By Alita Blanchard
Almost every mother feels it. Almost every mother acts on it in challenging moments. Many mothers experience it deeply as yelling, screaming, adult tantrums and perhaps physical punishment. And yet not many mothers talk about it or want to admit to it. There is a lot of shame around feeling anger and rage.
I want to shine the light on this very common experience within motherhood. If you are in cycles of anger, rage and then guilt and shame, firstly please know you are not alone and you are NOT a bad mother.
Anger is a common and healthy human emotion that can tell you when a boundary has been crossed or that you have unmet needs and it can highlight a need for change or growth.
Rage is a state of uncontrollable anger and can feel frightening and intense. It might look like a screaming match with a partner, verbal abuse and screaming at a child, or it could be physical aggression that hurts another person.
Why do we feel anger and rage so deeply as mothers
Many mothers are overburdened with responsibility – trying to do too much for everyone else and not meeting their own needs.
As modern mothers, we are raising our children in a society without a village of support, intense mental load, often a lack of healthy family support, huge expectations on our role in mothering as well as many roles on our plate – mother, wife, home maker, business starter, full time work, nutritionist, nurse, teacher, part time study, community carer, administration, helpful friend and the list goes on.
Self care can quickly disappear in the early months of motherhood and for many mothers it never returns. Healthy meals, exercise, sleep and connection with friends can feel like long lost dreams. It doesn’t take long before the new mother feels physically and mentally depleted.
We need to feel our feelings
To be human is to feel. To be a fully expressed human is to express your emotions. And yet so many mothers do not feel safe with their anger or with their childrens’ anger.
You may feel guilt, shame or fear when you express anger and rage because, as a little girl, your anger likely wasn’t accepted. It wasn’t acknowledged. It was shut down. You may have been punished or threatened. Perhaps you had angry caregivers who yelled, screamed, smacked and shamed you. So when you notice yourself doing the same, you feel guilt and fear. Perhaps when your children or partner express anger you feel fear and even terror. You might go into a “freeze state” and shut down emotionally.
All of these feelings and responses are actually quite common. They are signs that you have big feelings that need to be expressed.
When you feel triggered.
So many parents have suppressed emotions from their childhood that start bursting out in parenthood. This often starts in the toddler years. That sweet baby suddenly becomes a moving mini being full of frustration, anger, discovery, joy, messiness and all the things. Their full emotional expression (which is healthy and developmentally appropriate) can trigger or activate anger within you that you didn’t even know existed.
How anger shows up
- Snapping constantly
- Gritted teeth
- Grabbing a child roughly
- Breaking and throwing items
- Hitting children/smacking
These triggers are very real. And your healthy anger can be a powerful catalyst for change and growth. Regular rage is a sign that you need to make some changes now.
We should always express our emotions rather than suppress. We just need to find more safety for our anger – both within our own bodies and within our homes so it is not being directed at our children. Yes I know it can feel like “If only they would listen, I wouldn’t need to get so angry and scream”…and also, there is often a wound within us around not being heard as children that needs to be looked at here.
What to do when you feel anger
and rage rising?Slow everything down and bring in some awareness. This takes practice. It’s like building a muscle. Then choose some practices to try from the below list and see what helps. Notice what doesn’t. We are all wired differently and need a variation of calming tools.
- Notice your feelings. Practice awareness.
- Leave the room. Take a moment of space. Say “I am feeling angry and I need to take some space.”
- Your brain may say “keep yelling, keep screaming, they need to know how bad they are” – this is survival mode from your lower brain and your own childhood wounds being activated.
- Breathe. Just notice your breath. Focus on a long exhale.
- Voo Breathing – Breathe in and exhale chanting “Voooooooooooo” – this tones your vagus nerve and tells your nervous system you are safe.
- Mindfulness practices are helpful to build an inbuilt pause button. Try Insight Timer app for anger meditations (it’s free).
- Take a walk around the garden or house if possible.
- Move your body – swing your arms in big circles, jump up and down, run on the spot, go to your bedroom and thrash the rage out on your bed.
- Run up some stairs.
- Shake your hands vigorously.
- Repeat a mantra such as “I am safe. I can feel this rage and release it in a safe way. I can give myself space. I am human. This is hard. I am still a good parent.”
- Self nurture – gently stroke your arms repeating “I am safe”
- Clench your hands on your upper arms, like you’re giving yourself a hug, working in a top-down motion, repeatedly.
- Laugh. Fake it till you make it. This can feel very hard for many people.
- Rage journal – write out your feelings. “What am I feeling? What have I been holding in that I really want to say?”
- Scream it out (in a safe space alone) – feel the rage and scream it all out. The car is great or into a pillow. Scream, yell, curse and express. It might feel weird. Notice that.
- Listening Time – find a person to listen and hold space with empathy.
- Learn about nervous system regulation and how to build flexibility and capacity in your body to feel your anger. (Google “ Irene Lyon – Anger” for amazing YouTube videos on releasing anger and nervous system calming practices)
Radical self care is vital
Meeting your own needs as a mother is critical to your physical and mental wellbeing. You can start meeting your needs with more rest, movement, extra water, reduce sugar and toxins, setting boundaries, reduce screen time, take a social media break, meditation before bed, asking for help, nutrient dense food, better sleep hygiene and slowing life down. Yes I know some of this feels impossible but there are always solutions. Just pick one and start there.
Rage could be unprocessed grief that needs to be expressed
If rage is regular, you may need to start processing grief. Many mothers carry layers of grief. This could be grief for babies that you have lost, old friendships, your life pre motherhood, family relationships that have changed, parents who have died, a childhood you wish had been different, lack of support and community and so on. This grief needs to be expressed, witnessed and felt.
Mental Health check in
If your anger goes to rage regularly, it may be time to consider further support to heal deeper wounds under that rage. Seeing a psychologist, counsellor or therapist is a great place to start to make sense of your feelings. Find someone you feel safe to express with. Also, yoga, mindfulness and breathwork works for many. Education, podcasts and workshops are good for understanding yourself more. And finding a supportive space to be heard might be through coaching, mothers circles, listening time and emotional release work.
If you know you have significant trauma and complex triggers like grief, anxiety, childhood, trauma or abuse, start with a mental health specialist and build on it from there.
Steps to healing mamas angry outburst
So you have yelled, screamed and raged at your child. Now what!
One of the most beautiful gifts of conscious parenting is learning the power of Rupture and Repair. This is modelling a true apology to our children.
- Self compassion – Remind yourself that you are a human and we all have tough moments.
- Awareness – Be aware that a rupture has happened.
- Reconnect – Connect with your child and apologise “I am sorry.”
- Repair – Make a repair “I was feeling angry and I lost my temper. Please forgive me?”
- Understand their needs – Ask your child about their feelings “Are you willing to share with me how it felt??” – Listen and offer empathy.
- Explore any unmet needs in your child or yourself ie. Does your child need more play? Do you need more self care? Do you need cooperation? Do they need more nature time? Less screens? More connection?
- Explore some solutions
Reconnect and repair as soon as possible – for a child 6 and under it’s preferable to do within an hour or so. Ages 6-8 within a day. Ages 9 and older within a week or longer. It’s never too late to heal the divide.
If all of this feels overwhelming, start slow. Just take the one next step and reach out for support. email@example.com