When you’re quick to anger or have outbursts more often than usual, you may not understand why. And no, it’s not because you’re a “mean mom.”
Mom-rage is one of those feelings that precisely zero people warned you about but most moms feel once they’re chin-deep in motherhood. If you feel intense anger, you’re not a bad mom or a mean person, but you likely need some more support. Read on to get to the bottom of this (and learn strategies to manage it).
Picture this: it’s Saturday morning, you’ve worked a long week, and now you’re trying to settle into a fun-filled and relaxing weekend that you hope redeems the chaos that you just survived M-F.
You’ve already had to de-escalate an argument between your two kids and ask your partner to take out the garbage for the sixth time. Now, you’re making breakfast while washing the pile of dishes from last night’s dinner. Your youngest needs help in the bathroom. Your oldest is complaining about what you cooked. Then you accidentally knock over a glass of juice on the floor and you feel like you could explode.
Everyone needs something from you.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!”
It pushes you over the edge and you snap.
Sound familiar? So many parents—mothers in particular—know this experience all too well. Constant requests and demands on your time, energy, mental load and personal space can bring anger from a mere simmer to a bubbling-over boil in a matter of seconds.
The conversation around this sudden burst of anger has labelled this feeling as, “mom-rage.” That term can be problematic because it makes a genuine human emotion—anger—seem pathologized. It can make mothers feel as though they have a specific mental health issue like depression, ADHD, or general anxiety when really, they’re just feeling an emotion that’s as much a part of the human experience as happiness or contentment.
Also, it implies that there’s something specific about a mother’s anger that’s different from those who aren’t others. The biggest difference we see, to be honest, is the unequal mental and physical load of parenthood that often weighs more heavily for moms… and so mom-rage actually makes a lot of sense.
For the sake of clarity and consistency, we use the term “mom-rage,” as that’s the term already assigned to a feeling which many mothers identify with.
What is mom-rage?
Mom-rage is the feeling of being pushed beyond your limit so that you reach a breaking point and crack.
That might look like yelling at your partner or kids, crying, responding with snarky comments, or feeling a physical reaction like an increased heart rate or red face. It could also look like normal behaviour on the outside, but a scathing inner dialogue that shocked even you to hear play-out in your mind.
Mom-rage is not different from regular anger. Again, anger is a human emotion that everyone feels and so you shouldn’t feel like something is “wrong,” with you.
The reason why many women might identify with and use the term “mom-rage” is because there may be more triggers in motherhood than there were in other stages of life. For example, some women express that they have more responsibilities each day that are hard to keep up with. It can feel as though all members of the family need something all at once. Exhaustion is also a contributor. As is burn-out.
Sometimes the ragey feeling has a cycle. It looks like: feeling overwhelmed; having something push you over your limit; losing your temper; and then feeling guilty after the fact.
Why do I snap all of a sudden?
When you’re quick to anger or have outbursts more often than usual, you may not understand why. You know you’re not a “mean mom” or “angry person” and losing your temper probably isn’t exactly in character for you.
Constantly feeling on-edge or as though one small thing can cause you to snap are signs that something bigger is at play. Usually there’s an unmet need (i.e. physical, emotional, social, or intellectual).
Sometimes, anger can be a red flag of underlying depression or anxiety. It happens when someone is sleep deprived or trying to keep up with a pace that is not sustainable. In any case, this is your emotions trying to communicate. What would your anger say if you tuned in and gave it a voice?
Feeling angry isn’t the same as acting angry
Feeling angry is one thing but acting angry is another.
As women, we’re often taught not to express anger because that’s not what “good moms,” or “good girls,” do. But anger is a healthy emotion. Full stop. So if you *feel* angry, don’t let guilt overcome you.
Acting angry is when we snap, say something we’ll regret later, yell at loved ones, etc. In between feeling the emotion and acting on it, there’s mindfulness. That’s when you pay attention to the feeling, notice it without judgement, pause and then make a choice about what to say or do next. There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry about a situation that’s triggering or unfair.
The point is that the actions that follow it are within your control. Make sense?
Have you though about talking to a counsellor about these feelings? You’re not alone and we know how to help. Learn more about our team here.
How Do I Manage Mom-Rage?
The biggest thing to take away from that ragey feeling is that it’s a sign of something under the surface of that frustration.
Can you get curious and see if you can discover what this emotion is trying to tell you?
If this post is describing your recent experiences, here’s a step-by-step guide of how to get to the bottom of what’s *really* going on so you can better understand anger when it comes up in the moment.
1. Discard societal messages around anger: If you feel like you’re not supposed to feel or act angry because of your gender or because that’s not how “good moms” act, remind yourself that anger is a human emotion that every person experiences.
2. Get curious: Anger is usually a sign that something else is going on. What could it be a symptom of? Usually there’s an unmet need. Are you getting enough sleep, alone time, time with valued friends, and intellectual stimulation? Are you eating enough of the right foods? Are you taking on more housework than is fair or feeling unappreciated? These are all questions to ask yourself.
3. Evaluate whether or not anxiety or depression could be a factor: Waking up irritated or snapping at anything and everything is sometimes a symptom of anxiety and depression. If you have a history of either or if you have other symptoms, this could be a cause.
4. Give it a voice: You’ve heard about listening to your body to tune into its physical needs. Emotions are no different. Next time you snap (or are tempted to) try to articulate exactly why that is and what message your emotions are trying to communicate.
5. Do something for yourself: Resentment happens when you give, give, give. Time to start giving to yourself! That could be 15 minutes of uninterrupted yoga to start the day, pausing to read an article of your favourite magazine, or leaving your phone in another room to de-stress before bed. Whatever it is, pick a thing!
6. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is tuning into the current moment and being aware of what’s going on *while* it’s happening. The more we do this, the better we’re able to intervene before we speak or act. If you’re aware of your anger bubbling, you’ll better be able to find a quiet space to cool off and decode its meaning rather than lashing out at a loved one.
The more you take care of your own needs, the better able you’ll be to look after the needs of others.
Mom-rage isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong with you as a person or as a mother. Rather, it’s your emotions speaking up when things are off kilter and you’re not being properly cared for.
When you know what you need and are able to address that when something important is lacking, you improve your emotional wellbeing. This isn’t to say you won’t have days when certain issues enrage you. But when they do, you’ll be better able to advocate for yourself.
If you’re experiencing anger that feels out of proportion to its cause or need support as you get to the root of it, know that The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective is full of therapists who have specific training in things like triggers in motherhood, depression, anxiety, managing tough emotions, and understanding our own human needs while supporting those of our family. Book a session here!