I'm going to tell you something. If you don't already know this, it might come as a shock.
There will be times in parenting your sweet child when you will want to scream.
When the demands in front of you or the hardships you're facing or the exhaustion that's unrelenting becomes so overwhelming that the only response that feels appropriate is to yell and scream and otherwise freak out.
This feeling? It will happen. I was warned as a first time pregnant mama that it would happen, and though at the time I kind of laughed it off—it happened, and sooner than I ever through possible.
But mama? Here's my little secret for you.
When you want to scream, breathe.
You're not a bad mama for wanting to scream.
You're a person experiencing a very intense time—often without any support.
Mama, sometimes we scream because we don't feel heard.
Sometimes we scream because the stress inside feels like it has to come out.
Sometimes we scream because the physical demands of motherhood are so heavy that we have to moan and find a way to give voice to the struggle.
And while occasionally screaming into my pillow might feel right, screaming at another person never does—not in the short or long term.
So when the pain of childbirth becomes so strong that you want to scream: breathe. Studies show that controlling the breath and remaining calm can actual reduce pain during birth. Breathe.
When the exhaustion of new motherhood is so intense and you have been up with baby all night and you're completely out of ideas for how to get baby to sleep: breathe. Put your little one in a safe place and just lay down and take deep breaths. Breathe.
When the messiness of motherhood—the laundry, the constant picking up, the spilled drinks and upside down sippy cups and strewn toys and crumb-filled car gets you so frustrated that feel like you can't take it anymore—breathe. You're doing your best in a messy season of life. Try laughing at it. Laughter truly helps. Breathe.
When the demands of balancing work and to-do lists and grocery shopping and scheduling and your kid threw up at school on the same day your prescription ran out and your partner has to stay late at work and nothing is working out the way you planned—breathe. You are one person and all you can do is be present to the next person or task in front of you. You are doing the best that you can today. Breathe.
When you're so worried about how to pay the bills that your mind won't let you go to sleep—breathe. You are alive. You are safe. You will figure it out with a rational plan that will guide you to the next right step. Breathe.
When a family member makes a critical remark about something you've done as a parent even though you know you're doing the best you know—breathe. These remarks often say so much more about the person then they say about you. Try to pause before responding and know they often come from a place of personal pain, or from an attempt to share some well-intentioned advice. When they mean well but you wish they didn't say it at all, slow down. Breathe.
When your kids are fighting and yelling at each other and you just want them to stop for one blessed minute and you feel like screaming—breathe. Because you've learned that shouting "STOP SCREAMING!" at your kids only teaches them to shout, and models the exact behavior you want to them avoid. Try redirecting them in a calm, firm voice. Or inviting them to a new activity in an upbeat, fun voice. But first: breathe.
Breathing can help alter the PH of your blood, immediately, and lowers stress hormones like Cortisol.
Breathing can help mitigate the fear-tension-pain cycle in childbirth.
Breathing can give you time to choose a better, more rational response.
Breathing can remind you of what is real: you are here now. You are showing up. You're doing the best you can.
Deep breaths mama. You've got this.
[This was originally published November, 2018. It has since been updated.]