10 Top Strategies for Keeping Your Sense of Parenting Humor

I won the Mother of the Year Award – the one for which my girlfriends and I rigorously train and compete – the year I took my son to his preschool graduation, stayed for the picnic at the beginning and then suddenly remembered I had to grocery shop, and took him away before the actual ceremony and concert. The ceremony and concert for which the class had practiced for 4 months. The ceremony and concert for which my son, the one who has massive expressive and receptive language disorder, had learned all the words. To perform. For me.

Yep. Mm hm. I did that.

It was a brain hiccup of massive proportions. Somewhere in my pregnant mommy brain, I’d already checked off the Attend Preschool Graduation box, and, despite evidence to the contrary, thought we were done. And so we left.

When I realized a few hours later what I’d done, well, it was the gasp of horror heard around the world.

IMG_2271YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT I JUST DID, I shouted to the Girlfriends in the phone. IF I DON’T WIN MOTHER OF THE YEAR FOR THIS, I QUIT!, I hollered. And they all agreed – yep; horrific enough for the sure win.

TOTAL Mombie Moment.

And as guilty as I felt (pretty darn), their knowing laughter and been-there sympathy was the first step toward forgiving myself.

Of course, it also helped knowing there had been other epic winners before me. Like the year Leanne took the prize for being so exhausted she slept through picking up her oldest from elementary school. And slept so deeply she didn’t hear the calls from the school. And so her husband had to leave work to get the kid to rush home to find out what was wrong with his wife to open the door to find their toddler cheerfully smearing feces on absolutely every surface of their home – walls, furniture, floors, herself – while his wife slept blissfully on. Heh heh heh. I love Leanne.

One of my favorite things we do here on the blog is 5 Quick Questions. You don’t know this, but I spend weeks reading and rereading your answers every time we play, because you are smart and funny and wise and inspiring and I learn something profound from each one of you. But I also read and reread for the mamaraderie. Because, oh, friends you so get me.

You’ll understand, then, why I laughed so loudly when I saw Elena‘s response to this question: But how do you keep your sense of humor during the tough patches of parenting? Elena wrote, “I call my girlfriend. We have an ongoing Mother of the Year award for when we royally screw things up. The other one deems if your screw-up is worthy of the award or if you need to keep trying!”

EXACTLY.

The Mother of the Year Award is one of my top strategies for keeping my sense of parenting humor.

Here are more, based on your awesome comments:

10 Top Strategies for Keeping Your Sense of Parenting Humor:
How do you keep laughing when the going gets rough?

  1. Institute a Mother of the Year Award – “I call my girlfriend. We have an ongoing Mother of the Year award for when we royally screw things up. The other one deems if your screw-up is worthy of the award or if you need to keep trying!” -Elena of Monkey Bear and Buddy 
  2. Look for the Story – “My grandmother taught me to look for the story in the situation. When dealing with hard things, I wrote the story to her in a way that would make her laugh. Now that she is gone, I do the same thing, but send it to a friend. In looking for the story to entertain someone else, I begin to see the humor in the midst of the difficulty.” -Dawn
  3. Hone Your Sense of Perspective – “I need to do better at this – I can spend hours thinking about my child’s future incarceration or how they will handle homelessness after just the smallest acts of crazy behavior. After I get tired or worrying then I take the time to recognize that most kids are crazy and it is likely that they will be fine and we will all laugh about this later.” -Laura
    “I don’t think I’ve mastered this one yet. But when I am able to keep a sense of humor, it’s because of Persepective. My grandmother used to frequently say “This is not a tragedy.” She was right.” -Audrey
  4. When It Is a Tragedy, Fall Apart First – “How do I keep laughing? I haven’t always. When we lost our fourth pregnancy in the second trimester I came unhinged for awhile. My husband would light a fire for me in our fireplace in the morning and then he’d take our son to preschool and go to work. I’d sit in the living room and watch the fire until it burnt out. Then I’d go crawl back into bed. That was my life for a couple weeks. But I came back from there, back to my husband and back to my kid. And we took time and healed and played and eventually I started laughing again. We built up our courage and a task force of specialists and tried again and held our breath for 9 months and had an amazing, perfect, beautiful boy. And I started laughing again. Now we find humor every day in our kids antics and if they’re being too ridiculous to be funny we turn to each other to find something worth smiling about. I guess my point is, you don’t have to keep your sense of humor all the time. You’re human. Shitty things might happen and you might have to fall apart a little bit before you can deal with it. You’ll be ok. Your family will be ok. It gets better.” -WhatsYourDamageHeather
  5. Rock Out, Rock On – “Air Guitar and Noise Cancelling headphones turned up full volume!” –Rachael of Life With Twins
  6. Keep a List of Likes – “I keep lists of things I like about each person in my family. I challenge myself to add to the list when I am angry with that person. Reminds me of the good things, so I can see and enjoy the small things I miss when I am seething with resentment.” -Rebekah
  7. Remember Kids Are Human, Fallible and Perfect, Like Us All – “I’ve taught middle school for 17 years. I was just saying at a parent night recently that you don’t make it that long in middle school unless you think kids are funny. Teaching has also taught me to keep coming back the next day, without holding grudges or negative expectations. Just because a kid screwed up nine times in a row doesn’t make them a screw-up. Kids are still growing and changing.” -Wendy of Linden and Oak
  8. Lose Some Control – “Having a sense of humor has shown up a lot more as I’ve let go of a lot of control. I’ve also just learned over time that most things are not as big a deal as they might seem. Stuff is replaceable, scrapes heal, and no one parenting choice alone has ever made a difference by itself. We do some stuff right and some stuff wrong and it’s easier to laugh off the mistakes when you realize that not a single one of them by itself is going to ruin anybody’s life.” -Jessica of This Quirky Family
  9. Let It Be Funny Now – “I tell myself that it will be funny in an hour/day/week/year so I might as well see the humor in it now. Sometimes I don’t listen to myself and that’s never as fun.” Kelsey of Baby Kautzi
  10. Foster Funny Family-Wide – “The sense of humor requires being surrounded by family and friends who see humor in everything, and being able to laugh at yourself while you teach your kids to do the same.” -Judy

………

Anyone need a group of friends to share your Mother of the Year story?
We are ALL EARS!
🙂

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
16 comments
  1. Oh I’m terrible about perspective.

    But I am working on taking their daily catastrophes a little more in stride. Lately whining especially has become a thorn in my flesh, and I’m trying not to let it make me quite as crazy. Last week we were on our way somewhere, and one of my kids just wouldn’t stop whining. I turned on Ice Ice Baby at full volume and imagined myself in a movie – with the music as the background for a montage of my own life (think gangsta rap in Office Space) and laughed so hard the whole way there, it totally turned the vibe in the car around. It’s hard to keep whining when your mom won’t quit laughing in the front seat.

  2. i think the best way of dealing with the craziness of having kids (aside from this fabulous list, seriously, doesn’t get much better than this) is polling friends online for whether they have dealt with similar situations…and they ALWAYS ALWAYS HAVE!!!!!! it helps to remember we are NEVER ALONE, folks! never! our kid is *never* the first one on earth to come up with a crazy tactic/potty problem/school issue/developmental delay/etc, and we are *never* the first mom to epically fail…even if we do come up with, ah, *creative* ways to do so… 🙂 it helps me to take a step back and breathe deeply when i see that other people have lived through this and worse and in fact, i will too, even if i can’t see the end in sight yet. the lady who ran the breastfeeding moms’ group i used to go to with our first used to say, “no matter what they’re doing, whether it’s bad OR good, it will change.” so may as well take a deep breath and just remember, this too shall pass. 🙂 and absolute best thing to remember: you’re never alone!! hugs all around.

  3. When my youngest daughter was 9, she had what I thought was a stomach virus. She had a belly ache, and since she was the youngest of five and I was a little jaded, I told her to lay down and it would feel better. This went on for about 3 days. On the last day, she crawled into my bedroom at 5:00 a.m. and asked if the Dr’s office was open, and if we could go there as soon as they did open. Finally she had my attention, since this kid hated to go to the doctor’s office. Her appendix had burst. She stayed in the hospital for 2 weeks. After that whenever she had a stomach ache I was able to say, “Just go lay down; it can’t be your appendix.” Mother of the year, that’s me.

  4. A friend and I used to compete for the “Joan Crawford Golden Wire Hanger award”…
    Whenever we did something regrettable at least we could take a step back, laugh, forgive ourselves and move on!

  5. all of theses are really great suggestions, I especially can relate to #8. Not that I have arrived at letting go of some of the control, but of wanting to. I know that clinging to the control as parent is not very effective in living a joyful life and experiencing freedom-for everyone in the family, but I just don’t know how to let it go. I’m too scared. I feel like everything is going to be screwed up and it’s going to be all my fault. I can’t seem to escape the guilty feelings that come with meeting my kids needs and meeting my needs. It feels constantly like it’s not going to be “okay” and I desperately want it too. I feel like I’m completely unhinged lately as a mom and I have NO idea what to do. I’m sure I sound like a crazy lady even sharing this on a blog’s comments, but I’m desperate for hope. I don’t know how to feel loved or trust that I am loved and it’s causing me to unravel…sorry for the downer of a comment.

    1. Say you’re sorry when necessary. Take deep breathes. Tomorrow is another day to try again. It’s just hard sometimes. Big mommy hugs to you.

    2. April, firstly can I say – big hugs. Don’t be sorry for sharing your situation on here, Beth and her readers are about the best people you could have shared this with, you’ll not find anyone judging you or criticising you here, we’ve all been where you are, many times. I remember thinking before I had my son about all the things I wanted to teach him and hoping I could do a good job of it. What I had no clue about was that I was the one that had so much to learn. Becoming a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done (I say ‘done’ but please don’t think I’m kidding myself that I’m the finished article here, I believe  there’s no such thing!) It forces you to really re-examine yourself and your behaviour and that is no easy task. But I’m a real believer in the more it hurts, the more it’s doing you good and it’s not just my second-hand catholic guilt that that’s coming from. I think the more entrenched and deep-rooted the behaviour, the more it hurts to let it go, but boy the better it feels when you start to. Control is such a painful issue because it comes from such a negative place of anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt and lack of self-esteem. Well it does for me anyway! Confronting it for me has meant reviewing a lot of my own childhood and coming to terms with where my desire for perfectionism and need to please has come from and that’s pretty much from my relationship with my own parents. And don’t get me wrong, they were/are great parents, but they’re flawed human beings just like the rest of us, and I don’t blame them but at the same time I don’t want to pass it on, you know? I know I’m going to screw up my kids’ heads one way or another, but at least I can try to not make it the same way my parents did mine – that’s progress of a sort, right? Learning to let go a bit was so hard for me, and I’m learning to recognise when I’m starting to lose it again because the anxiety starts to creep back in and I know it’s time to start taking it easy again. To try and save myself I go into what I call ‘back to basics’ mode. Like I will only do what is basically necessary. We need to eat, so I will do dinners, nothing fancy, just filling. We need clean clothes so I will wash them. Folding maybe, ironing – fuggetaboutit. That’s kind of it. I try to maintain a standard of hygiene in the kitchen and bathroom but if the floor needs vacuuming then, so what? The leaves need sweeping, oh well. The windows are dirty, well close the curtains. In fact, forget the house, let’s go for a walk in the park. My son is only 2, he couldn’t care less if I’ve got make-up on or I’ve brushed my hair, he wants a mummy that can play with him, read him a book or give him a cuddle, he values my time and attention, not my house-keeping skills. When I truly can’t cope any more, I just lie on the floor and let him jump on me and he loves it – and me. And I bet your kid/s are the same. Why bother trying to please the world when you’ve got your own little private fan club right there in your house? Stop trying to be the mother you think you ought to be and give yourself permission to just do what makes you happy for a change – play with your kids, take a walk, look at the sky and just breathe. And know you’re not alone. As Beth would say, we’re all here sitting down in the mud with you. In the dark. Waving. Or something like that. Love and light to you April, you’ll get past this xx

      1. Thank you Christina. That was a very encouraging note and really hit me where it counts. What you said. “Control is such a painful issue because it comes from such a negative place of anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt and lack of self-esteem.” that. That is where I’m at. I feel way less joyful and such a lack of everything that I feel like a Negative Ninny wherever I go and I couldn’t feel worse or more helpless that I am most likely passing this on to my kids…..
        This whole parenting gig is so overwhelming. I am just hoping I can make it through and learn something along the way and that somehow my kids will be ok even though I don’t feel ok…..that feels pretty impossible at the moment. I hope you’re right that the more it hurts the more it’s doing me (us) good; cause this little dip in the roller coaster really freakin’ hurts! Thanks again for the honest and encouraging words.

    3. April, I relate to all of this! The Mommy Guilt–been there. The coming apart–been there too. The feeling unloved thing–yep. And I’ve lived through it and I’m on the other side, mostly.

      Give yourself room to learn. You wouldn’t get mad at your baby for not being able to walk at 6 months–that isn’t a reasonable expectation. It’s not always reasonable to expect to know how to handle the current parenting challenge immediately either–sometimes it takes time to figure it out, or time to develop the patience you need. You’ll get there!

      I’ve really struggled with feeling unloved, too. It set up a bad feedback loop in my family: I’m not happy so I make everyone around me unhappy so nobody is showing anybody any love or support. Break the loop: Don’t focus on your need for love. You can enjoy your own efforts at showing love without expecting any return. Smile, even if it’s fake at first, not because you are happy but because you love your family and they feel loved and supported when you are pleasant. Gradually it’ll come true and you’ll start to see their love for you again. I have found so much peace this way! Especially with my husband.

      I hope and pray you will find that hope you need. 🙂

      -Rebekah

    4. April! I am so afraid to offer advice to anyone because the truth is I could be SO wrong and I just don’t know it- I feel like things change and I learn something new all the time- but I want to reach out to you because I think I hear in your comment the desperation that I have felt and STILL FEEL sometimes.

      I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve woken my husband in the middle of the night because I can’t stop crying. Sometimes I get so afraid of all of the things that might go wrong and all of the things that happen every day that I THINK I just can’t stand any longer and I feel PANICKED and LOST and I just need someone else to be awake with me. I love those kids SO MUCH and they walk around in this world separate from me all day long. It kills me- I can’t control the choices they make (even when they’re standing two feet from me) and I can’t control the way people treat them or what happens to them, and the older they get the worse it’s going to get.

      The thing is, though, I trust them. It seems kind of dumb to say that- just last week I discovered that my 12 year old doesn’t wipe when she pees- but I don’t know, I see something good in them. They betray my trust all the time, and they have consequences for that, but the thing I realized is that the world doesn’t end every time they don’t do what I was hoping they’d do. And they keep growing and they just keep getting better.

      I have wept. I have written letters to strangers over the internet about how I am so much less than I ever thought I was going to be as a mother- as a person! But I have decided that the best thing I can do for my children is love myself, because I truly believe that they are going to watch how I treat myself and there’s a good chance that’s how they’ll treat themselves when they grow up. My children are never going to be perfect either, and I hope they don’t beat themselves up for it.

      It is HARD. Believe me, I can’t do it all the time. But I’ve found things that make me feel good and people that make me feel better. I read blogs like this, including the comments, because they remind me that I am not alone. I’ll occasionally boycott Facebook and pinterest, and even sitcoms about families sometimes- because if I’m in a sensitive place they make me feel inferior or inadequate.

      If you really feel unhinged right now, if you feel broken or desperate, I have been there- and from what I’ve read, I think most of us have. I want you to know that I think you are AMAZING. That might not be meaningful to you because I don’t really even know you, but the thing is that I really truly believe it- I believe it because you are HERE. You are sharing and being vulnerable and that is BRAVE.

      I don’t know if I can give you hope, but I can hope for you. I hope you have people in your life that build you up and make you feel loved. I hope you do things for yourself that make you feel accomplished and proud. I hope you sit in your home at night, after your children are asleep, and you say to yourself “right now, in this moment, everybody is ok, and I am grateful for that.” I hope you can let go of fear, at least some of it, at least some of the time, so you can relax. I hope you realize that you don’t have to make everything perfect for everyone for their entire lives- but every good day you have together is a day no one can ever take away from any of you.

      1. My goodness Jessica, Rachel and Rebekah, I can’t even tell you how right on you were with your input. Just, all of it. It so articulates how I feel, how I continue to loop back around and feel again and again (sometimes hormones contribute the whole nasty thing and sometimes not). I have also boycotted facebook and pinterest and shut off anything that is making me feel the need to compare myself. I know who I want to be and I keep trying, but I HATE so much messing it up; falling short or making a mistake. I feel like such a fraud when I say the “right” things to my kids, but I am no where near truly believing them for myself. But I really liked what Rebekah and Rachel said; just choosing to be kind and even making loving choices even when it’s freakin’ tough and the feelings are not there, just doing that much to start putting one foot in front of the other might help me reach the opening of this crater I find myself in just a little sooner. Love and kindness is waaaay tougher than I ever realized, that makes me feel very ignorant.
        Rachel, I also have 3 kids in 3 years and my oldest is 4 right now! I never knew that parenting gets harder as they get older, but it really does. All of mine are crazy! Seemingly melting or complaining or some other not awesome thing happening and I have NO clue what I’m doing to manage all of the emotion and attitudes and everything. I was under the impression, you help them master something once, like manners, and then there good to go for, ya know, life. Guess not.
        Honestly, I don’t really care about the house looking good or even if the kids have clothes that match or whatever, although that can sometimes be hard to get passed the feelings of judgement, it’s the heart issue stuff that is so important and scary and unknown and seems kinda out of my control…..
        I am so so grateful that there are others out there who feel the same out of control feeling as I do. Thank you fellow mamas; I gonna choose to receive the hope and hugs 🙂 And thanks Beth for being so nice and non-judgey about people here or elsewhere. All signs point to you being a quality individual and I am thankful!

    5. Oh, April, don’t feel bad about sharing your struggle! I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find a better group of people to listen and say “Oh my GOSH, do I ever know what you mean!” I certainly do.

      I don’t have any really sage advice, but I will suggest one thing that sometimes helps my perspective: talk to yourself like a friend. If a good girlfriend came to you and told you she was feeling all the things you were saying in your comment above, what would you say to her? I’m betting it would be something supportive and encouraging. We’d never tell a friend that she’s failing and her kids are doomed–so why do we say it to ourselves? Give yourself the same love you would give to a friend.

      And hang in there. You’re SO not alone on this rough road.

    6. Everyone else’s comments are great and spot on! As someone who has struggled with major control issues (which seem to naturally result in trust problems) reading everyone’s comments were a good reminder to me. I have 6 kids ranging from 2-17 and have been learning to let go out of necessity. (learning – no where close to mastering) One thing I have found that has helped is not only lowering my house-keeping expectations, but to include the kids in it. For example, if I don’t care that the laundry is perfectly folded, then it doesn’t matter that the 3-year old folded the pants while I folded shirts. (actually now my kids do their own laundry because I got tired of folding all the laundry. It only worked because they have been helping me with laundry for years.) I have front loading machines and the 2-year old thinks it is a game to move stuff from the washer to the dryer – so I let him while I’m working on another task nearby. He thinks he’s big stuff, which makes me feel good too. (I never asked him to do this – he saw his brother do it, so he had to do it too). Recently I was frosting a cake for a birthday party, a job that has always been mine. One of the girls asked if she could help. Here came the growth for me – I took a deep breath and handed her a spatula. After all, we were going to destroy/eat it in a few hours, so did it have to be “perfect?” Gave a huge boost to her 12-year-old ego (hard to do). Next thing I know, the birthday boy is in and finishes the decorating (adding candies, etc to turn it into a castle). What is normally a 2-hour back breaking job for me turned into a 1-hour family event that was fun for everyone. And the cake – one of the best we have ever had – because I took the brave step to trust the kids and let go. None of these were planned (the point is letting go of control). It is looking for LITTLE opportunities, reminding yourself to ask “what is the point”, and let go. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does – oh it is so worth it and makes it a little easier to try the next time.

  6. Christine-that totally happened to my first grader just last week! And I felt so bad for him but also like I failed as a parent because he didn’t feel safe enough to go tell the teacher. Then, he did it at church that night and didn’t tell anyone there either!

  7. Oh I need that today. My first grader has trouble with poop sometimes. Today he pooped his pants. And didn’t tell anyone after. And it was the second time this school year.

    I can’t laugh about it – I’m having a hard enough time not crying. Why does my kid’s failure feel like I failed?

    1. Christine, I’d like to send you a big dose of empathy and a hug – my little boy, who’s in his first year of school (aged 5) has pooed in his pants most weeks since starting school in September. And do you know what? Neither of us has failed. This is just one milestone which hasn’t quite happened yet for our precious little ones, and you’re not on your own. Wish we could have a cup of tea and a laugh together! Sending love to you xo

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