When Your Day as a Mom Feels Like a Giant Game of Whack-a-mole

Nothing sends me into a parental tizzy faster than an exhausting day of Whack-a-Mole! You know the silly game that our kids play at Chuck E. Cheese’s, where they use a great big plush hammer to knock down the plastic moles that pop up one at a time all over the board. As soon as they hit one, another pops up. The faster they deal with one pesky critter, the faster the next mole appears.

That’s how I feel some (most) parenting days! Slamming down one stressful situation after another.

  • Up at 5:29 am, with the youngest crying for goldfish and strawberry milk

  • Middle boy lingering under the covers when he needs to get moving

  • Tears over coming to the breakfast table

  • 10 reminders to brush teeth

  • Missing shoes and running late

  • Insults between siblings in the car

  • Missing lunch box

  • Melting down over the song we’re listening to

  • Oldest kid’s sudden realization that he has a spelling test and never studied

  • Anxious tears from another child over friendships

  • Then home with the toddler who is suddenly snotty and fevered

  • Stepping on a Lego as you carry the laundry basket to the washing machine, the whole load spills on the floor

  • Tumbling from the hamper is a stack of clean clothes (the ones you just washed two days before — still folded, but crammed into the hamper by one of your kids instead of putting them away)

  • And the phone rings, with a reminder that there’s still a child at school without a lunch.


But play this out in real time, and there are usually multiple issues all popping up at once. My three boys don’t wait for me to deal with one problem before presenting a whole new one. So maybe the whole whack-a-Mole metaphor isn’t right. Truth be told, a maddening game of Whack-a-Mole is easier.

This constant roll of multiple issues assailing me at once is my biggest trigger! Honestly, I can rock one problem at a time, but when they come in quick succession or all at once… I struggle to keep my emotions reigned in. But here’s the deal: I’ve got to! I’ve got to stay calm and kind even when I’m triggered.

If God reigns over my life, then He can reign me in, each triggered, Whack-a-mole day!

Here are three practical things to do in an effort to gently and thoughtfully respond to each problem that “pops up”  in quick succession!

  1. Remember God Reigns! When I sign a copy of our parenting book Triggers, I always write, “With God all this is possible!” Because He reigns over my whole life, He is able to reign over my emotional life too.

  2. Choose your battles. While everything needs to be addressed, not everything needs to be addressed every time it “pops up!” This isn’t permissive parenting, allowing kids to fight willy-nilly with no consequences. It just means that when you are in the midst of their chaos… you don’t have to join the chaos. Separate them from the problem as soon as you can, then circle back later to deal with it. When they are out of control, you can still stay in control.

  3. Prepare. Consider when life spins most ridiculously out of control each day. Is it in the morning, as you struggle to get them out the door? Is it as you make dinner or tuck them into bed? if you can pinpoint your greatest whack-a-mole moments when you’re not in the battle, you’ll have a better chance to create a battle strategy that just might work. But without a plan? You’ll just keep swimming at each problem that arises. Too many problems all at once every morning? Find a way to prepare a little the night before. If dinnertime is a crazy-making time, make a plan get dinner made earlier, then nuke it at 5:30! Make a battle plan.

Life is a wild but wonderful game of whack-a-mole. Accept it and plan for it, so that you can embrace it tomorrow with more grace than you did today!

With sincere love,

Wendy Speake