most part, listen to them. I think you have distinct problems here, at least four: the fighting with Toby, the chaos at you mom’s house, the pms and the stress from it all. Taken together they exacerbate each other. They really do. Each should be dealt with differently and distinctly. Try to recognize the different problems and deal with each one, one at a time. Divide and conquer, they say. The pms is the hardest. It is irrational and it blindsides you (and those around you). It baffles. It leaves you reeling. It does not listen to reason as the other problems should. It will probably not go away for a good fifteen years. Ask your doctor. Maybe there is something nowadays that helps, I don’t know. You are not weird and it is not a character flaw. It is you. It is me. And, you are not alone.

  • Gypsy

    I agree with the poster above who said Dr. Laura isn’t worth listening to. Her whole “I’m my kids’ mom” schtick belittling mothers who work outside the home grates my nerves seeing as how she’s a therapist with a radio show. (Something tells me that’s working outside the home!)

  • karen

    I can relate to your concerns entirely. I too came from a home with a sometimes scary mother, and I was also too easily emotional and vicious with my husband when we were first married. When my son was a baby it hit me that he would grow up the same way…afraid of his own mother and unsure of his family’s stability. I hated that thought so much that I decided I had to change how I dealt with stressors. I worked on honing my attitude. It is hard to break a life long pattern, but it can be done. I reminded myself about what kind of a mother, wife and person I wanted to be, and that I wanted a happy contented childhood for my kids. My oldest is now 11 and we have only had a couple disagreements that got to the crazy yelling stage since then. And both times I felt like absolute crap. While my kids do see us disagreeing and calmly arguing our points, they do not see us yelling or cutting each other down. It turns out that I feel better about everything without the explosive response possibility following me around. I am almost easy-going now! It’s actually a relief. Good luck to you. I know that it is worth the effort to stop the cycle. (also might be helpful to stop trying to change your mother’s house. Losing battles sap energy and joy.)

  • kristin

    you’re a good mom. everyone has struggles and baby bug will learn a lot on how to cope if she is able to watch you learn and work it out with toby humbley, learning how to apologize, take responsibility, and forgive… you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect mom for baby bug…

  • Ellen

    You know, I really like the radio show, New Life Live. They are sort of like Dr. Laura, but they actually give practical advice for how to deal with those types of issues. And if the issue mentioned is what I think that it probably is, they talk about that issue all the time on their show. In fact, half of the women callers are talking about that issue. I’m always really really impressed with their advice.

    I know that you can listen to the show at noon if you have XM Radio, but you can probably download it from their website as well.

  • Lauren

    i think your family sounds great.. i’ve been jealous a few times reading about them. i picture your mom’s place to be a very welcoming, happy, fun, active place to be. it seems like there is a lot of love there.

    messes are overwhelming and they can make me scream and cry too, but have you ever thought about what it would be like if everything was spotless and nothing could be left out of it’s place? that would be no fun at all. and i bet there would be a lot of yelling, too.

    and dr. laura … oh, please don’t take anything she says to heart. i like to listen to her too sometimes .. but, for entertainment only!

    you’re doing fine .. and BB is thriving.


  • ms. sizzle

    there is a time and a place for everything but sometimes emotions get the best of us. we’re human, not droids! being an emotional person myself, i wouldn’t want to keep that side of who i am from my kids or spouse but i would probably try to keep the fighting in front of the kids to a minimum. kids are like sponges and they absorb all that tension and stress. it’s not an easy thing to be a mom and be a wife. be nicer to yourself. :)

  • Marissa

    There are some really good comments here. I would like to say to you that there is a RIGHT way to argue and a WRONG way to argue. There are books on both subjects, but the main thing to think about before you get into a battle is, “Is this worth the guilt and angst I will feel when I’m done?” And that’s a question that you *and* your partner need to consider. Perhaps a good strategy would be to acknowledge during the start of a fight that you both need to take a second to figure out if this is something worth going to battle over.

  • klcdh

    If your nieces get are bugging you to play instead of saying “No” maybe try saying “Okay we will after we (?)” and then give them a task that will help you complete whatever project you are working on. They will love the fact that they are helping you and spending time with you. Then make sure that after a little time working with them that you do take a break to be the “fun” aunt you want to be. You might get a lot more work done. Plus they might learn to appreciate tidy and keep it up when you aren’t around.

  • MamaBear

    Oh SAJ! Hang in there. You are just being honest and everyone knows you love and adore your family. You are a really good daugther and sister and Mom! It’s hard to be all to everyone.

    I’m soooo not a drug pusher… but I have to confess I used to feel the same way until I went on a mild anti-depressent/ mood stabilizer. My moods got worse after pregnancy. I went back on it and they evened out a lot! I no longer cry at the drom of a dime and I can let go of some things. I’m sure they are other ways to deal with it, I hope you find what works for you.

  • Lisa

    i think you just needed to vent your feelings at this one, particular point in time and it seems like everyone is going a little crazy with some of their comments. you are allowed to vent – this is your blog! take a breather – see if you still feel this way tomorrow. have a good day SAJ and do something nice for yourself.

  • ash pdx

    Big hug to you! I have terrible fights with my husband occassionally. I think some people really have passionate tempers/natures. Artistic people have a reputation for them- since you both are artists, watch out! It is best not to fight in front of the kids, but they do need to know it is okay to be angry and that doesn’t mean you stop loving each other, especially as they get older.
    I really feel like we have similar natures, but I just can’t be as open on my blog as you are. You are going through a rough time right now and maybe it helps ot acknowledge that. You can get past it. I don’t know if it is therapy, drugs, or just self-help. As for me, I think I’ll try therapy…
    Good luck!

  • Bethany

    I agree with several of the commenters that it’s not only all right, it’s necessary to show your emotions to your kids! The best way for them to learn how to deal with anger or sadness or frustration is to see you dealing with it in a good way. What you DON’T want Baby Bug to learn is that tantrums are OK! :-) If you think your outbursts are a problem, then I think you should talk to someone or read some books to help you learn how to deal with your anger in a different way. And arguing with Toby is fine, as long as you are respectful of him and don’t say hurtful things to him when you’re arguing. I think the way you reassure Baby Bug after an argument, verbally and with lots of hugs for her and Toby, is absolutely the right thing to do, by the way.

    I hope you find a way to resolve some of this, and that things start looking up for your brother and his family soon. I will pray for you, and them.

  • aunt kathy

    I read your blog last night and was very much affected. I don’t like to see you in such pain. I realize that you blog and “stuff” comes out and this writing is very cathartic. There’s a verse that might help you. It’s 1 Corinthians 7:28. Paul says that all marriages shall have trouble in the flesh. But “I spare you.” What I believe that means is that if we live by what Paul teaches and apply it to our lives we will be delivered from a lot of heart ache. A person who is living close to the Lord will not act in the flesh which is what gets us into a lot of trouble. Here’s an example. “And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32. You can search out others in all of Paul’s epistles for yourself. As I say to my kids: “Act like a Christian.” I don’t mean to preach but this piece of advise helped me tremendously. That and the fact that Uncle B told me, and I have already told you, “Don’t let your emotions control you.” You have power over your emotions. And you know why.
    As for the nieces. Remember I was there once. You only have them for such a short time and then they’re gone. Or you’re gone. Value those times and when they get on your nerves, as they will, just pray,”Lord, help me.”
    I live with messies and my standards have not lowered because of it but I have learned to shut doors and let them deal with it in their time. I offer help. Sometimes it is taken, sometimes it’s resented. Don’t give up on your mom. Just make a little area clean at her house that helps you function. Don’t attempt to do the whole shebang. If you’re like me you’re in control when the environment is in order. I can’t stand messes.
    If this is too personal I will not be offended if you delete it.

  • BeachMama

    SAJ, remember when you are with Baby Bug that it is different with your own children than it is with others, including neices and nephews. Everything will work out. Perhaps you need a break from heading out to Hemet. That would stress out many, many people. Hang in there, you will find a way to deal with your emotions in your own time.

  • Kristin

    I know, friend. I so know. And I am sending you my own brand of introverted, distinctively awkward hugs. Don’t you feel better already?

  • Abby

    I could have written your post pretty much word for word. Every night I creep into my babies’ rooms kiss them on the cheeks and pray that tomorrow I wake up with more patience. That maybe tomorrow I can be that mom that says “yes” more and yells a lot less. I’m still waiting for tomorrow to come…

  • Shelly

    I started writing this really long post about how my dad’s a pack rat and I can totally relate to the overwelming you’ll never get your head above water feeling, but the words just weren’t coming out right. I will say this I’m sorry. I know what it’s like to keep banging your head against the wall to get things straight only to have to keep doing it all over again. Your niece will be fine. We’ve all gone through the really annoying stage. She might be feeling some jealousy from Baby Bug just like a sibling would. Just talk to her. Instead of saying no not right now (or the like) explain more of why you are saying no. I usually don’t like to give advice to other people on their blogs but just thought I would give something to think about.

  • Ninotchka

    Everybody loses it now and then. The important part is that you pick up and move on.

    That is exactly right. I too have a hot and quick temper and I too am riddled with guilt over it from time to time but you know what? Wallowing in that guilt is not productive. We just have to do the best that we can when we can.

    It simulteanously (sp?) broke my heart and lifted me when I took my girls on a “sanity” walk the other night and my oldest said “This is a good way to rechannel our energy.” She’s so wise. I sometimes wish she didn’t have to be.

  • chris

    You might want to check out books by Dr. David Burns, M.D. They have worksheets on writing out what your are feeling and the thoughts that go with it and how you can turn it around. All of us fall into traps like mind reading, all or nothing thinking, etc. It is just how humans work. We aren’t perfect.

    His latest is called When Panic Attacks. But you can find his Feeling Good in paperback. I think he has a website too.

    As for Dr. Laura, as people have already mentioned, she is of the do as I say, not as I do, school of thought. If I recall correctly she is not only divorced but remarried and had sex before marriage, yet she sits in judgement and gives people the riot act for doing the same. Only listen for entertainment value – I honestly don’t see how she can take herself seriously.