Moms are powerful people. We can kiss away aches and pains, scare off closet-dwelling monsters, and whip up holiday magic like no other. But perhaps the most noble ability many moms possess is the power to influence the mood in our own homes. Think of us as weathervanes: if we’re feeling irritable, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else under our roof is too.
But if there’s one thing that nearly nine months of isolating with my family has taught me, it’s that no mood is permanent. When the day goes downhill and there is more screaming and sibling fighting than I can bear, I reach for creative ways to press reset on our day. Oftentimes that means shooing everyone outside, but other times it’s as simple as sitting down with my oldest and agreeing to a do-over. We wipe our slates clean of any harsh words or whiny tones and try again. Hugs and chocolate help too.
With the threat of endless cooped-up winter days ahead, I reached out to some of the wisest women I know to see how they shift the mood in their homes. Here are the inventive, often silly, and mood-swaying moves they swear by.
“We use the ‘reset’ idea all the time! We literally rewind time like in a movie—so if they are being little cranky monsters at breakfast and I’m being impatient I might say ‘Hang on, I think I need to rewind!!’ then I do funny backwards talking and walk backwards out of the room and backwards up the stairs, then stop, reverse with a screech, and replay forwards with comedically effusive smiles and kisses. Usually, they want to copy me and do their own time-rewind too.
We also have a special listening step, where there is one rule: no anger. No matter what has happened, what anyone has just said or done, if you sit down on that step with me, I will only listen and comfort, not judge. Bingo, mood-busting magic. Usually, their craving for that connection is stronger than whatever feelings have gotten control of them.” – Katie B., London, mom of two
My go-to is to pretend to be some kind of animal, the sillier, the better.
“My go-to is to pretend to be some kind of animal–the sillier, the better. I will get down on all fours, run around in circles, etc. Generally, pretend play of any kind really helps me break through tension and grouchiness and lighten things up a bit.” – Emily P., NY, mom of one
“The other day, after a long day of work, distance learning, living, etc. I made my husband and daughter go for a walk. It was dark out and every house in our neighborhood is glowing with holiday lights. It reset our moods for sure.” – Jenn J., MN, mom of one
“I sit my kids down and tell them we’ve all had a not so great time, myself included, and I’m sorry for getting overly upset and that I think we all need to take a deep breath and hit the reset button. I then hold out my hand and tell them to push the button. They both push the ‘button’ and make their own button-pushing noise. Doesn’t always work, but it usually helps us feel like our slate has been wiped clean. I do that, or I get us outside (if possible), or I separate us all for some quiet or zoned out time.” – Hannah M., TN, mom of two
“Piggyback rides! Seriously… they change the tone in our house so quickly. At first, it was all about play, but I noticed that if the mood in our house seems tense, piggyback rides can lighten us up and connect us again. It turns into a game where the dog chases us around while I’m giving the piggyback ride and playfully nips at the kids’ feet, which they love. Lots of giggles alongside the physical connection/closeness seems often to shift the mood just enough for us.” – Danielle L., ID, mom of two
When all else fails, I stick them in the tub with a heap of bubbles and some bath toys and let them splash their troubles away.
“Sometimes it helps to acknowledge to my kids that the day is really tough for all of us and to invite them to brainstorm ideas to reset as a team. When they’re too far gone to cooperate, FaceTiming Grandma usually helps. When all else fails, I stick them in the tub with a heap of bubbles and some bath toys and let them splash their troubles away. I like the last option because I can sneak in a face mask or some other little treat to change my mood too.” – Maggie G., IL, mom of two
“Order dinner out or meet a food truck at a brewery. Have ice cream. Get into pajamas. Put on a movie. Grab doughnuts from our favorite shop. Take a shower.” – Joy E., CA, mom of one
“Our current thing is to have a Halloween party, as invented by my 4-year-old: we turn off all the lights, play dance music, and dance and leap around the living room while sometimes yelling ‘Boo!'” – Jackie P., IN, mom of three
… I make a stupid robot noise, and then we giggle and usually it resets the mood pretty well.
“I came up with the ‘reset button.’ At some point when people have been crabby (including me), one of my daughters and I will ask each other if we can ‘hit the reset button.’ I usually put her on my lap or hug her and ask ‘Where’s your button?’ and when I press it (elbow, head, belly, wherever), she makes a funny robot ‘bee-boop’ noise, then she asks where mine is, she presses, I make a stupid robot noise, and then we giggle and usually it resets the mood pretty well.” – Pam M., CO, mom of two
“There is a little farm near us in the city, and when days are particularly tough, we bundle up and head over to the goats and horses. Maybe it’s just the change of scenery, but I’d like to think there is something peaceful and grounding about communing with these wise and solemn animals.” – Anny D., IL, mom of one