You love your child, and you know you are usually not prone to a short fuse. But sometimes, you can find yourself asking things like, “Why do I get so angry when my baby cries?” Society equates being a mother with a saintly image of endless love, compassion and patience. But mothers are humans, and the responsibilities and expectations of parenthood can get overwhelming at times. Motherhood can often be accompanied by mom rage, and even though there is not enough conversation around this, it is more common than you think. Having negative emotions at times doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad mother.
What is mom rage?
Mom rage denotes the out-of-control anger that the transition to motherhood can bring in some women, be it during pregnancy, postpartum, or beyond that. The stress of caregiving, accompanied by unmet physical and emotional needs can cascade into anger and then rage. Small triggers can add up and eventually become too overwhelming. When faced with such a situation, anger can show up in the form of clenched fists, grinding of teeth, a pounding heart, tears and even the urge to storm off. This, then, is followed by feelings of guilt and shame because mothers are expected to enjoy and be grateful for every moment of their journey as a mother.
According to Dr. Shreya Chakravarty, psychologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, “This anger triggers because of the different changes and challenges mothers face while transitioning to motherhood, since the reality appears to be way different from their expectations, and also because it is a stage of complete identity shift.”
Because of societal norms, the burden to physically care for a child largely falls on a mother. New motherhood is marked with vulnerability, fear for the well-being of the child and a period of physical recuperation. Often, mothers do not acknowledge or voice the struggle and pain that accompanies motherhood. The shame and guilt of feeling like a bad mother or not meeting the expectations of those around can build over time. All of these challenges can take a toll on a mother’s mental health. Taking care of others can often come at the cost of their own needs, and when mothers do not find adequate support, resentment and anger can build up and manifest as rage.
If you find yourself struggling with the stress of motherhood and feeling guilty about it, you are not alone. Even celebrities have talked about dealing with the challenges of motherhood. At an interactive session on the topic of ‘Women Wellness’, actress Karisma Kapoor said, “Being a young mother and trying to balance everything, I can say that the biggest thing for us women is to take care of stress. We are stressing the moment we wake up. What should we make for food, what would my daughter eat, how do I get them to eat all the nutrients in each and every meal. Stress, according to me, is the toughest thing to deal with.”
What are some of the underlying causes of mom rage?
- Fear of failure: Mom shaming is a thing, and it can be internalised. The fear of feeling like (or being labelled as) a failed mother if they compromise with parenting and end up ignoring their child’s requirements, even while they are trying their utmost best, can cause considerable pressure. Feelings of inadequacy due to this can lie at the root of mom rage.
- Comparison with other mothers: Says Dr. Chakravarty, “It is a basic tendency of human beings to compare themselves with others. Mothers also compare themselves with other mothers who appear to have successful children. In this case, age difference doesn’t matter.”
- Being overburdened with responsibility: The demands of rearing a child, as well as taking care of the family and dealing with work can lead to mothers overburdening themselves with responsibilities.
- Prioritising others: Dr. Chakravarty says, “Mothers often tend to prioritise other’s needs over themselves. They compromise with their sleep, meal time and health, in general, to meet the expectations of others. Everything else seems more important than taking care of herself. This tends to result in a state of burnout which causes mood swings, memory problems, and exhaustion.”
- Having their contribution neglected: Society often takes a mother’s work for granted, and the labour is seen simply as a part of her job description where she is ‘supposed’ to take care of her children, elderly parents, spouse, and household chores. Mothers are often not offered any support, and are not appreciated or shown gratitude for their contribution.
- Lack of recognition of the hardships: Dr. Chakravarty elaborates, “The challenges they (mothers) face, the problems they go through in their everyday life, often do not get recognition from other family members and their significant others. Many mothers grieve about their young carefree days, their lost freedom, and their unfulfilled dreams, but generally, this goes unrecognised, which further brings a lot of pain to them.”
Coping with anger: tips for when things feel overwhelming
- Get support from loved ones and divide the responsibility
Dr. Chakravarty says, “The support of spouse and other family members is very important in a situation like this. Sharing of responsibilities will also help take the pressure off the individual.” Seek a support system amongst your loved ones, and divide up your duties to avoid feeling overburdened.
- Identify the triggers
Take note of what situations can make you lose control of your temper. Remove yourself from settings that make you feel overwhelmed. It is okay to take a break every once in a while and gather your emotions. Identifying the triggers and addressing your anger before it turns into rage can be helpful in handling untethered anger.
- Pay attention to self care
Sacrificing all your needs to take care of others is not sustainable. Self-care is important for your well-being, and can also affect others around you. Take some time out to focus on yourself and follow a self-care routine that includes whatever brings you peace and pleasure. Meditation can also be an excellent tool to restore calm.
- Have realistic expectations and prioritise
The pressure of being the perfect mother, as well as the attempt to handle too many things at once, can cause a lot of stress. Dr. Chakravarty advises, “Stop comparing yourself to others and be realistic. Prioritise your daily activities.”
- Seek professional help
Opt for professional help if you feel you are struggling with your mental health. From support group to therapy, guidance in a professional setting can be beneficial in handling mom rage.