Bad days are the worst. I had many of them prior to having kids but, since their arrival, they occur much more frequently than I’d like. PMS, horrible sleep, tantrums, clinginess, mum-brain, forgetfulness and teething, combined with a dozen other things have, at times, taken the sunshine out of my day.
I remember one particular day I woke up tired from a night of interrupted sleep. My back was aching, the kids were up earlier than usual (it was still dark, why were they awake?!), they had both done a poo and needed changing and, before I knew it, they started to get in each others’ faces.
We hadn’t even had breakfast and I had already yelled at them. They started crying. Everything felt wrong. “It’s a day I’ll just have to write off,” I thought.
I’m guessing my experience is not unique. When looking after little ones, our days, and our lives, are vulnerable to all kinds of interruptions, potentially causing our moods to sour quickly.
What can we do about bad days? Are they beyond saving? Here are a few of my thoughts.
It’s never too late to save a bad day
What can make a bad day even worse is believing that it’s beyond redemption. But it’s never too late to turn your day around. More often than not change starts with our perspective, and getting into the right headspace is crucial. There have been times where I’ve let the bad events of my day get the better of me, letting it all drag me through the dumps right up until dinner time. But I’ve learnt that even if it’s almost bedtime, make that shift. Stop and take a moment to process what’s happening to you, in your mind and body, and find a way to work with and through it. Here are a few tips.
Be aware of what’s happening
Start by recognising patterns. Reflect on the things that trigger bad days and when to expect them, where possible. Being aware makes it less of a shock when things happen. It also means that you can take steps to prepare for it. When things do occur and you feel your anger rising or your spirit sinking, remember that although we cannot control what happens to us, we can control our responses. Take yourself out of the situation, and look at the big picture. It’s hard at the start but, with some practice, we do get better at it.
Take time to re-centre yourself. If the kids are driving you bonkers, take a few minutes to stop and gather your thoughts. If you can afford one, take a nap. If you need to talk to someone, call your spouse, or friend, or family member. Breathe in and out. Go for a walk. Journal, read your favourite verses or pray if it helps. Do what you can to jump off the ‘bad day train’ and get back on track.
Acknowledge what you’re feeling and why. Our feelings are natural responses to what’s going on. One thing I’ve learnt from my own struggles is that feelings just want to be acknowledged. We want to know that what happens to us actually matters, that it’s OK to feel the way we do.
What’s important is that we work through these feelings by empathising with ourselves and the people (usually our kids) around us. Sometimes all I need to do is to say to myself that I’m feeling upset because things are not going my way. Or remember that my kids are just testing boundaries; they’re not intentionally hurting me. Once I’ve done that, it’s much easier to move forward.
Cling to truth
Finally, remind yourself of what’s true despite what you feel. When bad things happen, it’s easy to forget what’s good and true. A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. Just because I lost my temper doesn’t mean I’m a terrible mother. Just because the kids are fighting with each other, doesn’t mean they’ll never learn to get along. It’s so easy at times to get swept up in the moment and use it to colour the way we view the rest of our lives.
Instead, cling to the truths we know. We are all works in progress. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are not alone in this. And while there are things beyond our control, nothing is out of God’s control- even a bad day. He works it all out for good, and His glory. His grace is always sufficient. We can trust His loving heart and His sovereign hand.