Friday, 28 October 2011

If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy

I’ve been working on my “things I should have read/watched/done/understood by now” list (it’s quite extensive) and I’m reading Little Women on the Kindle app on my phone. I’m a bit late to the whole kindle thing, I prefer to actually hold a book, feel its paper and sniff its pages (nothing kinky, I just like books) but we have to sit with the boys until they fall asleep at night (lest they trash their bedroom and not sleep til the early hours) and I wanted something to do in the dark that was a bit more productive than playing Angry Birds.

So anyway “Marmee” in Little Women, the gentlest, kindest woman you could ever meet, admits to having an anger problem, and says she often needs to disappear for a moment to compose herself. This struck me as pretty inspiring, given that she is the mother of four girls (imagine the hormones in that house) whose husband is away in the forces and she doesn’t even have CBeebies or the Xbox to shut them up when they get bored.

Apart from the screaming rows I had with my mum as a teenager, I’m not a very shouty person. I hate confrontation of any kind and am more likely to sulk or have a panic attack if I’m angry. That all changed when I had kids. Suddenly shouting until I was hoarse became as every day as making a cup of tea.

I don’t like myself when I shout. It doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation, it just makes me, and everyone around me, more stressed. I hate the thought that my kids might look back and remember me snarling at them, and I don’t actually think it makes the slightest difference in their behaviour. It doesn’t even scare them anymore they got so used to it.

So in the last two weeks I have been making a concerted effort not to shout. I have found myself taking an awful lot of deep breaths, shaking with rage and wondering what on earth I was doing this for. But it’s getting easier, I am starting to realise that for me at least, getting angry and shouting was a bit of a habit, and like most habits, it can be broken with a little will power.

Amazingly, the general mood of the entire household has changed. There’s a saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” which I never believed before. Living in an all male household, I thought no one even notices Mama let alone gives a crap whether she is happy or not.

But actually, the clues were there all along. I could never understand why the more I got cross, the more the man seemed to get cross too. If I was in a mood, he would instantly be in a mood too. I would get even more angry with him, “For goodness sake, can you not just let me be the pissed off one for once?” which of course didn’t help the situation.

We went to Legoland the other day. Family outings are usually the cause of so much stress that I have to take rescue remedy before I even get up. But while the old me would have been shouting and screaming, stressing and straining, and the man mirroring my behaviour, the new me was calm and collected, we left later than planned, the house still in a bit of a mess but the difference was clearly marked, everyone was happy and excited.

I have noticed a lot less shouting from the boys too. Everyone seems to be happier. But the biggest, most exciting change is in how I feel. I am getting better and better at keeping calm, more practised in the art of not getting angry, and I genuinely feel like I am much nicer to be around. The kids punishments are more conscious and have better results and I don’t wake up still feeling the remnants of yesterdays stress on my shoulders.

Whoever said you should let all your feelings come out had obviously never read Little Women. Maybe bottling things up is not good for you, but having a think about why you’re feeling the way you do and deciding whether or not it’s the most productive way to be, and becoming practised in the art of putting on a happy face even in times of stress is just good sense, because it not only makes yourself feel better, it makes others happy too. OK, having the mood of the entire family is just another responsibility for poor old mama to shoulder, but if Marmee can do it, so can I. 


  1. I need to take a leaf out of your book - I too, have discovered that screaming at the top of my lungs makes absolutely no difference to my kids' behaviour - in fact, I think it's having the opposite effect - they've heard me shout and scream so much, it's just blah, blah, blah to them now! Kids are so fucking infuriating at times though! I'm thinking of getting a punch bag in the garden so when I'm feeling stressed I can beat the living crap out of it instead! Or I could just control my temper better!

  2. LOL yes a punch bag would be a great idea, anything that makes you feel better. I think part of the problem is that kids default setting is VERY LOUD so what starts as shouting to be heard over the din becomes shouting out of sheer frustration. You're right though, to them it becomes as blah as mummymummymummymummymummy is to us! :-)