The ShouldStorm tells us that we should always be nurturing and comforting as mothers. The only time we are allowed to get angry as women is if someone is actively threatening our kids. Then we should be a mama bear, but for like five minutes. Life in the ShouldStorm culture means we are should immediately become warm and loving again.
We should never be angry for long, and we should certainly never feel actual rage! Men can get angry, and women should soothe them and help with their feelings.
These ideas are not just from the 1950s. Watch a movie. Any movie. Or a show. These cultural norms have not changed at all. In these narratives “good women” show up as calm and soothing. Women are definitely showing up as stronger than they used to, but that strength should be quiet, should be always concerned about supporting others.
Moms are exhausted.
But who is supporting moms? The culture of criticism and parenting perfections wears moms out. We are really tired right now.
AND THEN THE PANDEMIC HIT!
Let’s pause for just a moment here, because you might misunderstand where I am going with this. I believe the ShouldStorm keeps men AND women stuck in the behaviors it tells us we “should” do. It keeps moms and dads from working together effectively, and dads complain to me about this just as much as moms do.
The ShouldStorm shuts us into unhealthy patterns that make us anxious and distracted. The shoulds keep us from living or parenting authentically. When we see what the ShouldStorm is really doing to us, we can make a change.
Mom rage is something we rarely talk about. Even with new school parenting, Dad are still allowed to get angry. Moms? Not so much.
So it was really interesting to me when I saw two articles in the New York Times about this issue. These articles are about the secret mom rage that no one admits.
I found it refreshing. For those of you who work with me in the office as your pediatrician, you know I believe in calling it like it is. I believe the beginning of mental health is admitting how things really are. And I believe our emotions are OK, they’re just signals about what we’re dealing with.
Did you know that mom rage is normal? Seriously.
In her article, The Rage Mothers Don’t Talk About, Minna Dubin shares the truth about her own and other mother’s feelings of anger.
Mother rage is not “appropriate.” Mothers are supposed to be martyr-like in our patience. We are not supposed to want to hit our kids or to tear out our hair. We hide these urges, because we are afraid to be labeled “bad moms.” We feel the need to qualify our frustration with “I love my child to the moon and back, but….” As if mother rage equals a lack of love. As if rage has never shared a border with love. Fearing judgment, we say nothing. The rage festers and we are left under a pile of loneliness and debilitating shame.Minna Dubin, NYTimes
The response? Social media condemned her as a bad mother. Of course it did! That’s how the ShouldStorm works. There are some things the ShouldStorm says we should NEVER talk about.
Then Dubin got emails from mothers all over the world talking about their mom rage. For the first time, they felt less alone.
Moms who feel anger are not alone
Are moms who feel anger abnormal? No. They are simply human.
In her second article, about how the pandemic is intensifying mom rage, Dubin writes this:
Virginia Duan, who homeschools her four children, ages 3, 6, 8 and 10, in the San Francisco Bay Area, said: “It feels as if I am going to physically explode, like having an out-of-body experience where I cannot seem to control the litany of invectives flying from my mouth.”
Does that sound familiar? Maybe you haven’t quite felt that angry. But the point is that moms feel anger and that’s part of being a mom.
And with the crazy pressure we are under during the pandemic, feeling more intense anger makes sense. After all, we were supposed to be their moms, and now we are their teachers too. There’s work, kids, home, a pandemic, civil unrest and bad news everyday. Of course we are struggling.
In the article, Dubin quotes Paige Bellenbaum of The Motherhood Center, a clinical treatment center for moms.
“There’s so much guilt that we feel toward ourselves, and a kind of inner-disappointment that we have these types of feelings at this intensity, especially toward our children.”
That’s the ShouldStorm! We are struggling and we feeling anger and we CAN’T even admit it because of mom-shame.
What can moms do about mom rage?
So we’ve admitted we get angry at our kids. What’s next? Well, there is no way we can do a deep dive in just one article, but there are some simple ways to start.
- Admit you are angry. If you have a safe friend or spouse, try telling them how you are really feeling. You might be surprised how much they feel that way too. But be forewarned: your friend might have their own mom-guilt. So if they should all over you about mom rage, just know it’s the ShouldStorm, not the truth.
- Self-care if it helps. Self-care is so important: sleep, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, fun. These are great ways to take care of ourselves. But don’t let self-care become a should either. Sometimes self-care means admitting we are crazy busy in a pandemic and we don’t have time for self-care. Take that ShouldStorm!
- Know what anger is. Anger is a powerful emotion. Anger wakes up when we feel hurt, vulnerable, overwhelmed, or just over it. But while sadness or desperation can make us feel weak, anger makes us feel strong. Anger says “No I don’t like that. Stop it. Enough is enough.” It’s an important signal for us to notice what needs changing. And it’s not fair that during the pandemic, we can’t change much. But knowing what anger is can help us stay at emotion before we lash out at our kids.
- Don’t go guilty. Do NOT let the ShouldStorm drive you from anger to shame. The best way I know to go from anger to lashing out in rage is to pass through shame. Shame feels SO BAD it makes the situation unbearable. That’s when anger pops in to help us take our power back. Instead of letting mom-guilt take hold, I want you to use that anger! Take that anger and tell off the ShouldStorm. I am serious. Tell the ShouldStorm to take a hike, because you are doing the best you can in a tough situation.
- Sigh, See & Start. The Sigh, See & Start method I designed to help us out of the ShouldStorm is exactly what we need when mom rage pops ups. When you think, “I should not be angry,” or “I should not have to deal with this,” or “My kids should have done that,” Sigh, See and Start. Learn the method by getting a copy of Introduction to Should-Free Parenting, or by watching my TEDx talk about the Parenting ShouldStorm.
With school coming up, check out the virtual Back To School Summit, where I will be joining other wonderful experts on parents and kids. Our goal? To support parents!