I was shuffling my kids into the car one morning when I heard two crying children (not mine!!) and looked up to see a very hassled neighbour looking like he wanted to pull his hair out. I gave him a wave and a smile and asked “Having fun?” in an attempt to put a sense of humour into his clearly challenging morning. He was also doing the day care drop-off and it wasn’t going as smoothly as he would have liked. He responded to me with a roll of the eyes and declared “It’s one of those days!”.

I hear “It’s one of those days!”a lot

I fully appreciated his situation, not that there was anything I could do to help at that moment. I realised then that I hear this phrase so often, including from my coaching clients. Often at the start of a coaching session, I do hear that they feel like a failure today, or they considered postponing as they don’t have enough hours in the day, or they feel like they’re chasing their tale and need every spare minute. To their credit, they prioritised themselves and did not postpone, which will turn out to be the best decision they made all day.

One of those days can lead me to feel like I just want to go back to bed and start again. I want to put earphones in and blast music so I can’t hear crying, whingeing, tantrums, or incessant “MUM!!!!!”. It’s those days when nothing goes to plan. It’s my morning to take care of the kids and do the day care drop-off before work. Breakfast is thrown on the floor. The children argue and scream at each other over absolutely everything. Dressing them is not fun when they find it hilarious to run away from me after each item of clothing.

Eventually, frustration overrides my usually calm nature and I snap,  they cry and we still are no closer to being ready to leave the house. I haven’t and probably won’t have a shower that day. I’ll be lucky if my clothes match. I’ve run out of nappies for the younger one. I’m annoyed and angry. I wish I was better organised. I wish I had more time. I wish I could remain happy and calm in the chaos. I hate being late for work and feeling rushed. Rushing leads to stress (not the good kind). The kids feel it and they project it back at me and we all have a bad time. That’s when I know it’s one of those days – and it’s only just gone 7:30am.  

You can turn this around and break the cycle of negativity. As an Executive and Transition Coach, I get to spend an hour with someone who starts a session in a harried and overwhelmed mindset. They leave breathing more deeply; shoulders lowered by about 10cm; posture straighter; head held higher; no longer clinging to their phone like it’s a lifeline full of email potential; thinking more clearly; and with a smile.

But not everyone gets to spend an hour with a Coach on these days. So, what can you do to help yourself if you’re having one of those days?

  1. Know your stress triggers – for me it’s having to rush. And sleep deprivation. If I’ve had no sleep and I’m rushing madly from one thing to the next, it’s likely I’m not going to be performing at my best.
  2. Notice when you’re stressed and overwhelmed and stop in that moment to acknowledge how this can negatively impact your day – break the cycle there and then. Signs of stress = talking fast; lack of focus – you might be multi-tasking but not actually achieving very much; emotions such as crying or snapping easily at others; easily distracted or frustrated at being distracted.
  3. Slow down – take 10 deep breaths and bring yourself into the moment. This will help to reduce stress immediately. Remove yourself from your usual environment – step outside for 5 or 10 minutes, or go into a different room.
  4. Talk to someone – it helps to say out loud that you are having a bad day. Choose a good listener and someone you trust (another working parent for example) – once you tell someone what’s going on, it might not seem so bad. They may be able to help you gain perspective.
  5. Prioritise – on these days you can’t do it all. You won’t be performing at your optimum level. Take 15 minutes to plan your day and decide what is most important for you to focus on.
  6. Be kind to yourself – you’re doing the best you can. Being a working parent is not an easy gig and yet the majority of parents are now working in some capacity. The juggle is real and it’s relentless. You can’t do more than you’re doing. Some days the family will get more of your attention and on other days your job will. Some days you’ll feel like you did it all with aplomb. On other days, you’ll feel like you failed at everything. All of these days are part of the life of a working parent. It’s normal, and it’s ok. Give yourself a pat on the back for doing the best you can.
  7. Build a network of working parents – if you don’t already know who in your workplace is a working parent facing the same daily challenges as you are, get to know them. Set up a networking group. Endless benefits can be found in all forms of networking, including this.

Tomorrow is a new day. Whatever it brings, even if “It’s one of those days!” you can deal with it by applying the seven tips above. And remember, you are doing the best you can.

By Kiri Stejko, Executive Coach, Parents At Work