When I was in my carefree, childless twenties, I babysat for a family with two young girls. One day, the 6-year-old commented on how calm I’ve always been with them. Then she revealed that earlier in the day, her mom got “sooooo mad.”
She looked at me with that squished up, overly serious face young kids tend to make when they have some classified information to share.
“Mom gets mad,” she said. “Mom gets mad and yells a LOT. Especially at Dad.”
I remember laughing it off and acting totally cool with the girls about it, but when that mom came home, I felt it in my bones. Righteous judgment. Before my convo with the kid, I had totally idolized this mother — she was the type of woman who always seemed to do so many things right. I even decided I would parent just like her when I joined the ranks of momdom.
Then I found out her dirty lil’ secret. And I began seeing this mom as something entirely different. Despite never personally seeing her rage, I began to see this poor woman as an irrationally angry person who just couldn’t help getting mad and breathing fire, dragon-style, on her entire family. To be completely honest, I actually began to think less of her, because back in my carefree, childless twenties, I never imagined I would ever, ever, EVER get mad at my own future, but currently non-existent, kids.
Mid-twenties me had already decided that I would be much too good a mom for that kind of erratic behavior.
But now, I just feel like a giant asshole. Because now, I am the mom who yells.
I’m showing up every single day for my kids, even when it feels downright excruciating to do so. And so are the masses of angry moms who yell at their kids after a long ass day of parenting.
Mid-thirties me has two kids under the age of four, and the list of things I have said and done out of sheer mom burnout are as endless as they are humiliating.
In moments of parental distress, I’ve thrown toys against walls and screamed out “ENOUGH!!!” more times than I’m willing to admit. I’ve loudly threatened to take away every single toy, keep the television off for a year, and never bring them to the park again. I’ve literally gotten into yelling matches with my three-year old, who eventually finds my exasperation entertaining. I’ve forced giant muffins into my mouth after infuriating mornings with an inconsolable baby. I’ve bitten pillows, thrown away half-full boxes of popsicles, and on the toughest of occasions, run up into my bedroom closet to openly weep and wail, until my husband reluctantly drags me back downstairs into the fray.
I have been more angry at my family than I ever expected to be. And each time I’ve acted from that place of intense emotion, it’s always followed by a tidal wave of shame.
I wish I could go back in time to that mom I judged and tearfully tell her “samesies.”
I wish I could tell her that I completely understand now why she’s probably had moments of yelling so hard she had to go on vocal rest.
I wish I could give her a bear hug and tell her I finally empathize with her anger. It is, without a doubt, my anger too.
Because underneath it all, we are both just two women vulnerably experiencing the giant ass sucker punch that is motherhood.
If you look below the surface of mom anger, you’ll see a worn out human being who is desperately trying to hold up the entire world. And while we so often make it look like we know what we’re doing, we don’t. I firmly believe that we are multitasking ourselves into the ground. We’re scheduling appointments, organizing and cleaning houses, googling answers to ceaselessly random parenting questions, paying bills, dressing small bodies, nursing or bottle-feeding babies all night long, and following around tiny bosses who demand more from us than we are often able to give.
Some of us are relentlessly going all day long at home and not reaping the financial reward of a paycheck for our efforts. Others are juggling this wild mom life with income-based work our family needs for survival. No matter how much we may be tackling, we are constantly bombarding our anxious minds with more things to cross off the never-ending to-do list. We are short-fused, burnt out, and too afraid to admit it. And since so many of us are doing this impossible balancing act without the support of family who live close by, we are quite literally without the village it takes to help make it all easier.
If you look below the surface of mom anger, you’ll see a worn out human being who is desperately trying to hold up the entire world.
In fact, many of us have been forced to become the whole village by ourselves. And while it may not explain away every instance of snapping at our kids or partner, it is enough to stop and notice why we aren’t utilizing this reason more.
These days, I’m owning my anger and working on finding constructive ways to express it. I’m also working on gaining the support I’ve so desperately needed during these early mom years. I’m seeing a therapist regularly, I’m working on actually doing self-care, I’m reaching out to friends for help, and I even temporarily relocated to live closer to family.
But most importantly, I’m taking powerful steps to ensure that if I ever lose my temper again, I won’t allow shame to get in the driver’s seat. I now know that, even when I screw up and yell, I need to remind myself that I’ve been doing my best to be a good enough mom since I became one. I’m showing up every single day for my kids, even when it feels downright excruciating to do so. And so was the woman who I babysat for, and so are the masses of angry moms who yell at their kids after a long ass day of parenting.
We are, all of us, doing our best with what we have.
And it’s time to give ourselves a goddamn break.