POSTPARTUM RESOURCES

6 Steps to Tame Mom Rage

As a mom, have you ever had a moment where extreme anger suddenly and unexpectedly exploded from you? If so, this could likely be mom rage – a real emotional outburst that can feel scary, followed by shame and guilt. Let’s dive into what mom rage is, where it comes from, and how you repair and reconnect after an outburst.

Does This Situation Sound Familiar?

When my daughter was a toddler, I yelled at her with pure mom rage. One day, in the heat of the moment, I raised the volume of my voice and had an angry tone; a reaction that shocked me because it was out of character – this had never happened before and the shame and guilt of that still haunts me today.

Looking back at this moment, I can see my distress boiling under the surface. My dog was barking, my daughter was crying and a sing-along cartoon was playing loudly in the background. Plus, I was rushing to get us both dressed and out of the house for daycare drop-off before I was late for work. I was worried that I was going to miss an important work meeting, felt I was failing as a mother due to the morning’s struggle, and was overstimulated by all the noise – all while deep down I was struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.

In that moment of rage, my daughter did nothing wrong nor did her actions warrant my response – we had this same fussy experience dozens of times. Why did I explode? Let’s look at what happened, where it came from and maybe even more importantly, how to tame mom rage in the future.

What is Mom Rage?

Mom rage is more than just irritability – it’s an intense, unexpected and overwhelming sense of anger that is often triggered by something small. This anger is typically based on a deeper, unmet need (such as feeling unsupported, alone or lack of sleep) or emotions like frustration, sadness and guilt.

Society and social media often portray the beginning of motherhood as one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, filled with peace, self-sacrifice and patience. When mom rage does hit, it can result in feelings of shame and guilt – perpetuating the silence cycle of not talking more about what is happening. Remember, these reactions do not make you a bad mom.

Six Steps to Tame Mom Rage

Managing mom rage involves recognizing and addressing your underlying causes and proactively planning to reduce and stop episodes.

Step 1: Identify Unmet Needs

Mom rage often stems from unmet needs and deeper emotions, such as sadness or frustration. Think through your daily routine and your emotional, physical and mental needs – what is lacking? Is there something that you need to feel more supported?

  • Action: Write down all the needs you feel are not being met. Whether you need more support, alone time or even more sleep, identifying these needs is the first step to fixing them.

Step 2: Spot Your Triggers

Recognizing your triggers, such as a mess, loud noises or lack of support, can help you reduce them. Understanding what they are can help you anticipate your needs before they occur.

  • Action: Make a list of all the things that consistently trigger your anger or frustration. Pay attention to what was happening during the emotional rise and immediately beforehand.

Step 3: Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s important to acknowledge all your feelings without shame; they do not make you a bad mother. When you recognize that you are feeling overwhelmed or angry, you have the power to choose your response.

  • Action: Write down instances when you were feeling overwhelmed or angry and what you think might have led to those feelings.

Step 4: Take a Break

In the moment, try to distance yourself from the anger by taking deep breaths, removing yourself from the situation or letting a partner take over. Taking a quick break can help you calm down and approach the situation with a clearer mind.

  • Action: Write down a few quick strategies you can use to calm down when you feel anger rising.

Step 5: Reconnect and Repair

After an outburst, how you reconnect and repair with your child, your partner and even yourself is crucial. Have a calm conversation, acknowledge what happened, apologize if needed, explain what happened and say what you will do differently next time. When talking with your child, use simple, age-appropriate language they can understand.

A sample conversation may be:

“Mommy’s voice got loud, and that was probably scary.” (Say what happened).

“I am sorry.” (Apologize).

“I got frazzled because it was so loud in here and I was rushed.” (Explain what happened).

“Next time, I am going to take a deep breath before I respond so my voice is calm.” (Say what you’ll do differently next time).

  • Action: Practice writing your simple script for reconnecting and repairing with yourself, your partner and your child after an outburst.

Step 6: Meet Your Needs Regularly

Ensure your needs are being met on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to prevent your emotional cup from running low. Consistently meeting your needs can significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of mom rage episodes.

  • Action: Create a list of ways you can support and/or advocate for your needs regularly and incorporate them into your routine.

Mom rage, while often not talked about, can be common in moms who are struggling to have their needs met. By understanding the root causes and triggers of your emotions, you can plan to address them both in the moment and long term. These six steps can help you make a plan to be a healthier, calmer you for yourself and your family.

Remember, mom rage does not make you a bad mom – it makes you a human mom. You are not in this journey of motherhood alone. Together, we can Thrive Postpartum.

Originally published by Kelly Siebold in Psychology Today, as part of her regular How to Thrive Postpartum column.

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