A few months ago, in the thick of pandemic isolation, articles about ‘mom rage’ began appearing in my Facebook feed and in my inbox.
Intrigued, I felt drawn to read what I could find about this term that I had never heard of.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly experience feeling angry as a mom, but I had never heard of the experience described in such a raw way.
In case you haven’t heard of it, ’Mom rage’ is the term to describe the intense anger many women experience during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond. It is a fitting description for venting of the daily emotional and logistical pressures moms face, that have a way of building up and building up until we lose it.
‘Mom rage’ does not sound at all like the kind of patient, fun mom you’ve envisioned being, which makes it especially hard to talk about without feeling guilt or shame. If you’ve struggled with anger as a mom, I want you to know that you are not alone.
What contibutes to ‘Mom Rage’?
Being a mom, for many, can intensify our experience of anxiety. Am I getting this right? How do I keep my kids safe? Are they getting all that they need?
Grief can also contribute to feelings of anger. Becoming a mom, while it can be a wonderful experience, is also an experience of loss. As moms, we might grieve the loss of our independence, losing control over our own schedule, decreased social connection, lack of sleep, our pre-baby bodies, etc.
During this pandemic, this experience of loss has only been amplified; when you stop and consider all of the changes that we have had to adapt to over the past few months, grief is a normal emotional reaction to have.
‘Mom rage’ can even be the expression of our stress response connected to our kids behaviours or our own past history of trauma. Physiologically, fight, flight or freeze is how our bodies are programmed to respond when faced with an overwhelming emotional experience.
How To Get A Grip On Your Emotions in the Moment?
Part 1 of this blog series, highlighted the importance of recognizing your triggers and addressing them pro-actively to help you cope more effectively with stress and being overwhelmed.
Here are some steps you can take to help you in the moment, to help you get a grip:
1.Stop “Should-ing” All Over Yourself: Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy coined the term “should-ing all over yourself” to describe our tendency to criticize and judge ourselves with shoulds. Guilt and anxiety are amplified the more ‘shoulding’ you do.
When you catch yourself mentally beating yourself up for all of the things you “should” have done, ask yourself “who says this is important or how it has to be done?”.
Often the things that we feel we “should” do come from external pressures and are not even what really matters to us. Perhaps it’s our mom who says it should be a certain way or our friends who are all enrolling their kids in some program or another.
If there are some “shoulds” that really matter to you, don’t feel that you need to carry the burden alone. Enlist help from a spouse, friend, family member, or older child to help share the load.
2. Put Down Your Phone: The madness of social media is that on one hand you use it to try and distract yourself from whatever unpleasant emotions you are feeling (boredom, anxiety, overwhelmed, etc.) while it simultaneously makes you feel worse when you see the highlights of everyone else’s day.
Even if you’re watching the latest Kristina Kuzmic YouTube Video while you’re trying to parent your kids, you’ll likely be interrupted on multiple occasions, and what sort of mindset will you be in then?
Being distracted by your phone makes it even more difficult to regulate your emotions or to help your kids deal with theirs. Try putting your phone out of sight, at least for part of the day, so you can be fully present.
3. Notice What is Happening in Your Body: Become more aware of what it feels like in your body before you become unhinged. Where do you feel the frustration, overwhelm, anger, sadness or helplessness in your body?
Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and focus on what your body is feeling.
You might notice how you shrug your shoulders up towards your neck, or tighten your jaw muscles when you are feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you notice how hot you feel when you feel angry.
Noticing and naming the tension you feel and the emotions that are coming up may not make the difficult situation it go away, but it puts you back in control and allows you to take a minute and think about how you’d like to respond.
5. Respond To Yourself With Compassion: Kristen Neff, who is a leading author and researcher on self-compassion has found that when caregivers (yes, that is you, mom!) pour themselves out for others without being kind and supportive towards themselves, they eventually burn out.
After a decade of research, Neff has found that held-compassion is associated with good mental health, protects caregivers from compassion fatigue and increases satisfaction in the caregiving role.
She defines self-compassion as having 3 main components; self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. Mindfulness involves being present in the moment with an awareness of ones painful feelings without ignoring them or holding on to tightly to them.
Here is a self-compassion exercise from the book Self-Compassion for Parents by Susan Pollack that you can try:
-Notice your experience (This is really, really hard. I feel so overwhelmed)
-Validate your feeling; like how you would talk to a good friend (ugh! Moments like this completely suck! Parenting is full of these tough moments. Other moms definitely feel this way too! I am not alone experiencing this; this is part of parenting.)
-Add words of kindness (You’ve got this! You can get through this. Let me be kind to myself today.)
-Try putting your hand on your heart and notice the warmth and gentle pressure.
There are going to be days that you blow it! Have some compassion for yourself. Instead of feeling forever horrible and mentally beating yourself up for the rest of the day, see it as an opportunity to reset.
Ask yourself what you need in that moment to get back on track.
Apologize sincerely to your kids.
Motherhood will present you with the ‘opportunity’ again and again to learn to deal more skillfully with your emotions. Many moms have never been taught to handle their feelings effectively. As you learn to experience sadness, anxiety, anger and other emotions in new ways, you can also share this learning with your kids to better equip them.
If you’ve been struggling with stress, anger or anxiety on your own and don’t feel like you’ve been making progress, counselling can be a very helpful part of the puzzle. I invite you to reach out for a free 15 minute consultation to see if we’d be a good fit to work together, to help you learn to navigate your emotions more effectively.
How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids by Carla Naumburg (*has a lot of ‘salty’ language, but is a great book!)
Self-Compassion for Parents by Susan Pollack