Yes, I yell.

I am a preschool teacher and am so patient with my students. I am often complimented on how calm and chill I am in the classroom. Children respond so well to gentle guidance and positive reinforcement. I even train other preschool teachers on behavior management techniques and bringing gentle parenting skills into the classroom.

I know what to do. I know how to do it. Most of all, I know, and explain to others, how important it is to validate children’s feelings, allowing them to be heard, and to model behavior that you expect from them. I am mindful and present at work.

Then I get home, and it is all gone.

I’ve used up all my patience during the day with other people’s children, and I can’t even muster a bit of calm while my daughter asks for help with her writing assignment. My first reaction is to just yell — tell her I don’t have time, I’ve just walked through the door, I need a few minutes before I can help her. Can’t I just walk in the house and have a few minutes to myself before having to give more of myself to others?

During the months we were all home, my patience with my children increased. I was able to stay calm in frustrating moments and really just be present. As much as 2020 gave us so many new things to be worried about, it also took some off my plate. I was away from my classroom for four months, and even when we went back in July, it was a slow start with a small number of children. I felt that the pandemic had given me a fresh start and a new perspective.

Then, September happened.

Back to full-time work, with new regulations, and my plate was overflowing. I realized it wasn’t that I was a bad mom, or even an angry mom. I just wasn’t balancing myself well. And there wasn’t anything on my plate I cared to take off.

So how can we manage these full plates that bring us so much joy but leave us feeling overwhelmed and burdened? As I realized I wasn’t living in the “now,” my focus shifted away from blaming myself for being less than perfect. And I started with three easy things to bring peace to my family’s life.  

1. Following some “mindful” Instagram accounts!

In addition to being a yeller, I am a scroller. I started following a few great accounts that support both parents and children in bringing mindfulness and calm into their lives. While I scroll, I stop on their posts and take a minute to really read them. Just by following these accounts, I am forced to slow down and find a mindful minute. My two favorites are Mindful Minis, a Boston-based mindfulness coach for children whose tips also work for adults, and School of Mom, another Boston-based, woman-owned business with a focus on parenting mindfulness.

2. Setting transition boundaries

I have asked my children to wait until I come in the door, use the bathroom, and get changed before asking me for anything. They can, of course, say hi and tell me something about their day. They just can’t ask for anything until I’m settled. Using the bathroom is on the list, because that is the time I can take, away from it all, to decompress for a few minutes. I am setting myself up for success in having peaceful interactions with my children.

3. Practicing calm and mindful activities with my children

A few times a week, we pull up a children’s yoga video and do it together. We focus on our breathing together, or we just take turns talking about our day. I am realizing that by doing this, I am getting to know my children a little bit better. I share some frustrations I had in my day with them, showing them that it is okay to be frustrated. And, oddly, it makes me less frustrated.

For me, 2021 is going to be about being more mindful, bringing some of the unforeseen positive side effects of the pandemic into my daily parenting life. I am leaving guilt in 2020 and welcoming 2021 with a fresh perspective, while giving myself the grace to make mistakes.

Michelle Mady
Michelle is a lifelong New Englander who lives in Stoneham and works in Charlestown. She is a preschool teacher and Assistant Director at a small private preschool and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education, which has come in useful at both work and home. She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband and is a mom of five children. She has three boys born in 2005, 2007 and 2008, plus two girls born in 2012 and 2015. Michelle teaches infant and toddler classes for early education teachers and is an adjunct professor for The School Of Mom. She also runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support. In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee, and dreaming of a home in the mountains.