I Resolve Not to Be an 'Angry Mom'
By Jen Holman
When did I become Angry Mom?” That’s what I said with stomach-churning regret after marching our youngest back down the stairs—the fourth time—to join her siblings in bed. I am not a yeller. I don’t want to be a yeller. My parents weren’t yellers. And yet, so often, there I am: yelling at my children.
We all know parenting is stressful and hard. No one sane has ever said parenting is easy. Some days are better than others. Some days at my house it’s all rainbows and lemon drops, swinging at the park in the sunshine, or biking to the neighbor’s fish pond followed by cookies and chocolate milk.
Other days, though … meltdowns, drama central, complete and total freak-outs. In my house, it’s almost always Thursday or Friday. The kids are tired from the week of school. The parents are tired from the week of school—and work, and laundry, and dinner, and yard work, and family drama and puppy potty training. The list is endless.
Sometimes I just want to sit down and watch mindless TV, or lock myself in the bathroom and turn the vent fan on to drown out the whining. And, of course, that’s exactly when one child beats on the door and says over the sound of the vent that her brother spilled milk all over the new carpet. (This is all hypothetical, of course.) So, what is a sleep-deprived, stressed-out, ruined-milk-smell-conscious parent to do? Open the door, exit with grace, find the offending spiller, gently touch his face while whispering ‘That’s OK, sweetie. Accidents happen.” Yeah right. Maybe in 'Leave It To Beaver' land.
In a perfect world, yes, we parents would never overreact or raise our voices or storm through the house cursing the day milk was invented. But life isn’t simple. Parents aren’t perfect. And milk is still a crowd favorite.
Parents fail. Often. Then we feel awful for snapping at our kids, for delivering epic rants no one listened to anyway, for nagging constantly, and for not giving more instructive reprimands. What can we do, though? Time crunches and external stressors would not magically disappear even if we all went off-grid, farmed the land and homeschooled.
I’m no expert, but I am a mom of three and I do lose it fairly consistently. I want to do better, to be better, and to raise healthy children. I have read respected pediatricians and behavior experts who remind us that as adults there will always be worries and short fuses. It’s how we handle our anger, and our reactions, that matter. Sure, the advice is oversimplified, but it’s also true. One suggestion is to divide behaviors into “smallies” (annoyances and nuisances which aren’t worth it to you or the child to get angry about) and “biggies” (which are harmful to self, others, property and require a response for everyone’s sake). They recommend practicing responses in advance so that you can control an angry snap. “That’s okay, I’ll grab a towel,” or “I’m mad at the mess, not the child,” for the milk example above.
There are other things we parents can do, too. Adjusting expectations is a good start. By nature, kids simply cannot care for themselves. Do I feel my precious time is wasted when I have to sit on the edge of the tub every time my 3-year-old goes to the toilet? Yes. Yes I do. But she’s 3 and still needs help. Expecting her to do it alone only leads to frustration for both of us.
Finding moments, even tiny ones, to recharge every day is important. Hiding in the bathroom to check a website you love counts. Coffee and Al Roker while the kids watch “Paw Patrol” counts. Of course, an evening with a girlfriend or dinner with your partner is even better.
Maybe you need an outlet, a hobby. I know, I know: who has the time? But sometimes change is necessary. Parents’ mental health must be a priority. It’s OK to cut back on commitments, to slow down and re-evaluate priorities. And if you’re finding yourself habitually stressed, it may be time to look into anger management activities or counseling.
Nobody’s perfect, though you would never know it by our Facebook feeds. I’ve written before about the dangers of comparing our behind-the- scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. Feeling stressed and frustrated is normal. Kids mess up. Parents mess up. But that doesn’t mean we should give up.
It’s important to evaluate both ours and our kids’ stressors, and work to do better so that next time, maybe we don’t lose it quite so quickly or so dramatically. I think it’s also important to talk about our shortcomings and struggles with other parents. It helps to know we are not alone. It helps to know others don’t always meet their goals. It helps to know parenting is a work in progress.