Last week I was having a bit of a moment and I tweeted something which rather unexpectedly seemed to provoke a response from other people - it was one of those moments when you realise that you are not alone.
I didn't really appreciate at the time how much my comment would resonate with other people but the response to the tweet overwhelmed me and led to an evening of conversation about how myself and others feel. I've shared some of the tweets below but have removed names and turned everyone into eggheads to protect the innocent - it still seems like quite a taboo subject and one that many people are a little bit ashamed to admit to so I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable.
Small children are hard work. Fact. Being a mum to toddlers is no easy job. When I had two children at home under the age of four, I don't think I was a very good mother to them at all. I mean, I tried to be and they were well-cared for, but toddlers are infuriating at the best of times and they really knew how to push my buttons. They could fill me with rage and it's only looking back now, that things are good and I'm more a calm person that I realise how irrational I was being. They weren't naughty children by any stretch of the imagination yet I used to frequently shout at them, and often bring them to tears for really trivial things like not tidying up their toys or refusing to eat their dinner. I didn't want to shout at them but it seemed like it was the only thing they responded to. I realise now that I was probably expecting too much of them and that is especially true of my daughter who I've always treated with that "you're-the-oldest-so-you-should-know-better" attitude (I am trying SO hard to stop that) but it was clearly my expectations that were wrong, not their behaviour. The dinner thing? Well it can still drive me to distraction but these days their old enough to face the consequences of rumbling tummies if they don't eat what I've given them.
Now I realise that when I was screaming at the children (and some days, I did really scream) they probably didn't even understand what the problem was. I mean, I look at my 7 year old after I've told her off sometimes and even now I can see that she's a bit confused as to what she's getting told off for. I imagine that they were frightened too at times and it's these emotions of being scared and confused that leave me with this guilt. When I think about it's like a knot in my stomach and I really need to find a way to try and forget it as I can't turn back time however I try to take those feelings and use them to make me a better mum now. After all, my children don't remember that I was a screaming screeching banshee of a mother when they were small BUT they will remember it from this point forward and I really don't want them to grow up remembering how much I yelled at them.
What made me feel better about the Twitter conversations I had was that I realised, hell, I am far from being the only shouty mother out there who struggled to keep calm when faced with a defiant little person but what made me sad was I also wasn't the only one who struggled with the guilt over it and there are lovely mums out there living through these rage-filled days right now, feeling as eaten up by it as I did. One of the worst things about those shouty moments for me? The fact that after a few minutes my children would be fine yet I'd feel wretched for a long time after. It's true that yelling at your children hurts you way more than it does your children.
If you're reading this post and going through those days where you do end up shouting and screaming at your children, all I can say is try not to feel too bad about yourself because the majority of us mums have been there at some point - you're not alone and this too shall pass. When you've got young children you can be exhausted and easily frustrated. I've definitely found as they get older the shouting gets lesser and lesser as they understand more and start to learn the consequences of their own actions. I'm not saying I never shout (because that would be a bare-faced lie!) but those rage-filled days, where I literally couldn't control my own emotions, are far behind me and these days when I shout, it's for a reason and normally a last resort. One thing that I found invaluable back then and I still do it now, is making sure I say sorry to my children. When they were little, it was a "sorry for shouting" and a cuddle, now they're older, I apologise and explain to them why mummy got so cross, explaining my frustration in a way that they can comprehend but also letting them know it was wrong of me to shout.
There's no quick solution to being a shouty mum or an antidote to the guilt that you get left with but at the end of the day, the fact that we feel guilty and horrible about ourselves only has to be a good thing - surely it would be worse if we didn't worry about it at all?