This is a guest post by Brittany Krahn– read “About the Author” below to learn more about her work.
“Do good moms get angry?”
That’s what I typed into google one night after putting my two kids to bed and losing my temper yet again. I was so angry. I had been struggling to keep a handle on my rage for a few weeks, but was too scared to reach out to even my closest friends. Surely other moms didn’t feel this way, I thought. No one would understand, and worse, they would judge me and think I didn’t even deserve to have my two beautiful children at all. I was so consumed with shame over my anger that google felt like the only place I could turn. I entered my question into the search bar looking for one very specific answer: I needed to know I wasn’t alone.
The search results didn’t quell my anxiety, so I did my best to be brave and I texted a friend. “SOS! Bedtime was awful, can you chat?” Thankfully she was free and came over right away. On my front steps that rainy summer evening, I sobbed and let out all my fear and shame. I was so angry. I was so scared of my own anger. I was so scared I was ruining my kids. And I felt ashamed. Even in sharing my failures and fears, I was bracing myself for what my friend would say. Surely she would think I was a monster. She couldn’t possibly know what it felt like to be this angry at her own children.
Her response made me weep with relief: It’s normal. You’re normal. All moms get angry. It’s ok to not like your kids sometimes. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to enjoy every freaking moment of motherhood. You’re a good mom.
Once I reached out to a friend (and my therapist!) to work through the shame of struggling with anger, I started talking to more friends and bringing up this struggle. I realized quickly that I wasn’t the only feeling angry, and I wasn’t the only one who felt too ashamed to talk about it. The more I shared, with friends and online, the more I realized that anger is something moms feel immense shame for AND don’t know how to talk about it. The shame from our anger is keeping us quiet, and keeps us thinking that we are alone. The way to release the shame for feeling anger is to talk about it; we need to be more curious about our anger, and less judgmental. We’re spending so much time hating ourselves for how we feel that we’re not able to understand the anger: so here is how to change the script in your head from “I’m such a bad mom for feeling so angry” to “what is this anger really about?”:
1. It’s not really about the anger.
Anger is a secondary emotion, and like all emotions anger is neither good nor bad. Feelings are not facts, and while we might feel good or bad based on what our feelings are, feelings are neutral. So the first step to being less angry is stop feeling shame about being angry. Because your anger is just communication; healthy anger causes us to act and find solutions to problems. So listen to your anger! (Listening is not the same as acting on our anger.) What is it really saying? What is behind the anger?
2. The solution isn’t shame, it’s self compassion.
Moms are exhausted, hormonal, and often don’t have as much support as they need. And adding the weight of shame onto your shoulders when you feel angry isn’t going to make anything better. You are human, and your child is human. And by offering yourself compassion for feeling angry, you are teaching your child that it’s ok to be human and feel all kinds of emotions. Our children need to see us ride the wave of our emotions without judging ourselves for how we feel. If you act on your anger in a way you regret, apologize to your child, and offer yourself some grace. Speak to yourself as you would a friend, the next time you make a mistake or feel you’ve acted out of anger. You can do better when you are fueled by self-compassion, not shame.
3. Let go of your need to be perfect.
Maybe you don’t think you struggle with perfectionism, but if you’re a mom, you’ve probably said one of these phrases:
-I don’t want to screw my kids up.
-I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents made.
-I just want to cherish every moment.
-My kids deserve the best.
What I realized that night on the front porch with my friend was that I had put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to CHERISH EVERY MOMENT. We use that phrase a lot as moms, but it’s entirely unattainable and routed in perfectionism. Is it reasonable to expect yourself to cherish hour 3 of the bedtime fight, or fighting with your kid at every meal to PLEASE EAT SOMETHING, or the agonizing process of potty training a toddler?? NO. So take that pressure of yourself! You will screw your kids up. You will make some of the same mistakes your parents made. You won’t be able to cherish *every* moment. Your kids don’t need the “best”, they need YOU. You are the best mom for them, and letting go of perfectionism and the fear of screwing your kids up will make you a less angry mom. Because it gives you freedom to be a good mom, not a perfect mom!
Before my two year old started to struggle with temper tantrums and night terrors, I felt like I really enjoyed my kids. I was the mom playing with them at the park. laughing at their silliness in the tub, and happily carting them to play dates. I took pride in being a HAPPY MOM. When the anger started to rise regularly, I wondered where the happy mom had gone. I wasn’t this mom, this monster mom, who always felt slightly agitated and needed so many breaks from her kids and dreaded being alone with them for long stretches. I let the shame of being angry warp how I viewed myself as a mom. I believed the lie that good moms don’t get mad – that good people don’t get angry – and when shoving my anger down didn’t work anymore, I wondered how I would ever get back to who I believed myself to be as a mom.
Once I realized it wasn’t really about the anger, that I needed more self-compassion and less self-judgment, and released the need to be a perfect mom, I started to let go of the shame around anger so that I could actually address the anger itself. That’s where the healing happens. Here’s where to start:
It’s so easy to blame our anger on the person who “made us mad”. But guess what? No one can make you feel anything, your feelings are your own. So instead of lashing out at your kids or co-workers for MAKING YOU SO MAD, get curious about what the anger really means. For me, inadequacy is my #1 anger trigger. When I have a fussy baby screaming in my face and a toddler at my feet who has peed her pants, or a husband who misunderstands what I’m trying to say, I don’t feel like I’m enough. And that makes me mad!!! So learning to manage my own expectations about what I am capable of and what I am actually responsible for has really helped me stop projecting my anger onto my children. Next time you feel a blow up coming, ask yourself “What is really going on here?” Do you need to eat, sleep, pee, or simply take a break? What is feeling out of your control, causing you to reach for control by lashing out in anger?
Whether it’s to a therapist, counselor, or a trusted friend: talk to someone. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a great way to find new coping skills for angry outbursts. Talk to your doctor if you suspect postpartum depression/anxiety is playing a role in your anger (or postpartum rage), and see your doctor as well if you feel your overall health is an issue. Lack of sleep, hormonal issues, and the total absence of self care that a lot of moms experience are major triggers for anger. Prioritize yourself, and reach out to someone who can help you do that.
Find your triggers
Remember, anger is a secondary emotion. It’s easy to get hung up on the fireworks of anger, but there is always something more subtle and covert underneath it. It could be something as simple as hunger (hanger, anyone?), overstimulation (um, hello social media), or changes in routine that are making you or your kids feel uneasy. Anxiety is very related to anger for myself, so when I’m struggling with mental heath, I’m struggling with patience. When inadequacy and overwhelm come up, ask yourself where your expectations are too high or where you need to implement new strategies. How you can get a more realistic view of what you (or your kids) are able to do, and how can you find more support? What can you do?
All moms get angry. The mom who you look up to and go to for advice gets angry. The mom who shows up to baby group in a flowy tie die dress and feeds her kids only organic free range gold fish crackers gets angry. The mom who runs PTA and volunteers for class mom and always looks put together gets angry. Do good moms gets angry? YES. All moms get angry! And your anger does NOT mean you’re a bad mom. Your anger may mean several things, but it does not mean you’re a bad mom. Self compassion is the key to accepting and noticing your anger without judging yourself for feeling anger. I often tell my daughter “it’s ok to feel any kind of feeling” but then berate myself for losing my cool. Anger is communication. Notice it when it comes up (“oh, hello anger”) and ask what it’s really about. The sooner you can move past shame and judgement about your emotions the sooner you can find the root and express your frustrations in ways that are more constructive and healthy.
If you’re struggling with anger and shame, struggling with feeling like a bad mom, with feeling like a failure of a human because of your rage, with wondering if you’ll ever be the type of mom you hoped you would be, please know you are not alone. I wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t struggled with all of those feelings too. I wrote this post for you, and for me. So that the next time a worn out, exhausted, puffy faced mom googles “do good moms get angry”, she’ll find the answer she needs.
Yes. And you’re still a good mom.
Be you, bodaciously.
About the Author Brittany Krahn
Brittany Krahn is a mother, a writer, a serial coffee drinker, and a passionate self-acceptance advocate. She lives in a small rural town with her outdoorsy husband and their two children. She is many things, but most importantly she is herself – and is passionate about helping women be bodaciously themselves too! Follow Brittany on her website here.