Chana's 4 Calm Mom Rules

When I first became a mom, I was so stressed out, so anxious, that garden-variety bickering between the kids or just getting uncooperative the kids out of the house in the morning was enough to push me over the edge—screaming, panicking, hitting.

Today, while I definitely still have my faults and mothering traits that I struggle with day after day after day,  I have,  at the very least,  managed to become a really calm mom.

So what’s my secret?  What has changed?

Here are my 4 Calm-Mom rules.  If you are a stressed out mom, and you can adopt even one of these changes, your kids will thank you, and YOU will thank you too.

  1. No Sugar– I used to wake up every day with a cup of coffee with two heaping tablespoons of sugar (my husband’s favorite quip: “Would you like some coffee with your sugar?”) I ate healthily in general, but on Shabbat, or on special occasions, or late at night I’d treat myself to sugary treats. But then, 5 years ago, I read about the connection between sugar and mood swings, and realizing  that I could use some help in the mood-stability department, and I decided to try cutting out the sugar.

It was really, really tough (envision an alcoholic at the Betty Ford Center) but I stuck with it—for 2 whole weeks. Until one Shabbat when a guest brought us this amazing, gourmet $50 cake. And I decided that a little Shabbat treat wouldn’t do any harm, and I cut myself a big pastel-yellow slice. That night, I was so anxious and so wired that I couldn’t get to sleep until 3 AM! This showed me loud and clear what sugar had been doing to me for all those years… And that was the last time I had sugar, and I’ve never looked back.

2. No Caffeine– Around that same time, I read about the caffeine-anxiety connection, and I decided that that had to go as well. Breaking my addiction to that morning cup of coffee was also very tough. How would I wake up in the morning without it? But after the first few tough, groggy days, I realized that I felt just as awake without coffee and tea as I once did with them. And it helped me to continue and stick with my decision once I realized how much calmer I felt.

Again, cutting out caffeine and sugar has totally changed me. I am a different person. More calm, more in control, more stable.

Sugar and caffeine for anxious moms, I’ve decided, are the Sitra Achra, the Dark Side. Try going cold turkey until Chanukah. You will thank me.

3. Daily Exercise– I was never ever a go-to-the-gym type. In fact, I fulfilled my highschool requirement for an after-school sport by serving as the “manager” for the school ultimate Frisbee team 🙂

But about two years ago, I was feeling really overweight and generally disgusted with myself, and I decided to join a gym. And now I go to the gym six days a week, not because of my weight (although that is a nice side benefit) but because exercise makes me feel AMAZING.

An article called “Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious” that appeared in last week’s New York Times explains why exercise makes us feel so good, and why it is so important for us stress-surrounded moms in particular. Basically, after 6 weeks of regular vigorous exercise, rats were found to have brains that were Teflon-resistant to stress. “The rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm.” Want to be “biochemically, molecularly, calm” when your kids are trying their darndest to drive you up a wall? Exercise! Join a gym today!

4. Join a Parenting Class– Learn how to get your kids to cooperate, and how to educate them with a smile and a prize rather than a scowl and a smack. I know, you don’t have time to take a parenting class. But do it anyway. The hours you invest in learning proper and positive parenting techniques is the greatest investment you can make in your precious children, as well as your own precious (and dwindling?) sanity.

Remember, your sons and your daughters are learning how to be parents from YOU! Which means that you are simultaneously investing in the mental health of three generations- your own, your children’s, and your grandchildren’s as well…


  1. Hadassah Aber

    way to go! how long do you exercize at the gym? who watches the little ones? keep up the good work. EMETT did it for me years ago. and I still use the tools when things get tough.

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