Yelling is the new spanking. While many parents have taken physical punishment out of their discipline toolbox, many have replaced it with yelling.

It’s not uncommon for a parent to resort to yelling when they are left with a empty toolbox and no idea how to disipline a child without the tactics that they were shown by their own parents. Discipline is not always easy, and so parents can come a little unhinged when they are faced with a discipline situation and don’t know what to do.

When I was a new mother of a curious 2.5 year old boy, I faced many discipline situations where I was apt to raise my voice in an attempt to force my son to do what I wanted him to do. Sometimes I yelled because I was simply emotionally reactive or tired of seemingly constantly correcting undesirable behaviors. (Although, that is part of the parenting job description!) As a family therapy student, I knew what the studies said about the impact of spanking and yelling on children. (source)

When I realized what I was doing and how ineffective and damaging it was, I set out to stop yelling at my children. It may seem like an impossible task, but you can do it, too!

Remember How It Felt

Empathy is crucial when it comes to changing your yelling ways. If you currently yell at your children, you probably had a model for this behavior in one or both of your parents and several other adults in your life (teachers, coaches, relatives, etc).

Remember how it felt when you were yelled at. If you were yelled at a lot, you may have wall up that prevents you from feeling much empathy toward your children. You may even think that they deserved to be yelled at (or worse), but you are wrong.

You didn’t deserve it and neither do your children. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how it feels to be smaller than the person who is speaking to you in a harsh way. If your children are bigger than you, think about how ridiculous you look when you yell at them.

Be Mindful

The first step to squashing your yelling habit is to be mindful. Watch yourself closely, but in a detached way. When your child misbehaves, notice how you feel. I bet you’ll find that your tendency to yell is a purely knee-jerk, emotional reaction.

If you want to stop yelling at your kids, you have to first know your triggers and understand when you are more likely to yell. Maybe a discipline situation causes you to yell one day but not on a different day. What triggers a harsh response sometimes but not others? Likely culprits are stress, illness, hunger, tiredness, hormonal issues or mental health struggles. Once you are mindful of your triggers you can work on your response to situations in which you usually yell.

Squelch Emotional Reactivity

There is a good chance that if you grew up in a household where physical punishment was acceptable, you were spanked when your parents had an emotional reaction to something you did.

What surprised me most about dealing with my children’s misbehavior in the preschool years was not how difficult they were (they were actually pretty normal — and barring any medical or mental conditions, so are your children.) but instead how emotionally reactive I was to their misbehavior. While my first impulse was never to use physical punishment, I would often to raise my voice to show just how serious I was.

If you take the emotion out of the situation and focus on solutions, the yelling is automatically extinguished. For example, if your child breaks a window, instead of becoming emotional while you think about the expense and repair time that it will take to fix it, focus on the fact that there is a solution to the problem. Calmly explain your child’s responsibility in the solution — whether he or she will not receive an allowance until the window is paid for or if she or he will not be allowed to play ball in that area of the yard or whatever other logical consequence you may choose.

Your job as a parent is to discipline (read: teach) your child and not to heap on punishment to make them feel pain. Keeping your emotional reactivity to a minimum requires you to be emotionally mature, but will set a wonderful example for your children of how to handle difficult situations without dissolving to irrational behaviors and words.

Tell Your Children How You Feel

Until you are able to master the last tip, try telling your children how you feel when they misbehave. You are responsible for your own feelings, so you have to word them in a way that doesn’t put blame on your child but instead shows them how their actions can affect others.

For example, if your children fight with one another and won’t stop when asked nicely, let them know that when they fight you feel frustrated or annoyed. Do not say, “You make me frustrated when you fight!” Instead say, “I feel frustrated when you fight!” Take responsibility for your emotions, but explain to them how you feel.

Walk Away

Did you know that when your child is engaging in non-dangerous misbehavior you don’t have to deal with it immediately. Let’s say your child is refusing to clean his room. If you are angered to the point of yelling at him, it’s okay to walk away. Let him know that you are angry and need a minute to cool off before continuing the discussion.

In this particular scenario, I have come back to find my son’s room cleaned. The seriousness in my voice–even at a low, quiet tone–was enough to let him know I meant business. Other times I have been able to come back to the situation and explain why the task must be done or the behavior must be stopped and because I was non-emotional about it, my child was not defensive and was able to fully cooperate.

Let Your Children Help You

I told my children when they were very young that it is not okay for mommy to yell at them. I asked them to tell me to stop if I yelled at them. This teaches them that parents can make mistakes and that, mostly importantly, that they do not have to accept people behaving in a rude or abusive manner toward them.

Now, it wasn’t often that my children would actually tell me to stop — a yelling parent is an intimidating parent–but every once in a while they’d meekly remind me that I wasn’t suppose to yell. Even now my oldest will ask me to calm down and will offer a hug if I’m teetering on the verge of raising my voice toward one of his brothers. I appreciate his bold protectiveness of his brothers and his way of showing us all that a kind word can turn away wrath.

Let Your Partner Help You

Ask your partner to stop you if you yell at your children. This doesn’t mean that he or she has to go against what you’re trying to tell your children, but instead he or she is helping to relieve a tense situation by being a calming factor. If your partner can better explain to your child what needs to be done (or not done) in a calm manner, then your child will get more from your partner in that moment than he or she will from you.

Find Other Discipline Tools

If you’ve taken physical punishment out of your discipline toolbox and plan to removing yelling, as well, it is crucial that you have other methods of getting through to your children. Here are a few of the things I’ve used over the years to replace harsh parenting practices.

Use a Whistle

When my boys were little I found that I was too often yelling over them when they squabbled. I looked crazy and they learned nothing, because raising my voice made me feel as crazy as I looked. I bought a whistle and used it to get their attention instead.

Raise Your Hand

When I can’t get a word in edgewise with a whiny, complaining or argumentative child, I simply raise my hand and don’t speak until they are finished. Then I ask that they do the same while I say what I need to say. The conversation stays civil instead of ramping up in intensity.

Get Quiet

This is similar to raising your hand, only here you aren’t waiting to speak. You are done speaking. This is useful when your child is talking back or continue to beg you for something you’ve already said no to. When they realize you aren’t going to continue to negotiate or argue with them, they will likely stomp away or hurl a lovely, “I hate you!” your way. Let it go, mama! Let it go.

Get Silly

While playful parenting is not my default style, it is very useful at diffusing intense situations. If you feel like yelling, “You guys are driving me crazy!” change your accent and give them a your dramatic British version of the same sentence.

Also, singing your requests can help. When it’s time to clean up or get ready to go, turn it into a silly song that prompts your children to move faster just to get you to stop. One caveat on this one, though — if your child has become truly annoyed with your silliness, don’t keep heaping it on. This only teaches them to be the bully who says to others, “What? I was only kidding! You’re too sensitive!”. Nobody likes that person.

Write it Down

When your kids won’t listen, start writing! Request that their complaints, demands and rebuttals all be submitted in writing.

Take It One Hour At A Time

Remember when you first begin trying to stop yelling at your children, you will fail. You will probably fail daily. That’s why it’s important to take it one hour at a time. Congratulate yourself for every hour you get through without yelling at your children. Take the beginning of each new hour as a fresh start.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours

When I was a young mother with three children under the age of five, I often wondered if parenting would ever get any easier.  When I asked moms with children older than mine if parenting gets easier when the children get older, they would smile and say, “No.  Parenting doesn’t get easier.  It gets . . . different.”

I hated that answer then and I still hate it now. So, if you are the mother of small children and are asking me if parenting gets easier, let me assure you —  YES!  Parenting gets easier! My children are now 13, 11, and 9 and parenting is hugely different AND much easier than it was when they were 7, 5, and 3.

When Does Parenting Get Easier?

So if parenting does, indeed, get easier, when exactly does it start getting better?  For my guys, age seven was pure magic.  As it turns out, children reach what is known as the Concrete Operational Stage around the age of seven.

What I noticed when my boys were between the ages of seven and eight (depending on their individual rate of cognitive development) was that they became more logical and much easier to persuade.  The struggles of the toddler and preschooler ages were finally behind me.  The disequilibrium-induced demands of the 6-year-old child practically vanished.  Now, when I suggested that my 7 year old wear a jacket on a cool day, he grabbed his jacket without fuss.  When I said that it was bedtime, he was ready to negotiate a specific number of stories instead of finding reason after reason to postpone sleeping.  By the age of seven, my boys could actually do things all by themselves when they claimed they could!

While the personality-driven behavior of all of my children remained true to their nature, my boys at the age of seven were willing to meet me halfway.  They began to understand the importance of (or least fall in line with) socially acceptable behavior.   And they were able to truly empathize with others.

At the time of writing this, my youngest child is just days from his 9th birthday.  I’ve said many times over the past 18 months that I have finally reached the promised land of parenting.

How Can I Make Parenting Easier Now?

If you are currently parenting young children, you probably find it comforting to know that parenting gets easier.  But, you still have to get through the early years with all of their demands and struggles.

Here are my best tips for meeting the challenge of parenting young children.

1.  Take it one hour at a time.

If all of your children haven’t quite reached the sweet age where they become easier to parent, you can make your days a little brighter right now by taking it one hour at a time.  It may sound like I’m oversimplifying it, but that is exactly how I survived parenting three small children who were each two years apart in age.

By becoming aware of each hour,  I was forced to realize that the tantrums were not happening all the time, like I claimed.  The diaper changes were not always back-to-back.  The siblings actually got along more often than they argued.  (Though sibling rivalry is no joke!)

2.  Ask for  help.

Many of us have a doting mom or aunt or other relative or friend who would love to spend some time with our children.  If you need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Form a co-op with a few other moms.  One day per week (or some other agreed-upon interval) one or two moms in the co-op take on everyone’s children for a few hours. This gives you time alone to run errands or to spend time with one child who is having a particularly difficult time.  In addition, a co-op saves money.  This is a great idea for moms on a budget who don’t have the expendable income for a sitter.

3.  Don’t be supermom.

The word is out:  Supermom is a lie.  We moms get a little suspicious of other moms who appear to have it all together.  We know you’re hiding something.  It’s most likely the loss of your sanity.  So, stop it.  We know it’s not real.  Give yourself a break and join the rest of us yoga-pants and pony-tail wearing, pre-packaged snack toting, thank-God-it’s-bedtime singing mamas.  We don’t bite.  And we definitely don’t judge.

Why Do Many Parents Say That Parenting Never Gets Easier?

Some parents disagree that parenting ever gets easier.  When I worked as a family therapist, I observed families in which this sentiment was based in fact.  Parenting doesn’t get easier for everyone.  If you are a new parent, you can work now to avoid some of these pitfalls later on.  Unfortunately, some of the reasons parenting remains difficult can’t be avoided.  In those instances it is vital that you seek help from your family, friends or community to keep yourself from becoming burned out and damaging your relationship with your children.

1.  Some parents view their children as combatants instead of cohorts.  

Some parents, from the start, have an us vs. them relationship with their children.  Parents with this mindset are more likely to use punitive discipline and to punish their children quickly.

Instead of working with their children in a positive way to teach them correct behavior, they focus on punishing their children for misbehavior.  This sets up an adversarial relationship that lasts a lifetime.

To avoid this trap, focus on gentle discipline that teaches your children ‘what to do instead’ and not simply ‘what not to do’.  Seek family therapy with a licensed family therapist if you feel that turning things around is outside of your control.

2.  Some parents are dealing with emotional or mental illness.

Parents with untreated depression or anxiety, for instance, will not find much about life to be easy.  Parenting, with all of it’s emotional demands, will never get easier for someone who is living in the fog of depression or being driven by anxiety.

If you are dealing with untreated mental illness, seek help.

3.  Some parents are single or unsupported.

When you are a single parent or don’t have the expected amount of support from your spouse, you have to take on all of the work involved in parenting.  This can suck the joy from parenting.  It can be difficult to appreciate that the daily care of a teenager is less than that of a toddler if you have to hold down two jobs while wondering where college tuition is going to come from.

Reach out to others in your family or community for support.

4.  Some parents have children with special needs.

It may not be true for all parents of special needs children, but for many who are the sole caregiver for their children, it may seem that things will never get easier.  I have a son with mild Aspergers who has definitely become easier to parent over the years.  Changes in diet have also helped physical symptoms that we once dealt with to lessen or disappear.

It is vital for parents of special needs children to have appropriate respite care.

5.  Some parents over-function for their children.

If you have set a precedent of over-functioning for your children, then parenting may not seem easier to you no matter the age of your children.  When you do too much for your children or when you attempt to control your child, you rob them of a learning experience.

It is important to understand which actions are required of you as a parent to keep your child safe and which are going too far to keep your child from ever feeling any pain.

Whenever possible allow your children to handle situations in their own way with your guidance, but don’t micromanage every situation for them.

Each stage of parenting brings it own challenges, but the exhausting physical and mental work involved with caring for babies, toddlers and preschooler does not last forever.  There will come a day when your requests are no longer met with tantrums and when your children walk calmly beside you in a parking lot instead of darting off unexpectedly.

Focus on their sweet, chubby baby faces and adorable tiny voices for now.  Get high on their precious faces as they sleep and the feel of their little hands in yours.  Don’t rush these early years.  Hold on to the promise that parenting does get easier.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours

My husband doesn’t make me happy. I would like to tell you that there was a time when he did make me happy, but the truth is that he has never made me happy. There was a time when I wanted to believe that he made me happy. I bet you believe (or have believed) the same about your husband, but, hopefully, you’ve finally admitted (at least to yourself) that your husband doesn’t make you happy. The good news is that realizing this important fact about your husband is the first step toward an fulfilling relationship!

That’s right, ladies! Once you admit that your husband doesn’t make you happy, you can stop looking to him to provide your happiness for you and instead start looking to the one person on this planet who can make you happy: YOU!

My Husband Doesn’t Make Me Sad

One phrase I saw repeated over and over by therapy clients was , “He/She doesn’t make me happy.” They might be talking about their partner or their parent, their child or even a friend. It caused me wonder just how other people were given the responsibility of making my clients happy. Who gave that responsibility to them? Why do people expect other people to provide them with happiness?

I expect a lot of things from my husband. Respect is a must. Support is required. Patience is nice. Loyalty is essential. Faithfulness is a necessity. But happiness? That’s not part of the deal.

Now, that’s not to say that my husband doesn’t go out of his way to do things that bring me happiness. He does a lot of things that make me feel cherished, appreciated, admired and loved.

He refrains from trying to intentionally bring me sadness, as well. But that’s not why he doesn’t make me sad. He doesn’t make me sad because I am the owner of my feelings. Only I can decide if I’m sad or happy or angry or annoyed.

What if it was impossible for your husband to make you happy or sad? What if it simply wasn’t something he had the power to do? What if you, and only you, were responsible for your emotions and you were the only one who got to decide how you felt?

Guess what, buttercup? You are the only one who gets to decide how you feel. Not your husband. Not your children. Not even your mother. Just you.

How absolutely freeing is that?

For me (and for my marriage) it was the best realization I’ve ever had!

Be The Owner of Your Own Emotions

You may be asking, “If my husband can’t make me happy, then what’s the point of marriage?” or “If my husband can’t make me sad, then why do I feel so down when he does _____?”

It’s because you are human and you do feel emotions. When someone behaves toward you in a way that is hurtful, you feel hurt. This is a good indicator of whether or not you should be around that person. If you consistently feel sad when you are around your husband, you have to ask yourself if he is a healthy person to share your life with. That is what marriage is about — sharing your life with someone; partnering with your person; having a witness to your life.

Listen to your emotions. They are an excellent compass. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. It is your responsibility to move yourself from a place of emotional dis-ease to a place of emotional health. Not your husband’s.

If you aren’t happy, you need to take the steps to create happiness for yourself. Your husband can’t do that for you. If you came into marriage expecting your husband to be a constant source of happiness for you, you have put a lot of pressure on him and you have set yourself up for disappointment.

Do I Make My Husband Happy?

I know that we often go out of our way to bring happiness to our husbands. We tend more toward people-pleasing and constantly consider ways to add to their happiness. Many times they don’t even notice when we’ve gone out of our way for them. And that certainly doesn’t make us happy!

The great news is that when you stop expecting your husband to make you happy, you can also take the responsibility of your husband’s happiness off of your shoulders. Now, you can simply do things for him because you love him instead of hoping that what you’re doing will make him happy. His happiness is not your burden to bear — it’s his!

Most emotionally healthy people naturally want to do things that add to the happiness of those about whom they care. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s when you stop taking responsibility for your own happiness or when you take too much responsibility for someone else’s happiness that you will find yourself becoming less and less happy.

How to Make Yourself Happy in Your Marriage

1. Assign Positive Intent

I talk about assigning positive intent to others’ words and actions often. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache and keep your relationships drama-free if you simply assume that others’ words and actions are meant in a positive manner, or at least a neutral manner.

For example, your husband is not trying to make you crazy by leaving his socks on the floor. He is not doing that to intentionally mess with you. He’s doing that because picking up his socks is not on his list of important things to do. That’s it. No malice intended. Either remind him (nicely!) every time it happens, pick them up for him or get over it and go be happy.

2. Get a Hobby

Does that sound harsh? It’s not intended to be. It’s a very real, very helpful suggestion. What, outside of your relationship with your husband, brings you joy? Do more of that.

Practice better self-care. Reach out to others via volunteer work. Take classes to better a skill you have or to add to your education.

3. Figure Out What Your Emotional Needs Are

Simply tossing a general, “You don’t make me happy.” in your husband’s direction doesn’t help him to show you love in a way that is more meaningful to you. Tell him tangible things he can do when he wants to show you how much he cares for you.

Do you need him bring you flowers? Should he vacuum the living room? Give you a massage? Sit and listen to you talk about your day?

If you don’t know what you need from him, then how is he supposed know? Spend some time figuring out what makes you tick and then tell him. Be straightforward and don’t play coy games. If you need him to massage your right third toe while singing Let It Go in his best cookie monster voice, then tell him exactly that. Do not make him guess. That only sets him up for failure and you for disappointment.

4. Don’t Expect to Always be Happy

No one is happy all of the time. For us ladies, our hormone shifts can cause us to feel inexplicably unhappy from time to time. Do both you and your man a favor by keeping track of your cycle. You will probably notice that between ovulation and the first day of your next cycle, your husband has a much more difficult time staying on your good side. When I’m ovulating, my husband can do no wrong. A week before my period, however, nothing he does is right. I’ve learned to steer clear of him during those times when I have nothing positive to say about anything. He has learned to consult his calendar when he’s feeling unjustly accused of treachery.

You are an emotional creature. Whether it’s hormones or a major life transition or just a bad day, you are not always going to be happy. Marriage isn’t a cure-all for life’s ups and downs. Your husband, strong and brave as he may be, is not the defender of your happiness. You, also brave and strong, are the defender and curator of your happiness — and no one else’s.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Photo via

A note from Felicity:

Listen up!

Parents of atypical kids and kids of atypical parents!

I am thrilled to introduce the WTF community to Dr. Rita Eichenstein, a rock star in the world of pediatric neuropsychological assessments, which is fancy wording for diagnosing the relationship between brain health and behavior in children. Which means, when you have a kid with developmental differences (like I do!), and have Rita in your corner, you’ve grabbed the gold ring. After 15 minutes of sitting in her office, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. Rita has the intuition of a crystal ball reader and the intellect of a scientist. She “got” my kid and knew just how to help her AND ME.

Rita just published a book, Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children which sits on my nightstand now with Post-it Notes stuck all over it. But this is not just a book about atypical kids themselves, but how best to parent them and take care of YOURSELF on the journey.

I asked Rita if she would share her genius and charm with us at WTF and she said, “yes!” It’s great to have a specialist who believes that the gifts of parenting come in packages you least expect. And that Good Parenting doesn’t come in perfection, but in compassion and understanding, both for yourself and your kid. 

It is such a relief to hear from an expert that doesn’t sound like a clinician, but like a caring friend.

And to give you a taste of her book, here is a really wonderful, practical excerpt from Not What I Expected, called, “Your Self-Care Menu.” 

You can learn more about Dr. Rita from her website.

Welcome Rita!

Enjoy WTF,

Love, Flicka

When counseling parents, I help them assemble a customized “self-care menu.” The idea is that you brainstorm activities that appeal to you and give them a try in whatever amount you like. You may choose an “appetizer” portion in case you only have fifteen minutes, a “main course” that gives you a larger dose of relief or relaxation, or a “dessert” that you use as reward for a particularly rough day. If you are a full-time working parent, this applies to you as well. In addition to wearing two hats, the home hat and the office hat, you deserve to find some space you can call your own. What would it look like for you?

In putting together your personal self-care menu, you will want to think about your life before you became a parent. What got you out of bed each morning? What was your joy, your favorite hobby, your dream activity? What nourishes your soul, even momentarily? Everyone has interests that can be powerfully healing. Look back and recall the activities that were the most fun or meaningful. Was it laughter and wine with friends? Taking your dog to obedience class? Going to concerts? Cooking a great meal? Playing softball? Repairing bicycles? Playing your guitar? Zumba class? Reading a great novel? Or just having some solitude? Customize the items on your self-help menu so that even reading your list will give you a little lift. Here are the categories that the parents I work with have found to be most helpful.

Connect with Nature

The Japanese have a phrase for the healing effects of nature: shrinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.” Something as simple as taking a walk outside, breathing in the air, and appreciating the wind in the trees can be restorative.

Move Your Body

Look for a physical activity you really enjoy and might even come to crave – riding your bike, dancing, walking, hiking, playing volleyball, boxing. Many people find that it’s more fun if you do this activity with a friend or partner. A great many people practice yoga and there is research to support the treatment of depression with specific types of yoga, although you might find ballroom dancing to be more to your liking.

Master Just One Thing at a Time and Then Celebrate It!

If you learn to master just one thing – that has nothing to do with your child – it can restore your sense of power. It does not matter what this one thing is; it can be anything from learning to knit to running a marathon. A side benefit to mastering just one thing is that competence at one thing leads to great competence in other areas of your life. By mastering that one thing, you prove to yourself that you are still learning, growing, becoming.

Find a Special Place for Yourself Outside the Home

All parents should be able to get away from the house and the role of mom or dad, and have a place where they can feel a glimmer of their old selves. Maybe you need solitude and can locate a special meditative spot in a forest or park near your home. Maybe you enjoy your local health club, where you can work out and also connect with other people who aren’t necessarily parents. Being outside of your home at a place that is not work related, even for a short burst of time, is invigorating.

Join a Group – Support or Otherwise

Joining or forming a support group comprised of other parents of atypical kids is an excellent way to share experiences and reduce your feelings of isolation. Learning form others about what has helped them will show you that there are more paths toward hopefulness than you may have imagined. If you feel the need for a community of people who are not parents, where you can share other interests, that is every bit as legitimate as a support group.

Make Date Night a Top Priority (with Your Partner or Your Friends)

Before you became a parent, you had dates with your partner or your friends. It’s time to revive that enjoyable custom.

Help Someone Else

You might think you are burned out with helping, seeing as you are already a caretaker for your child. But I’ve found in talking to many families that the one thing they are most grateful for is the opportunity to give back. It may seem like a terrible thought to ask you to give even more than you are giving, but the funny thing is, seeing people (or animals) in terrible situations that are different from your own can trigger some positive, meaningful feelings inside of you.

Reprinted from Not What I Expected by Rita Eichenstein, PhD, by arrangement with Perigee, a member of the Penguin Publishing Group, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2015 by Rita Eichenstein.

Rita will be speaking and signing copies of her book in Los Angeles at The Grove’s Barnes and Noble today, April 22 at 7pm.

I was (mostly) a stay-at-home mom for 11 years.  I was working outside of the home in another job that I loved when my oldest was born, but was desperate to be at home with my sweet baby.  I cut my hours to part-time, but when he refused to take a bottle at daycare while I spent half of my part-time day pumping milk for him, I knew something had to change.  I approached my boss with a boldness that, at 23, I had no idea I possessed, and asked him if I could work full-time from home.  He agreed and off I went.  

I was ecstatic to be home with my baby and get to keep my job and the income it provided.  For two years I worked from home and raised my baby boy.  For two years my life was blissful and being a stay-at-home mom was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be.  But then, management changed at work and the awesome deal that I had with my boss vanished.  I was required to come back to the office to work, as the new management believed telecommuters to be low in productivity.  Especially mommy telecommuters.

By that time I had another baby boy and a mad case of postpartum depression.  I ran the numbers and realized that after taxes, my full income would cover only childcare.  And, following in the footsteps of his older brother, my baby wouldn’t take a bottle.  Furthermore, there seemed to be something . . . different . . . about my second son that I wasn’t able to put my finger on then, but later found out was mild Asperger’s.  Intuition told me that full-time daycare was not the right place for my delicate newborn and my calculator told me I’d be working simply to pay for the care of my children.

Leaving my job behind to stay at home full-time was a no-brainer, but that didn’t make it easy.  I missed my job.  I certainly missed the income.  I missed the sense of self it gave me outside of motherhood.  Still, I loved being with my children all day and had long before fell into a martyr mentality concerning their care and upbringing.  I was the only one who could do it right and leaving them with another person, even for a date night, was akin to child abuse in my hormone-hazed mind.

And so, I did the mom thing.  I worked part-time at  my son’s preschool, teaching a class, doing the bookkeeping, spending my days caring for children.  When it began to feel like work and it was no longer bringing me joy, I reminded myself that at least I was contributing to the income.  But, the guilt of not contributing more was constantly on my shoulders.  And, very secretly, I resented the loss of myself as motherhood overtook me and I worked hard to parent by the book, many times ignoring the stress that it caused.

Finding Work From Home Jobs; Losing Myself

I watched my boys grow, gave birth to their little brother and eventually gave up my job at the preschool.  It was then that I almost obsessively looked for work that I could do from home.  I made bits of cash here and there through various means, mostly writing, but there was never enough work or money to fulfill me.  I knew I needed more, but didn’t dare say it out loud.  What kind of mother actually wants to work?

Other moms I knew admitted that the more they were away from their children, the less they wanted to be with them.  I had never found that to be true for myself–in fact, the opposite has remained true for me regardless of the age or stage–but the fear that I would spend less and less time with my babies out of a selfish desire to be fulfilled outside of motherhood kept me close to home, fighting the good fight and setting a brilliant example for attachment parents everywhere.

Finally, needing to have something to do that wasn’t childcare-related, I returned to school, finished my Bachelor’s, moved on to my Master’s and began home schooling my boys.  By the time my youngest was 3 years old, I admitted to myself that being a stay-at-home mom was no longer everything I dreamed it would be.  I wanted to work, but I felt enormous guilt for even considering it.  I needed to work, due to the financial demands of our growing family, but I resented having to think about the finances when all of my time was spent caring for our children and our home.

I was smacked with reality after a particularly tough week of caring for my children, finishing my school work, cleaning the house and worrying about the finances.  My husband asked me what he could do to help and I snapped, “Make enough money for me to hire a nanny and a housekeeper.”

There.  I’d said it.  The care of my children and our home was not all that I ever dreamed it to be.  And we both knew then that I was not completely happy at home.  And I knew that I would not be completely happy working outside of the home.  My husband encouraged me to do whatever I needed to do, but the guilt, the shoulds, the picture in my head of the way things ought to be would not let me make that decision without a heap of grief.

Being a Stay-at-Home Mom is Bittersweet

I was tired of the grunt work involved in mothering, but I loved those impromptu snuggle sessions that could happen anytime of the day.

I hated the sibling rivalry between my youngest and my oldest, but I was grateful to be able to take my children to activities no matter the time of day.

I wanted to scream when the boys undid my housework within minutes of completion, but I loved teaching them how to cook.

I despised being woken early, kept up late and disturbed in the middle of the night, but I adored snuggling down for naps with a kid or two during the day.

I grew depressed in the isolation of work-at-home mothering and dreamed of a career, but I comforted myself with the flexibility that setting my own work schedule provided.

I envied working moms who seemed to feel no guilt about leaving their babies with another caregiver while they worked all day but convinced myself that the guilt was good for me because it kept me grounded and focused on mothering.

I began to judge more well-to-do, stay-at-home mom friends who had mother’s helpers and money for weekly massages while I worked to menu plan and DIY anything I could, but I told myself that the simple life was noble and felt oh-so-smugly-hipster and artsy with my homemade laundry detergent and re-purposed  plastic containers.

Searching for Fulfillment Outside of Motherhood

And when I finally began my internship, after years of working toward my Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, I felt choked and stifled and my health declined quickly.  I soon discovered that I had picked a career in haste.  In a desperate attempt to find value in myself outside of being a mother and wife, I had chosen a career for which I was unsuited.  What I really wanted was my former job, the one I’d left because I had children.

After months of telling my clients to let go of “the shoulds” and to do what they really wanted to do with their life and relationships, I finally followed my own advice.  I left the field of therapy, changed to a different Master’s degree program and began job hunting.  I knew I wasn’t likely to find a job in my desired field that was flexible enough to allow me the best of both worlds.  I would have to leave my children in the care of others, or alone as they got older, while I worked.

Letting Go of the “Shoulds”

It took me over a year to find my current job and while I waited, I tried to prepare myself for the overwhelming emotions I’d feel when I finally found it.  Mostly, I tried to prepare myself for the guilt I’d feel when I went back to work and turned my family’s whole world upside down.

Before I found my current job, it became apparent that working outside of the home was no longer optional for me.  My husband had suffered a job loss in the Spring of 2010 and had shortly thereafter accepted another position for less pay and longer hours.  He was working 7 days per week and the bills were paid, but his health was declining from the 3rd shift work and no time off.  Our family life was non-existent, as well.

I spent my days home schooling the boys, working on my Master’s, trying to keep the boys entertained and quiet so that my husband could sleep while I fretted over the budget.  There was absolutely no joy in being a stay-at-home mom and no time anymore to work from home, even if the work had been readily available.

Finally, a job offer came through for the perfect job, I went to work, and my husband got a new, less demanding job.  It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to roll around in guilt or to ponder what “they” said might become of my children if they were raised by a working mom.

And you know what?  Everything has gone incredibly well.  We continue to home school our children, my younger has an amazing sitter who, on a daily basis, provides him with the kind of interaction and stimulation that fits his personality but isn’t possible for me to give him while also caring for his brothers, the house, and all of the demands that I had to meet as a work-at-home mom.

My oldest two are independent and responsible and accomplish more now than they did when I was there to tell them what to do and when to do it.

As for me, I can’t believe I waited so long to become a working mom!  Truthfully, I believe that everything happens for a reason and that I needed my time as a stay-at-home mom to grow and to decide firmly what I wanted and what I didn’t.  I can honestly say I have no regrets.

I’ve even begun to think about that fourth child that I always wanted and have often felt was missing from our life.  After having my third son, I didn’t dare to have any more children, despite my original desire for four or five,  because taking care of the three I already had was enough emotional and financial strain.

Spending Quality Time with My Children

The most fantastic part of my life as a working mom is that I am excited to see my children every day after work.  When I pick up my youngest, I can’t wait to hear about the adventures he had during the day.  When I come home to my oldest two, I look forward to our one-on-one time (something I never had time for when I was at home!) and they are happy to see me without having spent the day with me reminding them to do this and that.  (The this and that are almost always completed when I get home and sometimes they find the time and energy to do extra around the house with no nagging whatsoever from dear old mom!)

The quantity of time I spend with my children has been diminished but the quality of our time together has increased.

I revel in my weekends and smile at my work-clothed reflection in the mirror on Monday mornings.  I’m happy that dishes and laundry aren’t my main daily goals any longer.  I seem to have more time to write these days, as well, despite the full-time job, half-time school work, home schooling on weekends and evenings and getting in that precious one-on-one time with my boys.

My marriage has gotten stronger, as well.  I have to trust my husband to pull his weight when it comes to parenting and housework and I have to be very specific about my needs because there is no time to wait around for him to figure it out as we women tend to expect our men to do.  Our communication is better now than it has been at any point during our marriage.

Does Your Life Bring You Joy?

This reflection of my time as a stay-at-home mom is not meant to convince other struggling stay-at-home moms that they should begin job hunting immediately.  It’s not meant to encourage unhappy working moms to stay put in their career instead of being home with their children.  From my honesty about my experience with motherhood, you should only take away that doing something because they say you should is never a good thing.  If your motherhood experience is not bringing you joy, fix it!  That might mean simply changing your expectations or asking for help.  It may mean quitting your job or going back to work.

Only you know the answer for your situation. I believe that the answer is pretty clear to most of us, but we push it aside and make excuses for why it’s simply not feasible.  Don’t be afraid to try something different.  If you are not happy and whole in your way of life, you can’t teach your children to be happy and whole.  Finding wholeness and being an example of such to your children is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give them.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours

Warning:  Spoiler Alert.  Send your gullible children out of the room before going any further.

We all raise our children to be truthful. To not lie. To be honest. They are learning these ideals from traitors — mommy and daddy. From the moment they are pretty much born, we start in with the lies. One right after the other.

1.) A jolly, fat man enters your home through the chimney bearing gifts? Sounds great, but come on. Oh, and he flies in a sled led by 8 or 9 reindeer (is Rudolph part of the team, or what?). A sled that is chock-full of gifts for every child in the world. What’s even better is he does it all in about 8 hours, give or take. Do you know how much time I wasted looking for that damn man up in the sky when I was a kid? I should sue.

2.) A life-size rabbit who hops from home to home bringing chocolates and plastic eggs. Comes from the same planet as the man in the red suit. This crap is what nightmares are made of.

3.) Eyes in the back of our heads. I wish I had a dime for every time my kid asked me if she could see these eyes. We only perpetuate our lie with more lies because, of course, children don’t have “The Special Magic Power” to see them.

4.) How about the chick who flies in the night collecting missing teeth and leaving money? I got caught once. The lie I told her to get out of it? “The Tooth Fairy makes herself look like mommy so you don’t get scared.” I know. Total Oscar worthy moment.

5.) The word “Liar” appears across your forehead when, well, you lie.  It worked like magic. It got to the point where if she lied, she would cover her forehead and run from the room screaming. Classic bullshit with a capital “B.” I should be ashamed of myself. But I’m not.

6.) I would terrorize my kid by telling her that Santa was watching through the ceiling light fixture whenever she misbehaved. Surely she didn’t want to be on his “Naughty” list. There’s no greater satisfaction than watching your 5 year old look with her little doe eyes up at the ceiling trying to catch a glimpse and then whimper because she got caught.  Kinda makes me feel like crap. Just kinda. Ok, not really.

Children have been falling for these lies for decades. Can they really be that dumb? Okay, dumb may be a strong word here. I’ll be kind and use the word “Naive.” We grown, mature adults, prey on our naive children for our benefit. It’s not a surprise that so many kids grow up and need therapy.

Well, the Santa and Easter Bunny lie is not completely for our benefit. Actually, it kind of pisses me off that those SOB’s get the credit for all the crazy-ass work we did prepping for those holidays. The shopping, the crowds, the money, the pushing, the shoving. I gotta go. I think I need to call my shrink.

This post was originally featured on Maureen’s blog, Momfeld. Photo via