Mommy Rage: What it is, Why it happens, What you can do
“Mommy Rage” sounds like a made up term, and in a way it is, but has become an official label for a very common phenomenon among mothers. As with most topics of maternal mental health, it has often been swept under the rug and not discussed. Well, it’s time to discuss it, because other moms need to be able to label their emotions and find ways to cope with mommy rage. It’s how we grow and become better moms.
I was extremely hesitant to post about it, in fear of possible judgement, concern for my well-being or other negative responses. However, that is the very reason why maternal mental health is stigmatized: lack of knowledge and common conversation. As a mom of three and a postpartum specialist OT, I feel compelled to expose my own vulnerabilities so that other moms may feel they are not alone.
What is Mommy Rage?
In a nutshell, ”mommy rage” is the outcome reaction of a mother’s unprocessed emotions, failing coping strategies, and unmet needs colliding with mounting parenting stressors. I had to google this to identify my feelings, and there are a handful of articles like this one on Today’s Parent, this one on Mother.ly, and this one on NYTimes. Personally, I think calling it “rage” can seem a bit extreme but at the same time, sometimes fitting. Am I falling apart at the seams with every minute that goes by? Am I running around like an unhinged Godzilla? No. 95% of the time I’m handling sh*t like a boss. The other 5% I’ve let my emotions bottle up, tempted to throw something out the window or scream at the top of my lungs in frustration.
When Does Mommy Rage Happen?
Moms are tough as hell, resilient AF, but they’re human and have a breaking point. It’s extremely common with moms who have multiple little ones, especially toddlers or pre-schoolers who are still driven emotion over logic. We usually don’t just snap out of the blue… it’s typically the combination of small incidents and a slow boil that leads to the culmination of bottled emotions.
Here’s a prime example- The other day we were late for school as usual, despite having everything prepared. One son refused to put on his shoes, then wanted different socks, then wanted a different snack. I refused to accommodate and there he laid on the garage floor. After wrangling him into his car seat and going in to get my coffee, I come back to find he took off both socks and shoes and inconsolable spilled his snack on the ground. The other was whining that he just wanted the car to move. I calmly pick up the container and give him a different snack, which he throws at my face and it falls to the ground as well. Cue Mommy Rage.
As a naturally patient person who usually chooses positive parenting methods over rigid discipline, I suddenly found myself resorting to all the traditional and negative parenting strategies. What does this look like? Sometimes it’s slamming the door, letting out a very audible groan, throwing an offending item in the opposite direction, yelling at them, forcing them to sit in timeout etc. What is the immediate after effect for Mom? Tears, guilt for blaming them for emotions they can’t control, regret for things said or done, shame for turning into a mom I never envisioned for myself. I felt transformed into a mother I couldn’t recognize and I wasn’t proud of her. I knew I needed to make a change…for myself and my family.
What You Can Do
There’s no one solution to this problem. But there are a variety of strategies that are worth trying out, some may work well for you, others not as much.
Here are the steps I took to make that change:
- I give myself time-outs. If I feel my blood boiling, teeth gritting or I want to throw something or scream at them, I say “I’ll need a time-out, I’ll be right back”, leave the room and give myself some time to recollect, reset and get back in. Sometimes that means allowing screen-time to save my sanity. Sometimes it’s tagging another adult in to take my place for a moment. All the best athletes need breaks to recharge and win the game.
- I use affirmations. In the aftermath, my consciousness is filled with self-deprecating statements: “how could you let yourself get that mad?” “That was a mom fail”, “is that how you want your kids to remember you?” I’ve been having to counter my negative thoughts about my parenting with positives to remind myself why I’m the best person for this position for them. You can love being a mom, love your kids, but sometimes hate the job and get frustrated by them as well. This doesn’t make you a bad mom. If you need some mindful parenting strategies, try these.
- I educate myself on the topic…blogs, articles, podcasts, books. I’ve been listening to the book How To Talk So That Little Kids Will Listen and it’s been life-changing for me as a parent. Often our knee-jerk reactions as a parent are not the most effective ones when dealing with toddlers. Reading this was a total rewiring of how I parent right now. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, but many actionable tools. Often I get upset with their inability to do what is expected, but usually my expectations for them are higher than what they are capable of. At times, ll they need is their feelings validated to move past this difficult moment. Find your parenting-self help resource and try out what they suggest. You’ll be amazed.
- I prioritize self-care. Put on your own oxygen mask before putting on your child’s. Moms often put themselves last in the equation. But when basic needs aren’t being met, things go downhill. Lack of sleep can really affect the way you respond to stress. Basic hygiene and changing into clothes that aren’t sweats or pajamas can change your whole attitude. Adequate nutrition can alter your mood and energy levels to deal with stressors. I’ve actually scheduled a night away with my fellow mom-bestie so we can recharge, reset and get pampered. It doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate. Sometimes just a walk by yourself or watching mindless TV can bring you back to a calmer state.
- I pray, meditate and do yoga. There is a strong mind-spirit-body connection at play here, and by taking care of those areas, it can drastically change how you cope with stressful situations. Cueing yourself to breathe deeply triggers the release of serotonin, a mood-stabilizer. If yoga isn’t your style, any form of physical activity can help clear your head and get all the good hormones flowing so you can reset.
If you can’t find something that works for you, and you feel your mommy rage is getting worse, seek out a counselor, therapist or other virtual or local maternal mental health advocate/specialist for further guidance. There’s no shame is asking for help so that you can better help your family.
Mommy Rage is real, it’s common, and it’s curable. You are not a bad mom for experiencing this. You are not a bad mom for not wanting to be a mom ALL. THE. TIME. You are not a bad mom for being human and having human reactions to extreme stress. Be patient, give yourself grace and keep learning. For them, you’re the best one for the job! Would love to hear your experiences and stories about this topic.