The Silent Shame of the Angry Mother

The Silent Shame of the Angry Mother

It’s 3am, an exhausted, sleep deprived mother stands over the crib of her screaming infant, the baby’s cries have been non-stop for hours. She’s tried everything. Everything. She doesn’t know what else to do. She snaps.

“Just go the f*#k to sleep!!!” she screams at her tiny, defenseless baby.

A moment later, realising what she’s just done, she slumps to the floor sobbing. Ashamed of herself, scared of what she’s become.

Who is it you empathise with more in this situation – the tiny baby, whose only crime was simply being a dependent infant? Or the mother at the end of her tether?

silent-shame-angry-mother-pinterest

The answer to that question is likely to hinge on whether you’ve ever been that mother. Whether you’ve ever found yourself so completely overwhelmed, so completely under-resourced, so entirely depleted and so unwillingly consumed with rage, that you no longer feel in control of anything anymore. Least of all your tiny baby. Or your emotions.

I’ve heard it said that you don’t truly experience unconditional love until you become a mother. The same could also be said for this other of life’s most intense emotions: Anger. Rage. Fury.

Personally, I never experienced true rage until I had my own children. Certainly I got my knickers in a twist over many a situation – and I experienced anger – at myself, my parents, my partners, my family. But rage against your peers, or your elders is rarely seen as a source of shame. In fact, at those times, our anger is easily justifiable, the teenager raging against the impossibly strict rules of her parents, a grown woman crying hot tears of anger over a partner who cheated on her, an employee venting to a colleague about an incompetent boss. That kind of anger is understood and openly discussed – and in many cases welcomed – anger is good – it provokes you to fight back, to stand up for your rights, or to advocate for someone less fortunate than you. We can support, or at least understand, when a person’s anger is directed at someone who slighted, deceived, hurt or manipulated them.

But what happens when the source and target of your rage is a tiny infant, or a toddler, or any child? A tiny human whose only crime is simply crying too much, or refusing to sleep, or smearing finger paint over a wall, or losing their school hat for the 18th time this week?

How many mothers do you think would feel comfortable telling another person that they quite literally screamed at their baby, or stormed out of the room on their toddler, slamming the door behind them, or threw their child’s favourite toy in the bin, because they wanted to punish them so badly. It’s a difficult truth to face. And when it happens it generally brings with it mountains of shame, self-judgement and self-hatred. The women I’ve spoken to who have experienced these intermittent episodes of rage don’t intend to behave this way. When I’ve had women explain it to me they tell me of how they “just snapped”, and how petrified they are of something similar happening again. These are not mothers who are systematically abusing their children. These are wonderful, caring mothers who wholeheartedly love their children, would do anything for them. But they’re just not coping. They snap, and then they berate themselves for being a terrible mother, because “how could any mother treat their child that way?”, they believe they’re all alone in their rage, and wonder how it is that they became so unhinged. If this is how a woman sees herself after an episode of motherhood-triggered rage, just imagine what they believe others are thinking of them.

Is it any wonder they won’t admit publicly to this silent rage they’re feeling?

But if this is you. If you’re an ‘Angry Mother’, I want you to know this:

It is okay to feel angry at your child.

Anger is simply an emotion, albeit an incredibly intense one. But emotions are never inherently “good” or “bad” – not even those emotions commonly acknowledged to be negative – anger, jealousy, shame, resentment. We are entitled to feel and experience the broad spectrum of our emotions. We can’t really expect motherhood to bring us only joy and wonder. Anger is going to be inevitable at times. We’re only human.

But it’s what we do, how we act, in response to those feelings of anger that makes the difference.

Being angry is okay. Taking your anger out on your child (or any other person really) is not. That distinction is important.

So no, it’s not really okay to scream at your child, or to hit them, or to lock them away because you’re angry with them. I’m certainly not advocating for that. But what I’m saying is that these things can and do happen – to the best of us – but if we find ourselves in that situation, what we need to do is seek support to lessen the chances of it happening again, not hide away from it due to shame and fear.

It’s okay to admit to yourself how much anger you’re experiencing as a result of motherhood. In fact, acknowledging your emotions is the first step in dealing with them. Being conscious and mindful of your anger is one of your greatest protections against not letting that anger manifest into aggressive, hurtful and potentially dangerous behaviour.

What we need is a more open discourse on the emotion of anger in motherhood. Because it’s there – hidden away behind closed doors and walls of shame, fear and self-loathing. Why is it happening? Now, today, in our western society where women and mothers have even more freedom and rights than ever before? That’s an enormous question, and perhaps one for another blog post. But my focus for today’s post is to help women understand what’s happening inside their brain and body during these rage moments – so that they might be able to prevent them from happening again.

Anger is multi-faceted, and it’s origins are often misunderstood. The good news is that “lashing out” when angry isn’t an inevitability. To avoid it, it helps to have a better understanding of what’s behind a moment of rage filled behaviour.

There’s several factors at play when it comes to why we get angry:

1) The trigger. This is generally what we blame our rage on – that driver cut me off, my husband forgot to buy milk, my boss made me work late, my baby won’t stop crying. But the trigger is rarely enough to create a rage response in itself. If it were, we’d all be flying off the handle at any and every slight against us. This isn’t how the majority of us behave on a regular basis.

2) Our pre-existing personalities. We all know people who are more prone to rage than others, who are more laid back, more highly strung, more glass is half full, or more “the world is out to get me” – often these personality traits are set while we’re quite young, and are influenced by the events,  environments and relationships we experience as infants and children. (Which is not to say they are fixed, but personalities are deeply ingrained and not easily changed).

3) Our emotional and physical state at the time of the trigger. Our response to triggers will change depending on these factors. So we’re potentially more likely to act on our anger if we’re tired, sick, stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, scared, anxious or sleep deprived (sound familiar? Hello Motherhood!) These factors can turn even small incidents into huge explosions.

4) The breadth of skills we have to deal with unpleasant emotions and feelings. Our generation didn’t get taught this stuff. We never had mindfulness lessons or yoga classes at school – it’s great to see this happening more and more in schools today. But for those of us born before the turn of the century, unless you’ve studied a health profession, or undertaken formal counselling or therapy, it’s unlikely you were ever given explicit information about how your emotions work – about how they can impact your behaviour. Emotions just were. Some people had more trouble with them. That’s about all we knew. But we now know there’s so much we can do to better address our anger, so that it doesn’t take control of us.

So what can you do? How can you better manage anger?

1) Improve your awareness of your anger.  Be more mindful of times when your anger appears, and start to make connections between your emotions, your thoughts and the physical feelings in your body. Awareness is the first step.

2) Do what you can to make positive steps on a daily basis. Check out this article from the American Psychological Society for “Strategies to Keep Anger at Bay”. Finding stress management, self care and relaxation strategies that work for you is also a helpful option, such as learning how to start a mindfulness practice.

3) Seek support. Be open and honest with someone you trust about your anger experiences and concerns, perhaps your partner, or an understanding friend or family member. If you feel like you need further support a counsellor, Occupational Therapist or psychologist can help provide you with strategies to support yourself.

Remember – managing your anger better is an entirely achievable goal. Even though it may seem overwhelming and especially traumatic when you’re in the grip of “mother-anger” it’s crucial to seek support – for your own sake, and that of your children, your family, and your relationships and connection with each other.

Until next time,

Sarah

So you want to be a Mumpreneur? The top six questions to ask yourself before you take the leap.

So you want to be a Mumpreneur? The top six questions to ask yourself before you take the leap.

Psst. Wanna be a Mumpreneur? Want to live the ultimate lifestyle and work on your own terms? Want to set your own flexible hours so you create your business around your kids and never miss another Book Week parade or Sports Day? Yeah, I know you do. We all do.

And it’s so tempting right? It’s so tempting to tell your crappy, insensitive boss to “Shove it! I’m outta here and I’m going to open my own business!”

Yeah, go sister! Woman power! Mums can do anything!! Whooohooo!

But hold on a sec there honey. Do you really know what you’re getting yourself in for? Do you really understand what it means to be a woman, who also has children, who also happens to run her own business from the kitchen table? (and who may or may not also have to hold down a regular “dayjob” while she gets this Mumpreneur thing off the ground). By the way – I’m not a huge fan of the word “Mumpreneur – but I’m using it here because “woman, who also has children, who also happens to run her own business from the kitchen table” doesn’t quite have the same SEO ranking. (And don’t worry, if you don’t yet know what SEO is, you will soon!)

I’m not saying don’t do it. Don’t become a “Mumpreneur”. I can’t say that, because I’m doing it right now – and you know what – it is great. And I can see amazing things on the road ahead. But right now. About 12 months into my self-employed sojourn. It’s freaking hard. And it’s an awful lot of work. And it’s costing money. And, and, and – so much else.

Mumpreneur in action. Yes, this is what action looks like sometimes.

Mumpreneur in action. Yes, this is what action looks like sometimes.

In these past 12 months I’ve learned a thing or two about running my own business while simultaneously raising two daughters, running a household and, yes, holding down another part time job to ensure we can still pay the mortgage! So I thought I’d do you a favour and list a few very important questions you should ask yourself if you’re thinking of making this big scary, crazy, amazing leap into Mumpreneur-dom.

Here goes.

 

Question 1: Is my significant other on board?

Because if he (or she) isn’t, strap yourself in for some drama. Cue arguments about “getting a real job” and “stuffing around on facebook isn’t going to make any money” and “no, we’re not spending $6K on a business coach”. Starting a business is a crazy tough slog, it’s no surprise so many start up businesses fail. If you’re serious about starting a business it’s going to take time, money and sacrifice. You’re going to need the support of your partner, because you’re going to need them to pick up the slack around the house. You’re going to need them to be okay with the fact that they’re doing the dishes for the sixth night in a row because you’re tapping away on the laptop trying to figure out how to install a WordPress theme to your blog. You’re going to need them to be okay with the fact that you won’t have as much time for them anymore – at least not right now. Get them on board early. Explain your passion. Share your plans and goals. Keep them involved. And hopefully they’ll be supportive.

 

Question 2: Am I prepared to resent my children at times.

Gah! Yes. I did just ask this question. Please stop calling me names.

This is the dirty little secret of Mumpreneur-ship. Because as much as you love your precious little cherubs and think to yourself, “I’m creating this new business for them, for us, to create our dream family life”. I absolutely guarantee that you are going to resent the socks off of them at least once while creating your new business (probably more than once, to be perfectly honest). Perhaps it’ll be the night before your big launch/meeting/presentation – when your teething baby keeps you up all night. Or the day you miss an all-important webinar because you’re cleaning blue paint-coloured poop off the carpet at the exact moment it goes live. (True story, not mine, thankfully!!)

The fact is that young children and start-up businesses don’t mesh nicely. They’re both unpredictable, time consuming, and, yes, frustrating. When you’re starting a business there are going to be days when you simply need to “GET STUFF DONE” no matter what. But guess what, you can’t always rely on your children to be perfect angels on those days. Even if you have childcare and supportive family, you’re still going to have to find time to do work at home – and the kidlets under your feet are going to get in the way. There are going to be days when you want to spend more time on your business than you do on your kids. You will feel like this. And you will feel guilty for feeling like this. Are you prepared for that?

 

Question 3: Am I prepared for the haters, the trolls and the poppy-loppers?

Not everyone is going to think your business is a great idea. Lots of them will try to dissuade you – “Don’t you know how bad the economy is, why on earth would you start a business now?” The thing is, these peeps are generally well meaning, they honestly just want you to be safe and secure, and not broke and homeless. They just have a completely different mindset and view of life than you. So they’re not as bad as the haters, the ones who will try to tear you down any opportunity they can. Why do they do it? Mostly they’re jealous. Maybe they want the kind of life and business you’re working towards. Maybe they just don’t have the guts to take that leap of faith. That makes them feel shit. So they take it out on you. #hatersgonnahate

 

Question 4: Am I prepared to replace most of my friendship group with another one entirely?

The truth is, I now spend way, WAY more time with my new business gals (who I didn’t even know a year ago) than I do the best friends I’ve had for 20 years. Starting your own business can be seriously isolating. Not a lot of people do it, and it’s scary and intense and there’s sooooo much to learn. So we business chicks have to stick together – we seek others out so we can network, learn, brainstorm and absorb business advice by osmosis. Most new Mumpreneurs figure that out pretty quickly and start surrounding themselves with other business minded folk. This isn’t to say that you won’t, or can’t, ever see your friends again, but just beware that friendships are likely to change. See question 1 and 3 for prime examples! Plus, because of all the extra work hours you’re putting in – it can often be quite hard to find time for all your friends – you’ll start prioritising them. Sad but true. The good news is, the ones who are really, truly your friends. They’ll stick around. They’ll stand by you. They’ll understand when you haven’t spoken for them for the past two months. Because that’s what TRUE friends do. (ps, for the record, I still love my old friends even if we don’t get to see each other as often – you know who you are!)

 

Question 5: Am I in it for passion or profit?

Really you need to be in it for both. If you’re not passionate about the business you’re trying to build, you’re simply not going to have the motivation to stick with it.
But you also need to want to make money. Which means you physically need an income stream – ie. you have to have something to sell!

But you also need to believe that you’re worth the money, that you deserve to make money and that your product is valuable enough for people to pay you for it. So really, you need three things: Passion. Profit. And a passion FOR profit.

 

Question 6: Am I ready to be transformed?

This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT question of them all.

“Am I ready for a complete soul makeover?”

This is what you don’t think about when you’re first starting out. You just think to yourself, “Oh I’ve got a cool idea for a business, let’s start a blog and make some money”. You never think to yourself, “Gee, I feel like undergoing a complete and utter transformation of my personal and professional development, my mind, heart, body and soul, my view on the world, my belief in the concept of abundance and laws of attraction, my self-concept of who I am as a person and what my true calling and purpose in life are.”

No-one ever thinks that.

But that’s what happens. I’ve met so many amazing entrepreneurial women over the past year while I’ve been building my business. And while they come from all different walks of life, run completely different businesses and are at a million different stages of business growth and development – they all have one thing in common. Change. They’ve all undergone somewhat of a transformation. Some to the point where they barely recognise themselves from the person they once were. Some to the point where they’ve realised that they need to leave their husband because they’re not willing to put up with a sub-par relationship anymore. Some to the point where they’ve lost friendships because their old friends either “don’t get them” anymore, or got too shitty that they weren’t available for Friday night drinks every week anymore.

Are you willing to go there? Are you willing to make that much of a change. Are you willing to be utterly and absolutely transformed. Are you prepared to barely recognised the person you’ll be in 12 months time?

Yes?

Then welcome to the club.