Nourishing Hearts and MindsParenting

Hugging Porcupines

Quick! Can someone let me know which Instagram filter to use to cover up a crappy morning? Today I could use all the heavy filters to hide the ugly truth that some days as a mom just suck.

This morning started off with a series of events that jarred me into a horrible mood. Even if the rest of the day is picture perfect, I can’t shake the rattled feeling that I’M the cause of my child’s poor behavior and my own equally awful response to it.

Ever have one of those mornings?

Grace runs thin when you have a grouchy toddler who slams your fingers in the bedroom door to avoid getting her diaper changed.

When you discover a hidden poopy diaper you somehow forgot to clean up last night.

When you accidentally run the toaster oven too many times to warm up your bagel, which keeps cooling itself as you clean up mess after mess, and render it a hard disk of disgustingness. But there’s only one bagel left and you had your heart set on a bagel with smoked salmon for breakfast. And there’s nothing else even remotely breadlike in the entire house.

(Also, you’re a giant nine-month pregnant cow who fell asleep before you could make a snack before bed last night so you’re extra hungry this morning.)

When the toddler INSISTS that your breakfast is hers, like she does every morning. Even though she hates bagels. Even though this particular bagel is hard enough to literally break her teeth. Oh, and she usually spits salmon onto the floor. And she just crumbled an entire waffle into the carpet. And topped it with a bowl full of juicy watermelon.


When the toddler refuses to wear her shoes. And you know that high tops with real laces are a stupid idea for a one-year-old but they’re the only shoes that currently fit and match her outfit today. You probably shouldn’t be concerned with such a first world problem anyway.

When the toddler insists on helping herself out of the building and to the car and won’t let you take her hand but you’re too tired and pregnant to argue or put up much of a protest so you let her go by herself until the last possible second. Then – shocker! – she throws a total fit when you need to take her hand, lest she sprint off of the sidewalk and into the parking lot alone. So you have to bend over in a dress, with a giant belly in the way and a million bags on your back and both shoulders, to flash the entire complex a great view of your underwear (again) as you pry melted toddler off of the front walkway (again) in some kind of perverse jig that is now a permanent part of your morning routine.

(Because how are you really going to balance a ton of bags and heavy toddler around the giant bump and the stairs out of the building on your own anyway?)

When, for the first time you can ever remember, you’re thrilled to drop the toddler off at Grandma’s so that you can scoot off to work kid-free (well, sort of).

Cue the mom guilt.

You try really, really hard to remember the little mantras that you’re supposed to hang onto like “cherish every moment” as you speed (I mean drive totally responsibly) down a country road. You consider the impassioned pleas from viral web posts about moms who lost their kids to just enjoy everything that they can’t experience anymore and to give your kids extra hugs*. And you feel like a total dick for being mad at your kid for eating your breakfast and embarrassing you in front of the neighbors, because really it’s NOT that big of a deal. But then you kind of feel ticked off, because there are some moments that you just don’t enjoy, no matter how many sob stories implore you to do so. So you feel guilty about everything and then heap some extra guilt on top for the things that you don’t feel guilty about but know deep down that you should.

But the absolute truth is that sometimes you simply can’t hug a porcupine.

Sometimes the toddler (or baby, kid, tween, teen) is the porcupine.

Sometimes YOU are the porcupine.

And that doesn’t make you a bad mom. That makes you a person who probably needs some space for like half of a second. Which also doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you a human.

For some reason I feel like I’ve failed when I don’t want to spend every waking second with my child. I feel such an intense pressure to ALWAYS be mom. To ALWAYS be gentle and soothing and fun and Mary Poppins-ing the crap out of every second of every single day.

When I told Josh about my sob story morning and how mad I was at Paisley (but mostly at myself) he was chill and casually said that “every mommy needs time away occasionally”. And he’s right. Sometimes I need to just hang up the cape I haven’t earned and sit one out. Or go to work. Or run some errands solo. I have capable helpers to mind my wild child while I take a few minutes or a few hours.

A break provides perspective. It can be a nice little reset button that reminds you that you do actually like your kid and being a mom in the first place. It can be a chance to eat some food that tiny hands aren’t trying to whisk off of your plate (no judgement). Sometimes a reset can’t wait until naptime or bedtime. Drink a cup of coffee and put your quills away, even if you can only sneak away to the closet. Then get back to momming.

Breathe before you break. The kids will be OK. That’s what I need to remember today.

Breakfast Theif
Exhibit A: The toddler steals my breakfast. (But I still love her.)
Going down the steps
Exhibit B: The toddler goes down the stairs alone.

BTW: These pictures were taken yesterday, when these things did not tick me off. Haha! She’s always cute, even when she’s misbehaving (just don’t let her know that).

​* I am in no way trying to minimize the challenges that parents who have lost children face. I read the stories and my heart breaks into a million pieces every time. I have the utmost respect for those who have experienced tragedy and have the courage to speak up about their family, their child, their struggles. If this is you, please understand that I mean no disrespect to the message that you share.

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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

What are your thoughts?