What makes you angry? Have you ever stopped to think about that? The key to overcoming anger and frustration lies in that very question. Each of us truly needs to understand this about ourselves before we can become better moms and better versions of ourselves.
So pause for a second and ask yourself that, “What is it that makes me angry? What pushes my buttons? What are my anger triggers, especially with my kids?
Many of us moms struggle with anger in a real way. I’ve struggled with anger and anxiety most of my life but it wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized the degree of anger that I was capable of. Some of you may be saying, “Well, I don’t necessarily get angry, but I get frustrated with my kids for sure.”
Spoiler alert… frustration is a form of anger. In fact, when you look up the word anger in the thesaurus, you’ll find “annoyance, irritation, fury, rage, wrath, aggravated, provoked, and exasperated” as words synonymous with anger.
Anger doesn’t have to mean the Incredible Hulk kind of anger. For some of us, me included… we can easily relate with Bruce Banner when he says “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry,” as his warning to those around him that his buttons are getting pushed and he’s about to turn mean and green real quick.
On the other hand, there are moms who seem like they have it all together. They have the ability to control their outward display of anger and frustration much better. But just because their anger isn’t on exhibition for us to see, doesn’t mean they don’t wrestle with the same issues. They are just able to conceal it better than some of us that should have the words ANGRY MOM tattooed on our foreheads.
Seriously, any mom who has survived toddlers or teens can relate to having mom anger.
It’s just not something that gets talked about at playdates or when you run into a girlfriend at Target.
Anger is a taboo subject. It’s hush hush. No one wants to admit that they struggle with anger. As women, and as moms, there is this societal stigma saying that we shouldn’t be angry. And we consent to that untruth. So we don’t share our struggle with anger.
We may share that we are struggling with our kid lying. Or that we are fed up with a child who has resorted to talking back or we’re tired of being the referee to our kids’ sibling rivalry. We are okay talking about the situations we are working through. We are willing to admit to the areas in parenting that we are struggling with. But rarely will you find a mom who confesses that she is also struggling with her reactions and angry responses to these issues.
Instead, we hold our anger issues in. We keep that part of our lives private. We internalize it and we silently wrestle with our anger. When we do that, we allow it to thrash in our hearts, to beat on our self-esteem, and to weigh us down with guilt.
Anger in itself is not bad. Anger is designed to do two main things:
- It’s a natural response to perceived threats. The whole mama bear thing you feel when someone has wronged one of your babies… that’s what we’re talking about here. Your body releases adrenaline, your muscles tighten, your heart rate increases. It’s that surge of protective energy that makes you want to take down the school bully that’s been messing with your kid.
- The other thing anger does is it reveals underlying, unresolved emotional conditions that make us feel vulnerable or helpless, conditions that need to be addressed and worked through. Anger is actually a secondary emotion.An example of this is when your child spills an entire box of Cheerios on the floor. We all know that Cheerios have this insane ability to roll to the most obscure places. So know you have 5 million Cheerios all over the floor that are going to get stepped on and ground into the rug. And then you know the cat is going to come over and eat them. Which means the cat will be puking later. And now you’re nothing shy of angry.
But as we break down this scenario to pinpoint what it is that made you angry, you’ll realize that you’re not actually angry at the Cheerios on the floor. And you’re not actually angry at your child who was trying to get a snack, tripped over the cat, and dropped the box of Cheerios which imploded upon hitting the ground.
Chances are, the reason you’re angry is because you feel overwhelmed. When you look around the room at those 5 million Cheerios and your startled, crying child, you see more work that just got added to your already busy day and your impossible-to-get-done to-do list. Now you have a child to soothe, a snack to make, and a floor to clean. And you’re supposed to be out the door in 10 minutes.
Its’ the not-enough-of-me-to-go-around, hurried, sensory-overloaded, overwhelmed underlying feeling that manifests itself as anger. That’s why we explode, why we raise our voice, why we snap at our kids, and huff or sigh.
Anger is not actually bad. What makes anger bad, is the aggressive behaviors that often result from feeling angry. And we don’t talk about that because it scares people or it’s unpleasant to think of a mom down in her kid’s face yelling at him because he dropped Cheerios all over the floor.
We view anger as a sign of weakness. So having to admit “I wasn’t self-controlled enough to keep my crap together and I ended up yelling at everyone in a 3 mile radius…” well, it’s just not pleasant. So we don’t talk about it.
But here’s the scoop… there are so many of us moms struggling with mom anger that we should be talking about it!
It took me a long while to be able to talk to another human being about my anger. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but I needed power beyond my own strength to help me. So I shared with the ladies at my mom’s group at church that I had really been struggling with being angry with my kids.
It was all I could do to hold myself together to even admit that. My voice was quivering, my eyes were welled with tears. But it astounded me with the women at that table who could relate.
There was one mom in particular, who I would have never suspected to have mom anger. She was blonde and beautiful, a small frame and is one of the most down-to-earth, but best dressed, stylish people you’ll ever meet. She is on the quiet side and always very thoughtful when she speaks. She came up to me after the group was leaving, and said, “Thank you for sharing that. I really struggle with anger and yelling at my kids. And I’ve always felt alone because no one talks about it.”
Here’s the one thing I need you to know, the one takeaway I need you to hear…
You are not alone in your struggle with mom anger.
Just because anger doesn’t get talked about doesn’t mean that other moms don’t struggle with it too.
Over the past several months, I’ve been digging into anger. Where does it come from? How to deal with it? And as I’ve been researching it, I’ve been making a tally of what moms say are their anger triggers in parenting.
There is not a study where you can go read supporting scientific data. This is a culmination of confessions that 248 real moms just like you and me, offered up in the form of comments across the web. It may have been a comment on an IG post or on a psychology site where they typed out in their own words what makes them the angriest in their parenting.
ANGER TRIGGERS OF 248 REAL MOMS
- Sensory overload
- Open mouth chewing
- Sibling rivalry
- Kids not listening
- Stress & worry, especially over kid’s health
- Kids saying, “Mom, mom, mom, mom!”
- Crying/screaming baby
- Child’s inability to communicate & their frustration
- Too much caffeine
- Child not eating
- Physical pain from children (think hitting, kicking, biting)
- Change in nap routine
- Location transitions
- Morning chaos
- Kids not following directions
- Children asking constant questions
- Kids not completing tasks
- Running late
- Too long of a day
- Mom being sick
- Kids telling on each other
- Getting out the door
- Personal expectations not being met
- Rudeness/defiance from child
- Dogs (barking, needing to go outside at the most inopportune times)
- Mama being hangry
- Being too busy
- Routine struggles
- Baby talk
- Pregnancy and/or hormones
- Needy children
- Working mom conflicts
- Fear of not being enough or parenting wrong
- Being touched out
- Being the preferred parent
- Handsy strangers
But that’s not all! I pulled aside the Top 10 anger triggers these moms confessed to struggling with.
10. Repeating myself several times
9. Not enough alone time
8. Unexpected changes
7. Over tired mom and constant state of exhaustion
6. Crying kid
5. Bedtime struggles
4. Husband not understanding and his lack of help
2. Messy house
Ladies, I have to admit that it made me feel so much better knowing that I’m not the only one that struggles with these things. Other women all over the world are triggered by the same things that have triggered my anger!
Not that it’s okay that we’re all walking around angry as a mother, but knowing that you are not alone and understanding what makes you angry is HUGE!
Now that you may have identified some of your triggers, let’s start working out a plan for those moments when you feel you’re going to turn into Hulk Mama.
Two vital steps to overcome mom anger:
- Reach out to another mom that you can be vulnerable with, that you can be real with, someone who is non-judgmental and who will be a great support person for you. You may not want to dish out all the ugly details of what happens during your anger episodes, but tell her, “Hey, I need a prayer partner or an accountability partner. I have been struggling with how I react towards my kids and I don’t want to be an angry mom who yells all the time. Would you be willing to come alongside me and hold me accountable to being a better mom?”Chances are, she feels the same way, and would be relieved and even glad to go on this journey with you and could use someone in her life to speak truth and to be an encouragement to her as well.
- Keep track of what is triggering your anger. What events, what things, what comments, what feelings are causing frustration and anger to surface in your life? Write them down. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just make a list of them. Understanding where your irritations stem from will provide you the basis to learning how to overcome them.
Don’t worry, my friend. We’re going to keep diving into how to tackle our mom anger and kick it to the curb! Coming up on the podcast and on the blog, we will be discussing some of the anger triggers above. I’ll be giving trigger specific tips to move you from a place of frustration to being free of anger!