the monster of all mommy meltdowns

I was in the process of losing my mind. Really.

{an old photo... but fitting nonetheless}

It had been nearly two weeks of having a sick toddler – not the kind of sick that causes him to lay low, sleep a lot, and need lots of cuddles. But the kind of sick that puts him completely out of sorts – tantrum upon tantrum, meltdowns for no other reason but somebody looking in the wrong direction, and constant fussing and whining.

His tolerance for anything unpleasurable or not his idea was at ground zero.

I felt so bad for my little boy – so obviously unable to cope with what he was feeling and so incredibly frustrated at his inability to explain to the person who “should” know and understand him most.

But in amongst the compassion and sadness I felt for my son, I also found myself at the end of my own rope.

As Levi sat in our kitchen at our island bench screaming (don’t ask me why – I haven’t a clue), I sat on a chair near the dining room table a few feet away sobbing my guts out. I’m not sure who was crying harder or louder, or who was having a more severe meltdown. Pretty sure it was me on both accounts.

My husband was tied up in meetings at work and my mom was on the other side of the world. I sat there alone in my desperation seriously not knowing how to move forward.

I couldn’t have called a friend if I tried; I was that distraught.

I couldn’t think straight; I couldn’t talk properly; I had completely lost the plot.

In my whopping 18 months of motherhood, this was one of my top two mommy-meltdowns moments. (The other was sometime during those hazy newborn days.)

Just then my neighbor (who’s also a very close friend) came up and knocked on my door. She must have heard the cacophany of wailing from her place while she was home on her lunch break. I was crying too hard to say ‘come in’, so she just let herself in.

Who knows what was running through her mind when she saw me. Most likely she was wondering if I needed to be institutionalized or—at minimum—sedated. (At least that was what I was wondering.)

I was a wreck and all of the built-up stress and desperation was pouring out through my avalanch of tears and gasps for air.

She scooped up Levi, tried to make some sense out of my mumbled words, and then just decided it was best to whisk Levi away leaving me there to cry it all out and get some space so I could figure out how to breathe again.

The rest of the day was a blur. I finally got in the shower, staying there a very, very long time letting the tears get washed down the drain. I read a little. I stared into space a lot. I cried some more. I felt alone. I felt inadequate. I felt like a failure. I felt like giving up.

Most of all I just felt tired. So amazingly pregnant, emotional, and tired.

As much as I really do love being a mom, I do have my moments when I think I would give just about anything to trade places with my husband and sign off my mom duties at 8am and back in again at 5:30pm.

I’ve had some really challenging assignments during my 18 years in the workforce before becoming a mom (wow, that makes me sound really old!). But nothing—and I mean nothing—even comes close to matching the stressors and challenges I’ve encountered since becoming a [mostly] stay-at-home/work-from-home mom.

But you know what? Yesterday afternoon things started to look a little different. And then today they looked even more different.

My funny, happy, silly, smart, energetic little boy was returning.

Yes, he still had a few tantrums today (he’s a toddler after all) but they were manageable and spaced out (as opposed to stacked on top of each other and overlapping). And yes, he still had some coughing fits and a few pretty ugly snot invasions.

But the cheeky twinkle in his eye was back. His personality was back. Even his 18-month-old sense of logic was back (as hilarious as the sound of that is!).

And with his transformation came a little revolution for myself.

Suddenly motherhood looked a bit more manageable again. Suddenly, the thought of adding a newborn to the mix didn’t make me break into a cold sweat and shake in my boots. Suddenly, I felt my confidence returning.

I can do this.

I’m a great mom. I parent my son well. I love him as much as I know how. I care for him in the best way I possibly can.

I can do this. There’s Grace sufficient for the task at hand.

So today, even though I’m bascially two weeks (or more) behind on work and life in general I managed to squeak out some important emails, make my bathroom livable again, and more importantly…… let the rest go so that I could seize the day and enjoy being a mom despite the challenges.

Because as much as I adore my son and wouldn’t give up my place in life for anything, there have been many moments over the last two weeks where I have not enjoyed being mom…. I’ve just struggled being mom.

So I knew I had some enjoying to do.

In honor of our newly rediscovered health/mental health, Levi and I had a mommy-son date this afternoon. It was just a short one to the aquarium and the park, but it was exactly what we both needed. Levi needed space to run and jump and explore. And I needed space to breathe fresh air and practice being in the now.

I wasn’t lamenting over the disaster that was my week. I wasn’t fretting over the responsiblities and obligations that had piled up and still waited my attention. I was just enjoying seeing my son well and healthy and run around like crazy with a smile on his face again.

And it was good. That’s the kind of crazy that fits us best.

Dear friends, I was resuced by a friend and by the return of good health before I completely lost my mind… but not before I was well underway. What do you do when mommy-meltdowns hit?

still exhausted, but feeling more sane,


P.S. I wrote this post several days ago… but I forgot to actually publish it. Life’s been nuts. Better, but still nuts. So just a quick update: Levi’s health continues to improve and it’s now just that stubborn cough that continues to hang on. My mental health continues to improve as well. 🙂


WINNER of the Peekabooby Fashion nursing cover giveaway is:

Comment #10 | samantha | “the first time you did this giveaway i picked the betty (which i still love) but now i’m starting to really love the samurai cover-up…baby#2 is due in november and this cover-up would be great to have since i’d be more open to breastfeeding in public with it on. thanks for doing the giveaways!” Samantha, please contact me within 48 hours to claim your prize.

Note: I’ve also chosen a back-up winner in case Samantha doesn’t contact me. The back-up winner is comment #17: Nessa. (Both chosen by



About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Kirsten
    16 August 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I’m glad things have improved! It’s amazing how things can go from chaos to something sort of resembling normalcy in just a few days. Hope your little guy shakes the cough soon and you continue to feel better!

  • Rachel
    16 August 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Ha ha…I moved back home! Just kidding but not really. You’re so blessed to have someone to come in and give you both a time out. I tink I’ve only had one mummy-meltdown of epic proportions — no, make that three now that I think of it — but the last one was about 2 months ago when Jason was taking a team up to the north of China and I got sick and Xave started to cut his first tooth. All our ‘friends’ were out of town and popping in to help or baby sit is not part of the Chinese culture — you must have family or pay someone to do that. The only sympathy I got was ‘Why don’t you have a Bamu (the nanny/maid)? Well, next time, you should really have a Bamu.” Gee, thanks. What about this time??? Anyway, we survived. Not without several tearful phone calls to Jason and then to my mum. Sometimes, it just plain sucks to be on the other side of the world as your mum. But we survived. And we have coping methods in place for next time (ha! We’ll see!).
    I’m glad Levi and you are doing much better. I hope life settles down for you soon as I know that new baby is going to make his debut in the next few months too! I miss seeing your regular posts. 🙂

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks Rachel! I miss seeing my regular posts too!! 🙂 Writing is so good for me on so many levels, and I’ve just not been able to swing it lately. I’ve got to figure it out though. Feel like there’s this whole part of me being neglected. 🙁 I can only imagine how much harder those meltdowns would feel living in a place as “foreign” as China. You are a hero mother, that’s for sure. Glad you will have some family back-up for this next little while at least. How are things going so far at home with all that you’re setting out to do here? (You know what I mean.) Email me when you get a chance. Love and hugs to you. xx

  • Tracy Dickinson
    16 August 2011 at 11:23 pm

    i can so relate to how you were feeling. i never thought staying home would be harder than working a “real” job! hahaha. there are some days where it is just a little (okay, or a lot) overwhelming. thank God for good friends and good neighbors. don’t forget to take some time for yourself when the chance arises. if you have some alone time, use it for something you enjoy. the housecleaning, facebook and blogger can wait. take a nap, take a bath, read a book, whatever! hope your little one feels 100% very soon!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks Tracy. Yeah, it’s so important isn’t it? Being kind to ourselves. Writing is something I really, really enjoy. I’ve got to figure out how to do it a bit more…

  • Amanda
    16 August 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Sometimes we all just need a good cry. 🙂 Glad it is improving. Sick babies are no fun and indeed stressful. You are a good mom!

  • Kendra
    16 August 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Reading this email made me feel so much better that it is not only me that this happens too. I guess all moms go through this. You are such an inspiration being a mom working for the Lord and I love reading your memos! Yesterday I had a similar day with my only 6 month old where I felt as if he didn’t like me anymore and nothing made him quite his happy self, I know probably sounds crazy to some but I think I cried more than he did yesterday. Looking forward to your new arrival and will be praying for your family of 4! Glad things have returned to normal and I think I’ll take my little guy on a mommy son date today as well!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:25 pm

      Oh yes, I know what you mean. It’s hard not to project feelings on our little ones, but I know I’ve done the exact same thing before – thought “he just doesn’t like me anymore” in the midst of a very emotional and challenging day and yet rationally I know that’s ridiculous. I hope you’re having some FUN mommy-son time when you need it too. Sometimes all we need to do is leave the house and hit the park… and BAM, all feels right in the world again. 🙂 Hugs to you!! x

  • SushiMama
    17 August 2011 at 12:03 am

    So glad you had someone to step in and give you some help! My mom doesn’t live across the world, but she does live in another state, actually all of our family lives in other states, which makes me nervous for when we have kiddos. You are an awesome mom, and I appreciate you sharing the side of motherhood that’s not all rainbows and giggles.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Yes, it’s hard being away from our moms… but no doubt when the time comes you’ll have the grace to handle it all. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way… but that’s the truth. You’ll do great, even though it isn’t all “rainbows and giggles” as you said! 🙂

  • Greta
    17 August 2011 at 12:12 am

    You are soo not alone in this. You ARE an amazing mama…truly evident in the beautiful boy you’re raising. We ALL have our moments; I like to think this is what encourages us to grow as parents. We aren’t perfect and neither are our children. If we were, we wouldn’t need to seek God in all we do; parenthood included. Bless you Adriel! And bring your neighbor some cookies and invite her to do it again any time…tears or no tears 🙂 😉

  • Rosilind
    17 August 2011 at 12:24 am

    Isn’t it great to have someone step in and help? Something similar happened to me when Robi was really little. We don’t have a nursery in our church, and so at that time we didn’t have a specific place for nursing mothers (we do now – after a couple of uncomfortable incidents), so I went to the balcony – that is never in use – and after nursing Robi he was still very fussy and he let the world know about it….and the poor pastor (my b-i-l) was very distracted. He kindly asked if the mother might be able to step out with their child until he/she calmed down. Well, there I was on the balcony….ummm….unable go anywhere at that moment since I had just finished nursing and wasn’t….decent yet. My sister was sort of clued in to the fact that I was in a bit of trouble – and she came up and helped me. There I was about as red as a tomato, knowing the pastor had no idea about my situation, but definitely wanting a big hole to just come and swallow me whole. She kindly took Robi and took him into children’s church (where he had a great time) and let me sit in on the rest of the service without having to worry about him….for the first time in months! What would I do without her??? Having 4 kids already, she knows the value of a well-timed break!

    Sometimes we just need some downtime. Especially as pregnant moms of toddlers. lol!!! I am glad that Levi is feeling better now, though.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:32 pm

      Oh yes, and especially in those newborn days when we are still really learning how to be confident in caring for the littles. I can just imagine how helpless and vulnerable you felt then. Thank God for your sister swooping in to the rescue. No doubt she was more than happy to do so!! And yes, downtime… downtime is good!

  • Cari
    17 August 2011 at 12:28 am

    “I can do this. There’s Grace sufficient for the task at hand.”

    Love that, so powerful. Despite the worst days, and meltdowns days, and beyond exhausted-I-can’t-do-this-anymore days, there is always tomorrow. With tomorrow comes the chance to start all over again. That’s a good thing when you’re a Mom.

    You are certainly not alone, I’ve been there too many times to count, heck, last week. In being a good role model for your son, he needs to see those imperfections too.

    Thanks for sharing this post! And btw, amazing neighbor!!! Glad you and Levi are finding your way back:)

  • Nessa
    17 August 2011 at 4:18 am

    Oh man I am feeling you with all of this. 18 month olds are a devastating combo of the understanding to know exactly what they want and yet not have the skills yet to communicate (at least I have yet to understand the tirad of babbles mine screams at me).

  • Kerry McCullough
    17 August 2011 at 4:36 am

    Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry you’ve been going through that– and pregnant, no less! I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’ve ALL been there. My worst mommy meltdowns were when Niall was a newborn, because I was so inexperienced, had so much pain and trouble breastfeeding, was running on so little sleep, and couldn’t deal with all the constant crying. It was scary because at that early in the game, I thought to myself “OH NO! What if I don’t have that natural mommy-ness that women just are supposed to get all of a sudden. What if I’m not cut out for this?!” And then it got better and better. The temper tantrums these days are certainly no fun, but I’ve found that the more I can get Niall outside, running around, the less problems we have. He needs fresh air like he needs food and water. So that’s been the biggest thing I’ve learned. I hope things continue to get better for you. Get lots of rest at night and take some time to yourself when he’s sleeping!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:35 pm

      “The temper tantrums these days are certainly no fun, but I’ve found that the more I can get Niall outside, running around, the less problems we have. He needs fresh air like he needs food and water.” YES, YES, and YES!!! I totally agree!

  • Monica
    17 August 2011 at 9:32 am

    Oh Adriel! I’ve had a month kinda like that….Chase (9mos) has decided that he will wake up after 45 minutes of nap and then just cry and fuss the rest of the afternoon! I’ve tried everything – controlled crying, just leaving him to cry, getting him up and trying to put him back down, just getting him up – except our latest experiment, going in and patting til he goes back to sleep. Anyway, I’ve felt at the very end of sanity many a day lately – combined with moving to a new area and hubby very busy at work. My low was one day last week when I had a complete meltdown and threw the laundry I was folding all over the living room (while Chase was crying in his cot). :/ Then I felt like an out-of-control, crazy, terrible mum. But I’m ok now. 0_o

    Thankfully my family is in Australia for two more years – only 30 minutes away. Going to my mom’s house on Mondays has made the start of the week so much more manageable. Alex worked from home on Friday so I could just have another person around and we could go to a maternal-child health nurse appt together with Chase. And getting outside helps alot. And staying as busy as I can whilst not trying to mess up Chase’s routine. 🙂

    So…you’re not alone! Mommyhood is the hardest thing I have ever done – also the most rewarding, but definitely the hardest! Thank God for His grace, which IS sufficient!!

    Blessings and hope you have a better week! 🙂

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      25 August 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Oh geeze! I have never thrown laundry all over the living room in a moment of desperation… but I’ll have to remember that one for next time – a fairly harmless way to express exasperation! LOL. I can imagine how you felt like a crazy mom after that though – I probably would have felt the same. But then isn’t it amazing how things can be so hard one moment and then the next day completely different and “easy”? As predictable as our kids are… they are also highly unpredictable. I just thank God for new mercies EVERY morning. So glad you have your family there with you. What a huge blessing that is indeed!! Hang in there mama, no doubt you’re doing a great job! x

  • Kim
    18 August 2011 at 3:47 am

    There are so many experiences of motherhood I never read about in my “becoming a mommy” books, like how we got through cycles of highs and lows. My highs and lows really hit me after my second baby was born, because my 23-month-old first daughter was so challenging for me, needing me more in a way than my newborn. And living far away from our moms makes it that much harder. Thank goodness for friends and neighbors, but sometimes we still have to go through a low moment alone and that is really hard. I am so glad you are doing okay. Being pregnant exhausts the body and mind. But seeing the spirit and energy of our little ones gives us the encouragement to keep going and get back up there!!

  • Micheline
    19 August 2011 at 1:10 am

    Oh Adriel, I’ve so been there. More times than I’d like to admit since this pregnancy! I think we give ourselves such a hard time as mothers, trying to be so perfect and be such good examples at every moment. We clearly need to release and have a good cry every now and then. So great that your neighbor was able to step in and give you a much-needed break. Glad to hear that Levi is feeling better, too.

  • Amy Sullivan
    22 August 2011 at 11:07 am

    Oh, glad to hear about the improvement.

    When mommy-meltdown hits? There’s only one answer: Call in the troops. I must find a way to leave, even for an hour!

  • Rebecca Watson
    23 August 2011 at 11:57 am

    I haven’t experienced mommy meltdowns but I am sure I will here in a couple of weeks! Hope everything is well now! 🙂

  • If only « the bookers in missions
    25 August 2011 at 3:54 pm

    […] Pregnancy with a still very-young toddler has been kicking me in the backside. Working in ministry has been stressful as we are pulled in a thousand directions – Ryan especially is always solving someone else’s problems it seems. Being fulltime “volunteers” has a set of financial and faith-related pressures that are difficult to even describe. Ryan’s been immobilized with back problems. Levi’s been sick and up at night for three solid weeks. I’ve had pain and illness of one sort or the other for almost four months now – and just when one issue resolves another creeps in. And there is still a big unknown about the health of our precious little boy who is due in six weeks time… even though we know we will be okay with whatever the outcome. […]

  • if only… « The Mommyhood Memos
    25 August 2011 at 5:12 pm

    […] the monster of all mommy meltdowns […]

  • michelle
    26 August 2011 at 10:20 am

    i want to reach through the computer and give you a big mummy hug. i’ve had three mummy meltdowns. one for newborn jayde, one for toddler jayde and one for 18 month dominic. dom laughed at his 18 month meltdown but jayde was old enough to understand. she was completely and utterly terrified. the look on her face gave me perspective in one foul swoop and i haven’t had one since.
    thank you my fellow stay at home work at home generally super hard working mummy. i feel less isolated and a ‘little’ bit more normal xx

  • Jessica W
    27 August 2011 at 1:32 am

    So I’m behind…probably because I’ve been having similar mommy meltdowns since the new little one arrived. Transitioning from 1 to 2 while working from home has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But there IS grace like you said. And I know it sounds cliche but it’s true. Praying we’ll both be able to tap into that grace daily because it’s there waiting for us to access it. So glad Levi is doing better!


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