Tears and tantrums seem to rule our house these days.

My moody and limit-testing 2-year-old ends up on the time-out chair again.  Or she wants a “donut cookie” (??), and we don’t have any. She spilled milk on her shirt. I’m holding the baby. It’s a bath night. It’s not bath night. Her dinner’s too hot. It’s time to brush teeth.

The baby cries… because she’s a baby, still in the thick of her fourth trimester. Wants the boob. Needs to poop. Has a burp. Wants to sleep. Doesn’t want to sleep. Is over having toys shaken in her face.

I’m ashamed to say that it’s almost automatic for me to get upset, to take it personally. Too often I lose my shit when my kids are losing theirs. Why do these kids want to make me crazy? Why are they trying to ruin my day? Why can’t they just be quiet and behave for once? I have to force myself to think instead of just reacting.  I am learning these days that compassion is about the only thing that will get me through all the drama and noise.

It’s almost a little speech I have to recite to myself: My children are good.  There’s nothing “wrong” with them. They aren’t trying to make me crazy or ruin anything.  They’re just kids, and they mostly can’t help it. They don’t even know why they act the way they do. Yelling and losing it doesn’t actually help anything. What my babies really need are my patience and my hugs (and occasionally, my time-out chair).

I wish my mind went to this kind, compassionate place first, but often it takes work. I feel a lot of guilt about that. I have to work not to be angry at my 2-month-old. I have to put effort into feeling empathy for my 2-year-old. Damn. Sometimes I feel like a terrible mom.

So I have to remember to have compassion for myself too. Motherhood is overwhelming. Newborns are so damn hard. I’m so freaking tired. I can barely feed and dress myself. Just getting in a shower is a monumental effort. My maternity leave is about to end. The bills are piling up. These aren’t excuses, just reminders. Be kind to yourself, Emily, so you can be kind to your babies.

And a reminder to all the other tired, busy mamas out there: be kind to yourselves too.