Six Steps to Escape the Mom Spiral

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Today felt like a mom fail. I couldn't get anything right. According to my toddler, the pants were wrong, the shirt was wrong, the breakfast was wrong, the shoes were wrong and even the method of transportation to school was wrong. It was a GREAT start to the day. You know, one of those days where you're right on the edge of falling apart or not giving a *!@#...it could go either way. 

Step 1: Questioning

So after dealing with an epic temper tantrum throw down at daycare drop off, I climbed back into our minivan (infant in tow) and began the process of what I like to call "the mom spiral". For me, the mom spiral is not just a downward one; it's full of all sorts of fun ups and downs. Mom spirals may be different for everyone and have different triggers, but for me it usually goes like this: step one is an incident resulting in me questioning a parenting choice (big or small). 

Step 2: Indecision

I am wracked with indecision over what I should or should not have done, could have done better or should have known better about.  Step two almost always involves some aggressive Googling; and, even though I am always the first to advise my other mom friends to NEVER Google something when in this state of mind…I of course ignore my own advice and type on.

“Hmmmm maybe someone else has gone through the same thing,” I think to myself.  

This quickly turns into “I must have done something that contributed to my child behaving this way”, or, my favourite, “how could I not have known that when it seems that all these other moms in this forum from 2011 knew about it.”

Either way, it is not often a constructive use of my time and definitely allows my mom spiral to continue. 

Step 3: Mom Guilt

This part of the mom spiral is the most draining and consuming. Unfortunately, this is the part of the mom spiral that I find myself stuck in and obsessing over the longest.  

Step 4: The Punishment

Since I clearly don’t have it together I guess I better punish myself with tasks, errands and chores. I often catch myself in this pattern where I keep busy with “things to do”. These are things that I have decided HAVE TO GET DONE now. As a result, anything else that I had planned for myself must wait. 

Once I’ve spent some time trying to run away from these feelings of self-doubt and mom guilt through obsessive multitasking it's time for…

Step 5: Exhaustion

I stop for a moment and look around only to realize that maybe I overreacted. 

How do I escape the "mom spiral"? 

Step 6: Commence Pep Talk

Ok breathe…don’t be silly. You’re not a bad mom. There is nothing you could have done differently. You did the best you can. A few years from now you won’t even remember this and more importantly neither will the kids. They will remember you being happy. They will remember you having confidence in yourself and encouraging them to do the same. They will remember you leading by example and picking yourself up after a bad day. They will learn to be kind to themselves if they see you being kind to yourself. So, yup, today was a bad day. I got yelled at by my toddler in public and had to make an impromptu performance of my parenting skills in front of some daycare parents and a few pedestrians. I got to take a spin on the "mom spiral". But it's ok. Tomorrow is another day and until then I am going to lean into the moments of joy, hug my kids a little harder at the end of the day and go to bed with a full heart ready for a fresh start.

Does the pep talk always work? No, of course it doesn't.  But I have always found remembering my successes as a mom helps a lot. So does a good cry.

If any of you moms out there have encountered “the mom spiral” or perhaps have dealt with your own version of it, please know that you are not alone. And the next time you are out and about and see another mom who is maybe having a bad day, send a little smile their way so they know they are not alone either. A little smile goes a long way on a bad day.

xo Adrienne

Adrienne MacDonald, Postpartum Doula

I am a mother of two children, two dogs, one horse and a cat.  I am currently completing my Postpartum Doula certification through Doula Training Canada and am fully insured as a postpartum doula in training. Some previous work experience that I bring into this new role includes many years volunteering in crisis intervention with Victim Services as well as a career as a legal assistant, where I learned both compassion and professionalism.

New parenthood can feel both exciting and overwhelming. Nothing can prepare us for this journey. Sometimes, the only way to get through the day is with the help and support of others. Some of my best and most valuable postpartum experiences were receiving the support and encouragement of another person when I was feeling vulnerable. It is through these moments that my passion for helping others navigate the postpartum period emerged.

I believe that when it comes to parenting, there are often 100 different ways of doing the same thing.  It’s our job as parents to choose what works best for our family, and it’s my job to provide you the support you need to make safe and healthy choices that help you achieve your goals during the postpartum period.