Hard Days Can Have Happy Endings

The last Friday in February was an especially tough one.

John was out of the country, his return delayed by weather. Again (the same thing happened two weeks previous).

I was home. It was a snow day. Thus the kids were also home. Again. (I love my kids, really and truly, but they have been home SO, SO, SO much these last two years and there can be too much of a good thing.)

We did laundry and ate breakfast and put out the garbage and read books and generally set ourselves up for a good day. But I was not in the right headspace.

I’d had a migraine on Thursday. I woke up tired and grumpy. I had some difficult work calls looming that were going to require my full attention. I simply didn’t want to put on my “Mom” cap for another long day home alone (the kids had been off on Monday, too).

At 9:15 am I told the kids to go play quietly and promised videos around 10:00 am because I needed to prep for those meetings. I made the mistake of adding the disclaimer that I might put on a video as early as 9:45 am.

At precisely 9:45 am, a knock came on my door and the kids came in very enthusiastically (not even waiting for an Enter, which they are usually good at pausing for) looking for those videos I had promised.

My response was not pretty. I wanted – and needed – those extra 10 minutes in silence. I apologized for yelling (but then tacked on another little rant about needing alone time).

My boundaries were all justified and necessary, but my approach was flawed. I texted a friend and told her “I just need to get to bedtime.”

But really, I just needed to get to supper. I lit candles. I turned on twinkle lights. I heated up leftovers – Mac N’ Cheese and savory soup (comfort food at its best). We ate slowly. I spent time quizzing the kids on “big” words – a favourite new mealtime activity. We lingered after the food was gone.

At 7:15 pm my friend texted to congratulate me on reaching the bedtime hour; by this point the kids had made their way outside to sled on our little side hill with a friend.

I sat on my bed reading a book, listening to them laugh hysterically; the snow was still falling and the moon was full. I couldn’t have scripted a better ending to our day. They came in cold and wet and very happy and we made hot cocoa and lit the candles again. They hit balloons around the living room and I pumped music through the speakers. There was more laughing.

It was an idyllic evening if ever I saw one. But it took wading through a lot of rather unpleasant stuff to get there.

Hard days don’t always have happy endings. I know this. I’ve had lots of hard nights too…but sometimes what can feel like a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (thanks, Alexander), can end up being alright or even great.

And that’s a win in my books.

What about you; any recent days that started with a bad morning but morphed into a “happy-ending” sort of day?

Header photo by freestocks on Unsplash

20 thoughts on “Hard Days Can Have Happy Endings”

  1. Oh Elisabeth. I hear you on the too much of a good thing aspect. Your kids have been out of school a LOT. And especially when you are already lone wolfing it, that can be extra difficult.

    Kind blog readers always point out to me, when I lament losing my temper, that is a good example to set for our kids: Sometimes, we get upset. And we apologize, and talk about how we can do better next time. The emotion isn’t the bad thing — not even the expression (however lacking it might feel) of that emotion. But the handling of it, the communication of it. You are a great mom. You are doing hard things.

    Very glad the day ended up turning around. That’s magical.

    1. Great points! As parents (especially mothers) we need these pep talks. Controlling emotions is yet another lessons we need to learn in tandem with our kiddos and modelling that things can feel tough sometimes for adults to is a useful for kids to learn!
      It’s all water under the bridge now and I’m glad we managed to turn the day around… 🙂

  2. I love how you turned that day around, and I love how you lit candles at dinnertime! Instead of waiting to enjoy yourself after the kids went to bed you ended up having a wonderful evening with them. I bet the kids thought it was the best day ever!

    1. Well…none of us thought the morning was that great but there is definitely a bias when the day ends well! I just have to remember that just because of a rough start I don’t have to stay in a rut. Sometimes through good luck or a shift in attitude the day can end on a high note and hopefully that’s what we all remember!!!
      And, yes, I usually only light these “fancy” candles a few times each winter but this year I did it almost every night and really did love it every time. I have them (special to me because they’re Danish in origin from my brother and his Danish wife)…why not use them?!!

  3. When emotions blow up, it can be so hard to shift the day. I think it is awesome that you rallied and made such a cozy and loving end to the day. More often I tend to the opposite and will start out great but when I’m tired at the end of the day I definitely lack in patience.
    We have had no where near the number of snow days you have had (in my city). Outside the city has been a different story. It’s a lot to manage your own day along with the kids. I can’t say it better than @Suzanne: You are a great mom!
    I hope that the sabbatical gives you some much deserved support and rest in taking care of all the pieces.

    1. Yes I definitely have lots of reverse days – where things start out great and go downhill. And, sometimes, bad days can have bad beginnings, middles and endings! Sadly, I sometimes default to feeling like it has to be that way? It’s a bit like eating a piece of chocolate cake at breakfast and then eating nothing but junk food the rest of the day even though you could have a piece of chocolate cake at breakfast and still eat normally the rest of the day.
      Somewhere along the way (Gretchen Rubin maybe) mentioned partitioning our days into morning, afternoon, supper, evening quarters. Treating each one quasi-independently so we can feel free to “reset” behaviours or moods when we switch between different periods. I try (often unsuccessfully) to think about this when I’m really struggling. Just because I had a hard morning, doesn’t mean I can’t have a good afternoon. Just because I had a hard afternoon doesn’t mean I can’t have a good evening, etc.
      Thanks for the kind words. I do my best in mothering. I fall short over and over again, but we all do. There is NO perfect mother and slowly realizing that really is the truth feels liberating. And, yes, the sabbatical is already feeling like such a wonderful and necessary change of pace for our family. No evening meetings feels…lifechanging!

  4. For me the toughest day was last Sunday. It is cold and freezing outside, but we don’t have any snow (Midwest). We did great on Saturday: I baked blueberry scones and had some “quality time” on the kitchen, my boys (ages 4 and 7) had their screen time until lunch, my husband did whatever projects he did, no one seem to bother each other. We had home-made chicken soup for lunch (yay for good food), had 30 min “quiet/nap time” ( my screen time), and then went to the pool. It was awesome, and my husband and i took turns watching the boys (at this age, both parents need to be in the water with them). We then took out Subway for dinner, and had a family movie time. Boy, we made them tired!!! Mission was accomplished!!!
    But on Sunday my husband was gone to work. I had two other moms over for coffee, so spent about 1 hour cleaning the house, and somehow the dynamic of the coffee date was not rewarding/recharging to me (Note to myself: nice try, but i am not doing it again). Then my boys and I had brunch (again homemade zucchini pancakes and eggs), and went off to YMCA this time to take advantage of the free gym. I took badminton and basketball with us, but while there, no one wanted to play because it is “boring”. So i ended up playing with another girl that was there (she showed interest in our badminton), and slowly my boys cooperated and turned in. At the end, we were all playing tag, and just running around. I was so tired (mostly drained from the unsuccessful coffee date), but it was still about 2 pm. So i remembered my last trick – gave each boy $2 and took them to the Dollar store. It was the best 30 min of my day when they were deciding on their gifts. We then came home for snack and more games. It was about the time when i started “loosing it”, and just really wanted to be alone for a little bit. I somehow managed till dinner (the boys had hotdogs with a side of veggies and fruit – i had no energy for a decent meal), and then my husband got home almost around bedtime. We did bedtime together, and I could finely feel a relief when the lights were off, the kids were asleep, and i had my one hour to watch Netflix before bedtime. So on Monday when I dropped them to school, i gave myself a full hour in the morning just to sit in the quiet house and gain my energy back before i started to work (I am a researcher). Solo parenting days/weekends are hard.

    1. It can be so hard to follow up a good day (Saturday) with another good day! And I hear you on the tough winter; we’ve had snow off and on but it hasn’t really lasted so we’ve had a lot of in-between weather that really isn’t much good for any activity outside.
      It’s so hard to recover from something you’ve designed to be fun but that ends up being an energy drain (in your case the coffee date). I find many activities that would normally feel pleasant become a lot more challenging when I’m tired or overstretched. It’s so hard to find the balance between staying active (i.e. keeping the kids off videos all day) and needing a break as a solo parent.
      I’m glad you made it to bedtime in one piece and sounds like that hour on Monday was a great start to the week. I’m trying to give myself permission to “putter” for a while each morning after the kids leave for school as I find it really clears my head and helps me focus in on work and other mentally intensive tasks!

      1. Thanks, Elizabeth! I do exactly that – allow myself to stay “put” in the mornings for 20-30 min before i actively engage into my work. I am glad i am not alone, and so happy to receive a confirmation that other people need this time too!

  5. I think where our headspace is makes a big difference the whole day will head that’s why I love meditating to start it so I’m in a good place. Not always feel it ends he same positive way but that’s okay. Life is in between ups and downs.

  6. I am glad things turned around for you! I yelled at Paul a couple of weeks ago in the morning and then I felt awful. I apologized profusely and like another commenter said, it is good to be able to demonstrate that we aren’t perfect and how to repair a situation that hasn’t gone well.

    Gosh it’s hard to think of a day that’s ended super well lately… we are really in the weeds over here as Phil and I both ended up getting the stomach virus Paul had. Last night was a particularly bad night as I wasn’t feeling well yet and I was very sensitive and just off. So for example, Phil said something about how he sure is good at not throwing up (his version of the stomach virus didn’t involve puking). I was like – ‘do you really think that is something under your control? Do you think I could have NOT thrown up yesterday?!?!?’ He commented on how personal I was taking a statement that wasn’t meant to be an attack on how I got sick. But of course in my mind I was thinking he thought you had control over what your body does. But I am just a puker unfortunately and there is no stopping it!

    Better days have to be ahead for us now that we’ve all had this stupid virus, though.

    1. Vomit is horrible. Our former financial advisor once told me her 14-year old had only vomited once – a single time when he was 8 years old. What now? I swear my kids just hear someone is sick and they start to barf (though, thankfully, we seem to be largely past the stomach virus stage of life).
      I hate vomiting and have had my share of stomach bugs (pre-COVID; we haven’t had anything, really, since the pandemic started because we’ve been home/there is so much sanitizer and mask use everywhere we go). I get very sensitive, too – when I’m overtired, overworked, or sick.

      All the best – and yes to better days ahead! I’m rooting for you guys. You’ve had an absolutely horrendous slew of viruses over the last year.

  7. This reminds me of a quote I read somewhere about how the part of a book people remember the most is the end, so it better be the best part.
    But I don’t necessarily think life should be like that… I like the idea you mentioned above about compartmentalizing. I think this is why even when I have a tough morning with the kids, I’m still glad to be at work – it is indeed like a fresh start. And similarly, when I’ve had a tough day at work, or when I’m coming home super late from a really bad rehearsal, I think … “Well, at least I know my bed will be warm and welcoming!” Life has so many moments – there are bound to be some crappy ones as well as some great ones. I really admire how you had the strength to not get mired and move on on such a pro-actively positive way!

    1. I remember an episode on the podcast No Stupid Questions where they discuss (I can’t remember the official name of the study) the results of research that shows we have an “ending bias.” So if we go on a vacation and have a horrible first day, but great last day, we’re likely to remember the vacation as positive; if it’s reversed (more positive at the beginning and a bad day at the end, we’re more likely to categorize the whole vacation as not being great). I found that fascinating!
      I do think compartmentalizing helps me because I’m so prone to just assuming the whole day is going to be a write-off (and then acting upon that belief by doing more things to dig a deeper hole)…where if I treat each chunk of the day as an individual unit I can try to pivot back toward more positive thinking.

  8. I always feel bad when I yell at my pets, so I can imagine it’s even worse when it’s your kids! I have a really hard time turning a day around when it starts off on a bad foot, but usually, I’ll just try to give myself buckets and buckets of grace. I have to repeat the mantra, “A bad day doesn’t equal a bad life,” because I can start downward spiraling that EVERYTHING in my life is terrible when, really, it was just a mean comment from a client that doesn’t really mean anything. Or that sometimes, we just wake up in a bad mood and it’s okay if that happens. We’re not robots – it’s unnatural for us to be in great moods every single day. I also try to put things into perspective: Some people are having much, much worse days than I am and I can be grateful that THIS is all I’m dealing with. I know playing the Pain Olympics isn’t helpful in most respects and it’s not necessarily about diminishing the hard time I’m having, but more about finding a little bit of gratefulness in a bad day.

    Obviously, I have a lot to say about this topic, haha!

    I like the idea of being present and focusing on getting to the next moment. I’m glad you were able to turn your day around!

    1. What a great mantra! A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. That’s genius; I’m going to add that to my quotes collection.
      I do the same thing – one little element that goes wrong can really upset every element of life for me. Sometimes I just need to wallow; these reactions are a sign that I need to take a big step back and enforce some relaxation or a change of pace. But sometimes, I just need to give myself a pep talk and put things in perspective.
      And yes to allowing ourselves to feel all the feelings. Somedays, for no particular reason, I wake up feeling blue. One of my latest things is allowing myself some time to putter before I sit down to do scheduled work. I need the time to feel productive but without any set goal – so I’ll fold towels in the bathroom or do a load of dishes. I don’t consider this puttering to be “chores” because it’s not set and I just float around the house doing things relatively mindlessly which helps reset my mood. I almost always use this time to declutter or put things back in their place (fold blankets, fluff pillows). This has been a big boost to me on days where I feel “off”
      And yes, too, about accepting the pain as real and warranted while also being conscious of paying attention to those areas of life where we find nuggets of joy and give thanks for those. Hard and joy exist on a continuum and often co-exist.

  9. I love how you turned this around. What a hard start to the day. And, like others have said, your kids saw you being human. That’s a good thing. You are their mom – but you also have feelings and needs (for time, in this case). They know you love them – the hot cocoa and dance party post-sledding should help them realize that. 😉

    And yes! USE THE NICE CANDLES. I do wonder, sometimes, why we wait to use the “good stuff”. We keep the nice perfume until it smells like vinegar, or the special food until it goes bad. Bring the beautiful into the every day – it makes it just a bit more special. (More special, of course, than just the joy of being alive. :>)

    Hugs to you. <3 And come on, spring!

    1. The hot cocoa and dance party SHOULD help them recognize that…but sometimes I think they believe they have the meanest, least-fun mother imaginable. Haha.
      It was so warm and sunny yesterday and today is cold with rain + freezing rain. Ugh. But it’s coming (officially tomorrow, in fact).

  10. Ugh, that solo-parenting at home when you also need to work must be so hard. I get snappy with my husband sometimes when he interrupts me when I am in the “working zone” and I know he can handle it. Ranting at your kids must feel terrible, but the good thing is: kids are also quick to forgive and you totally turned the day around in the end 🙂

    1. Ranting at the kids does feel terrible and I can even tell I’m going to feel terrible as I’m doing it.
      The kids are quick to forgive and hopefully we all learn lessons from it (the kids to read the situation and extend grace when I’m parenting solo and me to…stop losing my temper, sigh).

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