Getting Through a Toddler Rough Patch


This morning I was woken up at exactly 6:23 by my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter whisper-shouting “I need my bottom wiped!” 

A month ago I would have found this slightly endearing, as only a mother could; I would have laughed, followed her into the bathroom, and dutifully wiped her bottom.

But this morning was different. This morning I pulled the covers over my head and groaned. I gritted my teeth, prayed to the toddler gods to give me patience for the next fourteen hours, and trudged to the bathroom. One day her asking me to wipe her butt will be cute again. But today is not that day.

You see, my daughter and I, we’re going through sort of a rough patch . . . an out of sync-ness, if you will. An unconscious uncoupling, as Gwyneth Paltrow would put it. I’ve discovered that much like husbands and wives or best friends go through tough times, so do mothers and their children. 

You, too, may be going through a rough patch with your child if hearing them say your name makes your skin crawl. Or if minutes seem like hours whenever they’re around.  A toddler rough patch can also involve a lot of coffee. And wine.

Basically, everything your toddler does, from chewing her peanut butter and jelly sandwich to zipping her jacket, annoys you. To be clear, I understand that this is not my daughter’s fault. She is only three, after all. She is a product of me and my parenting. But toddler rough patches have no rhyme or reason. They come out of nowhere and without warning. One day you just wake up and would rather step on Legos than spend the entire day with your three-year-old. Maybe it’s because my toddler decided that she’s done with naps. Or perhaps the reason for this particular rough patch is the fact that she’s learned every single word to every single Moana song and insists on singing them over and over and over. Or maybe it happens to coincide with the stresses of back-to-school. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that for the past week, I have not enjoyed my toddler’s company. Which is unfortunate because I happen to be a stay-at-home-mom. Of course, I try my best to hide this fact from her. I treat her with respect and love and I perform all of the necessary motherly tasks, but they seem to take ten times the effort. 

Trust me, I know this sounds harsh. Nobody wishes this weren’t happening more than I do. But I also feel it’s important to be honest. Because there are periods of time… hours, days, weeks when I can’t stand my child. When I have to literally bite my tongue from screaming profanities and saying things like, “NO, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR DREAM FROM LAST NIGHT!” And I know I can’t be the only one who goes through these rough patches with my children.

We are constantly bombarded with images of what motherhood should be: nurturing, calm, patient. Mothers shouldn’t be counting down the minutes to nap time or scrolling Facebook instead of playing Candy Land for the tenth time. And good mothers definitely do not openly discuss their periodic dislike for their children…

But I’m going to put myself out there and call bull on this image of motherhood that doesn’t allow for bad days or raised voices. Because you know what? Sometimes kids are annoying. Sometimes you feel like you have to lock yourself in the bathroom just to get some space. Some days are hard. Some weeks are hard. Even some months are hard. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom or that I don’t love my children so much it hurts. I think it simply means that I’m human.

So, yes, my toddler and I are going through a bit of a rough patch. And that’s okay, because nothing lasts forever. Motherhood, I’ve discovered, is full of phases, too.

And if you and your toddler  find yourselves in a rough patch, I’ll let you in on a little secret that may help put an end to it. Sneak into their room at night and watch them sleep. Watch their chests rise and fall and their eyelids flutter. Tuck them in, kiss their cheeks, and whisper in their ears how much you love them. Do these things, and I promise that tomorrow will be better. Trust me- there is nothing like a peacefully sleeping child to help you forget the struggles of motherhood.


  1. Calling it what it is can be the most helpful thing and accepting it too! I love that you just call it a tough patch because that also means there will be an end. Too often, I’ll say more conclusive things like “I’m so miserable!” or “She’s the worst behaved toddler ever!” when really, it’s just a tough patch and my feelings change (and then change again). It’s almost a relief to label it. It feels like it’s something you can just ride out rather than it being the end of it all. This is a nice validation

  2. So very true, I raised three kids, now raising a granddaughter, and there are definitely times I could pull my hair out. We can love someone and not like them very much at times. It’s life we all have ups and downs but I can honestly say I’ll accept the rough times because I wouldn’t give up the good days for anything.


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