Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater
It’s a metaphor I use with my patients (especially couples) when one is so angry with the other that he or she is ready to throw their hands up in the air yelling “F*** it!!” and just walk away…far far away with no interest in even considering another solution.
Now I’m not saying don’t have feelings. It’s perfectly normal to feel angry, sad, hurt, frustrated and even hopeless in the moment. Having the feelings and acknowledging them is absolutely okay…it’s what you do with them that makes or breaks the moment.
Let’s say you’re having a tough week: You’re getting over a cold, your work has been exhausting, your toilet just overflowed because one of your kids decided to flush their mini Beanie Unicorn down the toilet, and to top it off you’re two days out from your monthly visit from “Aunt Flo.”
You’re clearly not interested in anyone else’s “problems.”
As you’re standing in the kids’ bathroom holding the sopping, disgusting, wet Beanie Unicorn your husband enters the room and explains how angry he feels that for the umpteenth time you (in front of the kids) criticized how he was disciplining and how condescending your unsolicited remarks are. At that moment you feel your blood starting to boil from the bottom of your feet up through your legs into your belly and up into your chest. Suddenly you throw your arms into the air and yell, ”FINE! I’m DONE!!!” and with fury you chuck the Beanie back in the toilet and storm out.
Hmmmm…you know what you just had? Yup – a tantrum.
Look: you can feel furious. You can feel beyond frustrated. You can even feel painfully exhausted and wanting to fall to your knees and cry, but emptying the water from the bathtub doesn’t mean you should empty out the baby as well. You can take a time out and excuse yourself to be alone for 5 minutes, but chucking the Beanie Unicorn back into the toilet (which you just plunged out along with other awesome things which only belong in the toilet) is really not cool.
Have you ever seen a child focus with all their might to build an extraordinary tower of blocks but after one piece falls to the ground they flail their arms and legs into the tower knocking it down while screaming with hair pulling frustration?? Well my friend, that was you as you chucked that magical little unicorn into the toilet and slammed your bedroom door behind you. Furthermore, you now have to deal with your husband’s frustration which just went from a 5 to a 10+ because of your not-so-smart tantrum. Plus think about the modeling you are giving your children. Again: not so smart.
So when you feel your entire body begin to boil to the point where you can’t see past your own eyelashes, that is your cue to STOP. PAUSE. Take a deep BREATH and say to your husband, “Please give me 5 minutes alone so I can calm down and not turn into a crazy person and then I can hear you.” It’s unlikely that he’ll fight you on it and if anything you may have just earned an extra point or two where coming back to talk may not be so bad. Ladies do yourself a favor: No matter how hard you’re working on your tower of blocks, if some of the pieces begin to fall don’t just kick the whole thing down. Instead pause, take a deep breath and simply put each one back one by one by one.
Be smart and choose the road leading to the deep breathing adult and not the road leading to the tantruming child.
(p.s. – the magical unicorn will probably thank you)