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Dear Tired Mom: How to Turn Around a Really Bad Day

We have all been there.

The day starts off on the wrong foot.

  • Maybe the toddler woke up an hour earlier than usual.
  • Perhaps the baby was up six times last night and you are exhausted.
  • Maybe you woke up only to discover you’re out of coffee.
  • Or maybe you just woke up grumpy.

And then it just goes downhill from there.

You need to attend to a bathroom situation and burn breakfast in the process. While you fix a bowl of cereal, your little one throws a tantrum because she needs to eat right.now. At this point, you’re both in grumpy moods that seem to feed off of one another and you can feel the day spiraling downward.

It’s not even 9:00, and you’re ready to throw in the towel for the day.

You find yourself wondering if it’s even possible to turn it around at this point. You think, Should I just pop in a movie, call today a wash, and try again tomorrow?

No Day is Too Far Gone

You are not alone, friend.

I, myself, have had that exact thought more times than I’d care to admit.

But, here’s the good news: You don’t have to throw out the whole day just because of a rough morning. Even if it feels impossible now, with a few intentional steps, you can break both you and your little one out of that funk.

Tired Mom Reboot Step #1:
Take a Mommy Time-Out

First things first: Steal a few moments alone to calm down and re-focus for the day. More often than not, Mommy’s mood sets the tone for everyone else. So if you’re grumpy, discouraged, and short-tempered, then you probably can’t expect your little one to be anything different. It’s the on-the-ground application of what the flight attendants remind you on the airplane: Secure your own oxygen mask before helping your child.

So find a way to get a few quiet moments for yourself.

  • Set up the toddler with a craft he can actually do by himself at the table.
  • Put the baby in the Pack ‘N Play with some of his favorite toys.
  • Throw a quick show on Netflix and let your preschooler indulge for a few minutes.
  • Start a new Quiet Time tradition every afternoon for kids who have dropped their naps.
  • Spend a few minutes praying and asking God to give you HIS strength/patience/etc. etc. that you need to get through the day. You may not be patient, but HE is, and he’s got plenty to spare if you ask him for it!

Take these moments guilt free. You’re focusing on the long-game here.

Now, here a few tips to help you refocus:

Stop the Social Media

I don’t know about you, but mindless scrolling through social media produces almost zero benefit for my day. It usually leads me to compare myself to other moms and get discouraged. So if you’re already needing a reset, just sign off and put the phone down for a bit.

Fill up Your Tank

Real talk: You’re only going to have a few moments to yourself, and then you need to jump right back into momming. So spend those precious few minutes filling up your tank so you’re more ready to pour into your little one.

You know what will be the most life-giving for you, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Listen to a favorite worship song and spend a few minutes in prayer (even if it’s just a desperate plea for patience!).
  • Call or text a trusted friend who can commiserate and will also offer an encouraging word. (See how Heather did that in her own Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Morning in her article here.)
  • Use this printable to remind you of what God says about your important role as Mom!
  • Read a few pages of an uplifting book. This devotional will give you a gentle nudge to find joy amidst your chaos while this book will give you a nice mix of humor and encouragement to boost your day.
  • Listen to a quick, encouraging podcast or a passage of Scripture through the Dwell app.
  • Find encouragement in the “magic words” gathered in Heather’s Having a Bad Mom Day? Post.

Forget the To-Do List

Worrying about your to-do list for the day is only going to add to your stress, especially on an already at-your-limit sort of day. If you find a few moments in the afternoon to tackle an item or two, great! But don’t count on it.

Sometimes what makes a day hard is treating your child like he’s an interruption, rather than the most important thing on your “to-do list” for the day. So if it helps, you can make a whole new to-do list that just says, “Be a patient Mom!” as your reminder for the day.

If you still feel the pressure to be productive, check out 6 Productivity Secrets That Will Make Your To-Do Obsolete. It provides a whole new way of looking at your chore list!

Tired Mom Reboot Step #2:
Focus On the Kids

Since you’ve tossed the to-do list, you’re free to really focus on your little one. Sometimes the grumpy attitudes (both parent and child!) and open defiance stems from a lack of quality time and can be cured by a few minutes of intentional playtime together.

This is your chance to fill up her little love tank and show her that she’s the most important part of your day. Don’t let her get away with disobedience, but be sure to treat her lovingly, give her grace, and don’t jump to anger yourself.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make a few deposits in your child’s Mommy Tank!

Pull out the Board Games

If your little one is a bit older, simple board games are a great way to spend family time together (and throw in a few life lessons about being a gracious winner/loser). If you haven’t attempted board games yet, you can’t go wrong with any of these classics: Hi-Ho! Cherry-O, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders. Or, you could even consider trying out a really fun new one.

Dip into Your Secret Toy Stash

I can’t be the only Mom with an “emergency” stash of never-before-seen toys hidden away in my closet, right? (Or at least some rotated toys put away from a previous season!)

This is the exact time to use that stash. Sometimes a new toy can bring just enough novelty and excitement to breathe new life into a not-so-great day. You can keep up with the stash by picking up good deals you see on clearance racks throughout the year.

Or, if the grandparents are the type to go just a smidge overboard with presents when the visit, perhaps consider confiscating one or two toys. Your little one won’t miss them with all the other excitement, and to be honest she may enjoy them more when there’s nothing else “new” to compete with.

Just Dance

If you need to get out some of the wiggles but aren’t ready to venture into the world, turn on a kid-friendly music station and have a living room dance party. You can bond with your little one with some silly dance moves, and the laughter will actually help improve your moods by releasing endorphins. Bonus points if you throw in a tambourine.

Tired Mom Reboot Step #3:
Get Out of the House

If all else fails, pack up that child and just get out of the house.

A change a scenery can do wonders for a change of attitude (for both adult and child!). And while it may seem like too much work or too risky to leave the house and enter the public arena during an already-bad day, it’s almost always worth the risk.

Walk around the Block

Research indicates that sunlight can boost the serotonin in your brain, which will effectively improve your mood, and a quick walk around the block is an excellent way to accomplish that. Strap your toddler into the stroller, and you’ll both benefit from the increased serotonin without having to constantly keep him from running into the street.


Visit Your Neighborhood Park

If you need more than just a few minutes of outside time to reset your mood, take your little one for a play at the park. He’ll get the benefits of both sunlight and exercise, while you might even get to sit down for a few minutes and watch him play. If it’s raining or too cold for the park, check out your mall’s play area or your local library.

Hit up the Drive-Thru

Here’s another idea if outside playtime isn’t an option: Consider just going for a drive. Turn on a favorite music station or audiobook and enjoy a little downtime while you take the scenic route to Starbucks. Sometimes just leaving the house even for a quick drive can help reset the day.

Things are Looking up!

There’s no denying that motherhood is just plain hard.

These tiny people are relying on us for survival, and even while we recognize the immense privilege that it is, we can’t deny that it is exhausting.

  • We are going to have rough mornings.
  • We are going to have difficult afternoons.
  • We’re going to have even harder nights.

And sometimes we’ll have all three in the same 24 hours.

You can take a few intentional steps to change the day’s momentum, and storing a few tools in your arsenal ahead of time will help you feel prepared the next time a bad day strikes.

Have your favorite warm beverage in stock, a good book on the bookshelf, and a warm blanket to cry into, because sometimes that’s just what needs to happen.

Then dry your eyes, take a deep breath, and know that thousands of other moms are right there with you.

This epically bad day? You can still save it.

You can still end the day on a high note. Starting….now.

Have You Read These Yet?

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