The Office Mommy: Advice for Tackling the Tantrums and Triumphs of Parenting

Central Ohio author and mom Theresa Garee shares her perspectives and insights on motherhood in the first installment of a new Columbus Parent series.

Michele Cuthbert
Theresa Garee and her daughters, Nakota (left) and Maya

Dealing with the missing sock, the shoe left behind and your kid needing to pee right now when there is no bathroom in sight?

We get it.

School, social media, adoption, step-parenting, budgeting and dealing with family pressures can easily overwhelm any mom or dad. Parenting today is challenging, between the demands of work, getting everything done and balancing it with being present to support your family. I founded The Office Mommy blog to help working parents share ways to stay connected, learn to better manage that balance and help create a community of support for each other.

This new series for Columbus Parent shares the perspectives and insights of several local moms, from successes to failures, tantrums to triumphs. The first installment features Theresa Garee of Pickerington, a children’s book author and mother of two daughters, Nakota, 10, and Maya, 13.

What surprised you most as a mom?

“That it came naturally to me. I grew up in foster care, so I thought, ‘How would I ever know how to be a good mom?’ Then I held my niece and I thought, ‘This feels so natural and so right.’ ”

What are your top three challenges, and how do you deal with them?

  • “Probably being present, because there is always so much to do. I make checklists and focus on enjoying the moment we’re in. I schedule small, inexpensive things to do to combat that.”
  • “My family’s moral compass. My husband and I had two very different upbringings. We make family decisions together. I wait and discuss it and make a plan, whether it is adopting another dog or home schooling. We have a lot of discussions, and we’re stronger for it. We definitely have arguments, but we step back and come back and discuss it.”
  • “Communication. We assume it is clear, but it isn’t always.”

How do you practice kind and firm, positive parenting?

“When I was a younger mom, I listened to other moms. I was very observant. Now I feel more secure in my choices, so I use a different voice and take it down a notch when I am serious. It doesn’t come naturally to me, so I have to set a line. They’re going to know for sure where they stand. I’m a big believer in choices and helping them make their own. My 13-year-old likes to dress up. She wanted to wear wedge heels to school. I said they would hurt her feet and to take tennis shoes in her backpack. I picked her up from school and she had the tennis shoes on. Help them learn to deal with it now, and you won’t feel lost with bigger decisions.”

How do you deal with tantrums?

“Tantrums are still the case in my family, but different than when they were younger. My older child will cry and then be quiet and not want to deal with it. We wait until she calms down to talk. The younger one had to learn to calm down and control her anger. We taught her to blow out the candle and count to 10. Now she’ll go to her room to calm down. She didn’t want to go to school every day when she was younger. We know when she needs to decompress. We wait, give her some time, and give her space and a voice to communicate. We also teach them their happiness triggers, too. We have a poster that helps them remember them.”

What family traditions do you integrate in raising your children?

“I have made all my family traditions. I have a lot of family traditions to pull from by being in foster care. And some are from Disney movies. We always make an ornament every year at Christmas. When they get older, they can take them with them. Matt’s family always had prime rib for dinner.  Early on, we started out with turkey because we were so poor. I’ve known him since we were 18, and we’ll be 40. I suggest getting out of your circle of comfort. I don’t remember who said it, but ‘Don’t let anyone else hold the pen when you’re writing the story of your life’ is a quote that I love. My past does not determine my future.”

Michele Cuthbert

How has your parenting approach differed from how you grew up? Why?

“I knew when I became a mom that I wanted my children to be my friend when they get older and also have that mother/child relationship. I drive them to and from school to have that time for conversation. I don’t want them to put me on a pedestal. I want them to know I’m a person who makes mistakes, but I’m also their No. 1 cheerleader. Parents are chasing after so much, they don’t spend quality time with their child when even 15 minutes a day makes a difference.”

Who is your support system?

“God, first and foremost, and learning that when I was 17. Later I went through a 12-step recovery where I learned to forgive everyone and myself and my childhood. My husband and I did it together. Also, there are friends that I’ve made my family. One friend I met at 16 made me—and my family—part of their own. I go to a tiny, old church on (Route) 37 and the women there are very supportive.”

Do you have any time management tips you can share with others?

“Utilize calendars. We have four; each one is separate for different purposes. I have a work calendar, a dry erase board, a monthly calendar and a personal calendar on my phone for birthdays and other reminders.”

What were the three most unexpected things you didn’t realize before trying them? What did you learn?

  • “It was unexpected having to be more vocal in my child’s medical care because I had two girls with difficulties. My second daughter has a skin condition. We wrote a book about it that’s on Amazon. Now, I’m more loud and vocal. Sometime doctors are too busy to hear you. As long as you’re a present mom, then you know when something is wrong.”
  • “I didn’t expect my husband and I to be such a great team. I was learning to breastfeed our first daughter and the lady who helped us noticed him getting what I needed from my bag and said, ‘You’re already a great team.’ ”
  • At 33, I realized I needed to make some changes in my life. And I did.”

Michele Cuthbert is a working mom and the founder of marketing and public relations agency Baker Creative and The Office Mommy blog.