I know why toddlers’ have temper tantrums. I get that it’s a minor coping mechanism used to explain what they cannot express.
And I’ve figured out from many parenting lists what things kind of – or sort of – work for my kid, including speaking calmly, hugging it out, giving her space, ignoring it or waiting for the wind to change course because she is freaking out for no apparent reason.
Now that I'm pregnant with my second child, however, I have a surplus of estrogen and progesterone to deal with while also dealing with my 2-year-old.
While getting ready for work and daycare one morning, I was kicked in my extended stomach, screamed at (right in my ear) and then witnessed my 2-year-old spill her dry cereal snack on the floor while looking me dead in the eyes.
What did I do? I stormed off into the bathroom. In this refuge, I let out a loud whispered profanity and peed for the 100th time that morning. I was sweating. My daughter was still pissed. We were all late yet again.
"Alright mama," I told myself. "Time to get a grip and let go. You know acting stressed and frustrated is only going to make this tantrum worse."
A frustrated mom is the toddler’s tantrum fuel to go to new screaming heights. There are ways to cope.
How many books tell you when you have a crying, screaming infant – and you feel like you are going to snap – to put the infant in his or her crib and take a few minutes to collect yourself? Well, it's the same with a toddler. Go put him or her in a child-safe area and take a breath for a few minutes in your room, bathroom or wherever. Give yourself a little space. If you’re used to taking the world on and being in control ... get over it. Dad can help. Family can help. A neighbor can help. Or you can hire a babysitter.
I find that when I’m stressed, the family is stressed. It has taken almost the entire length of pregnancy to come to the realization that I need find ways to be a part of my family and relax for my own health. When my husband won’t be home on time and a mommy-daughter night is going to run late, I call in reinforcements. Get grandma over. She can wrestle her grandchild into pajamas. I’m the vessel with cankles happily sitting on my couch.
I also recently made a deal with my husband to have him start taking our daughter to daycare in the mornings until long after baby brother comes. Picking her up is less work – and the parent who does the picking up always gets the happy kid running for a hug! It’s a simple change of schedule, but it makes all the difference.
I may not be able to give my daughter baths anymore, but I can rock a heavy nap time with her on weekends. I can’t do the bed time process anymore, however, we love to cuddle, watch movies and eat popcorn all the way to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. These valued private mommy-daughter times are still there, just slightly changed.
Figure out what you can do to reduce your stress levels when pregnancy hormones become all encompassing. If that fails, remember it's okay to hide in your bedroom and secret eat.
Kristine Rohwer resides in Elkhorn, Nebraska, with her husband, step-son, daughter, soon-to-arrive baby boy and two neurotic dogs.