One day, I picked out an outfit for my daughter to wear to school. She immediately rejected it and I lost my shit.
I mean, I threw the clothes across the floor, dropped a couple of f-bombs, and stormed out of the room.
Over what? An outfit rejection?
Am I an angry mom?
Not really. It just happened to be in that moment that all the pent-up anger and frustration I had been feeling over the last week exploded into a fit of rage because my daughter didn’t like the way the pants felt on her bum.
I’m usually pretty good at keeping up with my emotional crap, but that week it seemed to have gotten the better of me.
It happens to all moms all too often. It’s a special kind of anger that comes from a place of judgment, struggle, and internalization.
How is Mom Anger Different Than Normal Anger?
Angry moms expect to receive judgment instead of sympathy and often feel that they are not allowed to be angry. There seems to be this unfair equivalency between mom anger and shame.
We should feel ashamed for an angry mom.
We don’t want to be judged for it and we don’t want our kids to suffer the effects of it. So instead of letting it out, talking about it, and dealing with it, we hide it away and let it eat us from the inside out.
We end up struggling alone. We internalize the anger which manifests into stress, anxiety, and depression.
Ultimately, we end up in a hole that is very difficult to get out of.
Mom Anger Issues: The Hole
The Hole is my favorite metaphor for explaining the emotional struggles we face that we can’t seem to work our way through.
Imagine that you fell into a hole. Now you’re stuck at the bottom, looking up, feeling helpless and hopeless as you see no way out.
Oftentimes we behave in ways that keep us in that hole. Instead of calmly looking for a way out, or asking for and accepting help from others, we panic and begin to desperately claw and climb.
As we do this, we dig ourselves a deeper hole.
The hole represents your anger, stress, and feelings of complete overwhelm. If you can’t find a way out, you’ll burn out.
You’ll get tired and curl up at the bottom of the hole and think, “Welp, this is my life now.”
But it doesn’t have to be. You can get out of that hole. You just need to look at the situation with calm and clarity.
I hear you laughing. How can we deal with anger in a calm and clear way when we are, you know, angry?
The first step is knowing what your anger triggers are – not merely to avoid them, but to recognize when anger is about to strike.
The next step is using techniques to dispel your anger before it becomes a full-blown mess of chaos and fury.
Angry Mom Triggers
You could make the argument that simply being a mother is a trigger in and of itself – when it comes to caring for and raising children, we are constantly surrounded by stressors on a daily basis.
But this doesn’t mean our children need to grow up constantly Googling, “How to deal with an angry mom”.
There are some very specific triggers that occur in a mom’s life that could set off an explosion of anger. Recognizing these triggers will help you to know when the anger is coming, give yourself the opportunity to dispel it, and help with your mom anger management.
Taking Things Personally
Some parents view their children’s disobedience as a personal insult. I know how hard it is to be objective and not get angry when your child is slapping you in the face.
But your little one isn’t intentionally attacking who you are as a parent. All kids misbehave as they grow and develop by testing boundaries and learning how to express their emotions.
A lot of their “misbehaviors” are manifestations of their desperate want to get their own way. They are angry at the situation or angry at your response.
But it’s not a personal attack. The more objectively you can look at your child’s behavior, the more you can avoid becoming an angry mom over it.
I love the saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
This means that if you are not taking care of yourself, or filling your cup, you cannot take care of others.
When you try, and your cup is empty, you burn out.
Mom burnout occurs when you give so much to others, and not enough to yourself, that you become exhausted, stressed and angry.
This anger may stem from resentment toward your family or your situation. It may seem unfair that everyone else’s needs are met yet yours are not.
You can prevent this anger from occurring by prioritizing your self-care.
In my article Mom Burnout and Overwhelm – 10 Tips to Help You Cope, I explain what mom burnout is and ways you can avoid it. If you don’t feel like you have time to look after yourself, check out my article 8 Ways To Find Time For Yourself (Even If Your Schedule is Cray).
Everything is Out of Control
The number one cause of anxiety, especially in mothers, is losing control of a situation. When things aren’t going your way, or your life has fallen into chaos, your brain goes into panic mode as it scrambles to put things back in order.
I should warn you now, though, that developing a sense of strict meticulousness in order to keep things in order can have a negative effect and create more anxiety.
The key is to both organize your life to avoid chaos but at the same time allowing yourself to be okay with it.
Before my daughter was born, I purged and hyper-organized my home. I wanted to be able to focus on caring for her and not constantly keeping up with housework.
This played out fantastically until I went back to work and she was able to contribute messes to the household. Things began to pile up.
My anxiety began to go through the roof because I felt I couldn’t maintain a state of absolute cleanliness in my home.
Eventually, I had to come to terms with messes. Now, I prioritize and focus on tasks like doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, and scooping out the litter box on a regular basis.
Everything else gets done when it gets done.
This loss of control doesn’t only apply to housework. When your child is pulling a tripper and nothing you do is helping, it feels like absolute chaos.
To combat this sense of helplessness, in all aspects of your life, you should have a flexible plan. Someone once told me that if Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.
It’s all about controlling what you can and adapting your expectations to what you cannot.
As soon as you become a mother, all sense of personal space goes out the window. You are suddenly the center of someone else’s world and with that comes constant demands, physical proximity, and noise.
I know I have days where I feel so bombarded by the demands of my daughter that as soon as one of my cats gives me the “food look”, I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.
When you are constantly feeling the pressure of noise, fighting, demands, and messes, you’re going to become angry.
Shawn at Abundant Mama coaches mothers on how to be present and intentional with their families and knows what it’s like to be a highly sensitive mama dealing with overwhelm:
When our sensory system is thrown off, it’s hard to make calm, rational and intentional decisions.
Instead, we tend to blow up or shut down. Either we take our anger out on our families or we internalize it and let it chew us up from the inside out.
Controlling your environment to eliminate sensory overload is not a feasible solution to the issue. You can’t turn the volume down on your children and you can’t ignore their needs.
What you can do is learn how to decompress in those moments before the anger brews. A deep breath goes a long way, as does stepping away for a minute or two. Even a brief moment of listening to music or standing outside can calm the mess in your brain and help you regain some clarity.
How to Deal With Mom Anger: Mom Anger Management
You can avoid the triggers all you want, and this may help dispel a lot of your anger, but that explosive emotion is still going to emerge.
The best way to deal with being an angry mom is to proactively train your mind on how to deal with it in a healthy and productive manner.
The Catharsis Misconception
When it comes to dealing with anger, you’ve probably heard of the term “catharsis” and how letting it all out is supposed to help you rid the anger and feel better again.
It’s been shown through studies that this is not necessarily helpful in dispelling anger.
Think of yourself as a volcano and your anger is the lava. The idea of catharsis states that if we let out some steam, we avoid eventually blowing up.
But blowing off steam doesn’t address the root of the anger, only the symptoms. Sure, letting it out may help us feel better in the short term, but it does nothing to prepare us for the next bout of anger when it decides to rear its ugly head.
Instead, experts suggest silence and introspection are more effective in dealing with anger as opposed to using aggression or catharsis to “blow off steam”. And once you can recognize your anger triggers, you can use calmer methods to deal with the explosive emotion.
Ugh, I know. Everybody is talking about mindfulness and how great it is for controlling your thoughts and emotions.
Well, it’s true. It really does help.
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be a grand affair or involve any special equipment or classes. It simply requires a quiet moment and your ability to focus on your thoughts.
The result is that, when something triggers your anger, you are able to process the information first before jumping to conclusions and reacting to it.
To practice mindfulness, find a quiet moment and comfortable position. Focus your thoughts intensely of what you are feeling in the present moment. If any intruding thoughts pop up, simply acknowledge them before sending them on their way.
Mindful.org has a great collection of mindfulness podcasts to get you started!
Brain dumping is the practice of taking everything plaguing your brain and writing it down. It helps to bring chaotic thoughts into reality but also aids in clearing your brain of stressful thoughts.
It’s basically journaling, but instead of writing out a cohesive story about your day, you simply word vomit all your thoughts onto paper.
How does this help dispel your anger during the day? If you can work your thoughts out, either in the morning or at night before you go to bed, then there are fewer nagging thoughts and worries that will pop out of the woodwork once your anger is triggered.
And having them dealt with may even prevent anger in the first place. Perhaps those stressful events you experience during the day are simply the straw on the camel’s back. Maybe with more mental clarity, you won’t even get angry over many situations.
It’s worth a shot, right?
You can learn how to brain dump by reading my article How Brain Dumping Can Help Untangle Your Mom Brain.
Every time I read the suggestion of practicing gratitude in order to better my life, I almost feel insulted. Like, what? Am I not grateful enough just because I don’t write Thank You cards or list what I’m grateful for?
But the more I actually tried it, the more I realized that practicing gratitude and proving gratitude are two different things.
The term “practice” refers to getting better at something through repetition – although I’m not suggesting that you need to be better at being grateful. You just need to get better at recognizing in your own mind what you are grateful for.
At the height of anger, when your children are driving you up and down walls, it sometimes helps to remember how much you love them and how thankful you are to have them in your life.
Sometimes, that’s enough to calm the anger and bring about clarity.
How Do You Deal With Your Mom Anger Issues?
We all deal with mom anger in different ways. I know I have many ways I deal with mom anger depending on the situation – and they are not always calm and peaceful.
Being a mom means dealing with intense situations quickly. Sometimes we don’t have time to call upon our reserve of calming techniques before the emotions erupt.
But by practicing ways to deal with mom anger, you’ll be able to quell the anger instinctually.
How do you deal with your mom anger? Let me know in the comments: