Let me paint a scenario for you: it’s 10 am on what seems like day # 1 million of this seemingly never-ending pandemic. You are trying to respond to work emails and simultaneously calm your dog down from barking so he doesn’t wake your napping toddler.
Prior to this moment, with the second of downtime that you had, you tuned into the news. You are trying to strike a balance of being informed but not consumed by the state of affairs of our current reality but despite your best attempts, life in a dual pandemic is weighing on you. And then your 5-year-old comes in and innocently asks for a snack and you snap. Lose your mind. Use a voice that you don’t even recognize. And then…just for effect, your toddler wakes up. Sound familiar?
Welcome to mom rage!
Throughout this unprecedented pandemic, shadows have been thrust into the light. In our homes, in our society, and in ourselves. We cannot heal things until we name them and recently I have leaned into a topic that I don’t feel is named enough in motherhood…
In her New York Times article ‘I Am Going to Physically Explode’: Mom Rage in a Pandemic”, Minna Dubin describes mom rage as “the colloquial term for the unrestrained anger many women experience during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond. The anger that mothers don’t really talk about. Anger and rage are waving red flags hinting at feelings below the surface.” Her article discusses how mom rage, understandably, is at an all-time high during the pandemic and yet so many women feel shamed out of discussing this common occurrence.
For those of you who are reading this who have experienced mom rage, I want to let you know that you are not alone. Because sometimes you have to go first so that others can say “me too” and if that’s the case, I am happy to blaze this trail for you.
What mom rage looks like for me
Rage for me looks like a major explosion (sarcastic or loud voice, frustrated tone–or an out-loud pity party about how this is one more thing to do or how I never get a break) over something seemingly minor, like literally spilled milk or the 15th request for a snack in an hour. The situation doesn’t warrant the reaction, but I have learned that, for me, rage is a compounded emotion that results from resentment, unmet needs, and a sense of injustice or unfairness. As mothers, unmet needs are unfortunately very common, and in our current reality, it is hard not to feel a sense of injustice or unfairness for so many things in our society, our world, and our homes.
I have shamed myself and felt massive amounts of guilt over the rage that I have felt and expressed to my children or my husband, and only recently have I realized that my process to “deal” with this rage is so much more damaging and unproductive. Shaming ourselves out of feelings is never the solution to the problem. In fact, it isn’t even a good band-aid solution, as I am not really ever dealing with the emotions. Instead, I am adding more fuel (and resentment and unmet needs) to the rage fire.
In his book The Permission to Feel, Marc Brackett says, “Feelings are a form of information. They’re like news reports from inside our psyches, sending messages about what’s going on inside the unique person that is each of us in response to whatever internal or external events we’re experiencing. We need to access that information and then figure out what it’s telling us. That way we can make the most informed decisions.”
If we don’t share our struggles in safe spaces as willingly as we share our joys, we are not painting a whole and realistic picture of motherhood, not just for our peers, but for ourselves. We will continue to perpetuate this ridiculous and unattainable standard of motherhood and then will berate ourselves when we don’t achieve it.
All of our feelings are valid. All of our feelings need to be acknowledged and witnessed, at first by ourselves. It is time that we stop shaming ourselves and each other and comparing our journeys and struggles. Just because someone has it worse doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck for you. And just because you are grateful for your life doesn’t mean you can’t also feel exhausted by it.
This post is the first in a multipart series, but I want to start with step one: how are you feeling? Tell someone today, out loud, how you are REALLY feeling. No judgment. No shame. Give yourself the permission to feel uninhibitedly. That is the first step in healing this underground rage epidemic and achieving collective and personal transformation. The world needs us whole, and it’s time for us to step up and answer that call.