A taboo topic in our society, many mothers hold on tight to experiences of anger and indeed rage towards their kids. It is not easy being open and honest about feelings that society tells us we shouldn’t have, especially when they are directed towards those for whom our job is to protect.

As a psychologist I often hear about strong feelings of anger coming up for mothers. These mothers usually disclose these experiences to me alongside some heavy shame, guilt and regret – three other emotions parents seem to experience much too often.

I too have experienced this. I remember early on in my parenting journey a fire building inside me and then being overcome by a burning anger, which was typically followed by an outburst directed towards my young child. It was as though I become someone else in that moment, a horrible and mean person who mustn’t love her child- if I did love her, then why would I act that way? These moments were some of the worst and will always stay with me, too vivid for my liking. One time I told my child she should choose another mother because I clearly wasn’t doing a good enough job. I feel sick at the thought of this. How could I say that? And there have been other moments too. Times when one moment I felt okay and the next I turned into a witch. Times when I was closer to understanding how someone could get to the point of shaking a baby. As a patient person who tended to remain calm in even the most hectic of situation I had no idea where these feelings of anger had come from.

As I continued to grow as a parent, I began to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me for experiencing this anger, or at times rage. It was definitely something I had to work on though, so as not to bring my child (or later children) into a storm that essentially was not about them at all.

I learned that I often felt like this when my cup was empty. Times when I had nothing left to give but when my child (and later children) kept asking more of me, and more, and more. Times when I had been suppressing my own needs and feelings for way too long, in order to be a ‘good’ parent. Times when I hadn’t had a chance to debrief with anyone. Times when I wasn’t receiving the support I needed. Times when I was simply and utterly exhausted.

Maternal anger, or rage, is yet another unglamorous parenting experience that deserves recognition. It is much more common than we realise. And how much better do you feel knowing you are not alone in experiencing this? And what would it be like to share this experience with someone you trust. We are only human, and no-one is perfect, nor is perfection or even near-perfection attainable.

Anger is a normal emotion that we all experience from time to time. When we experience anger around our kids, the best we can do is take some time-out. Time-out is an excellent strategy for us parents, allowing some space to self-soothe, breathe, and cool down (assuming your child is safe when you do this). Once the situation has settled down, then we can wonder about why these extreme feelings came up and what we need to reduce the chance of this happening again.

Let’s all share these experiences with others, whether that be a family member, friend, or professional. This alone can help us, and others, in the future.

Adi (Clinical Psychologist, Director)

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