Q: I'm a stay-at-home mom with four children under the age of 7. I love my kids and would do anything for them. But sometimes, I just lose it. I can't handle all of the noise and the constant demands. I feel so guilty for losing my temper!
Juli: You just exposed the greatest secret of most young moms: They get overwhelmed, they yell and then they feel guilty. Please know that you are not alone.
Being home all day with little ones is a demanding and thankless job. Even the most devoted mom can slip into anger and depression as the laundry piles up, the kids are vomiting and the cries for "Mommy!" fill the house. The stress of motherhood becomes more pronounced if you're isolated.
To do any worthwhile job well, including motherhood, you need regular breaks and things in your life that replenish you. This means you need to make time for outlets that reduce stress like exercise, friendship, hobbies and romance with your husband. A great first step is to join a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group just to have time with other moms who can completely relate to your life. They even offer childcare during the meetings!
You also need to recognize when your anger and frustration are being triggered. Give yourself a time-out. Taking five minutes to calm down, get perspective and form a game plan can keep you from losing your temper.
You may also want to check out Julie Ann Barnhill's book "She's Gonna Blow! Real Help for Moms Dealing With Anger." You'll find practical suggestions from a mom who has walked in your shoes.
I respect your commitment to be home with your children and your desire to be a great mom. Don't lose sight of all of the wonderful ways you're investing in your kids.
Jim: This critical time, when it appears a proposal is imminent, is the perfect opportunity to explore pre-engagement counseling. While many couples seek out a counselor once they're already engaged and making wedding plans, we believe there are many reasons to start that process before the engagement is official. My wife, Jean, and I did this, and it was an important step for us.
Consider this: Engaged couples are far less inclined to take an in-depth, honest look at their relationship. In many cases they've already purchased the rings, reserved the church, sent out invitations and hired a photographer. There's also the social stigma of breaking off an engagement. For all these reasons, engaged couples have a vested interest in ignoring one another's flaws and overlooking potential rough spots in their relationship. They're already committed to moving forward. In many cases this can lead to problems later.
Therefore, we'd recommend that you and your boyfriend find a good marriage-and-family therapist and set up a series of sessions now. The process should include a personality test such as the PREPARE/ENRICH Premarital Inventory. Contact Focus on the Family (focusonthefamily.com) for help in finding a counselor in your area.
Yes, this process will require an investment of time and money. But hopefully you and your boyfriend will agree that it's worth it in order to make sure your relationship is really marriage material. It's much easier and a lot less expensive than going through a divorce later. Best wishes to you!
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)
(Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com)