I feel angry...
Have you felt more anger since becoming a mother? Anger can feel so uncomfortable. So alien. So overwhelming. And it can so easily spin us into a spiral of negative thinking and self-hatred.
For #MaternalMentalHealthAwarenessWeek we’re shining a light on some of the big feels of motherhood. Here we’re talking about anger.
Although we don’t often talk about it, feeling irritable, angry or even rage is a very common feeling in new mums. But it’s not just new mums! Most mums feel this emotion quite frequently.
Parenting can be HARD & exhausting, and we are all only human. We only have a finite amount of mental & energetic resources. On those days when we're sleep deprived, or stressed from work / something else, a simmering pan can easily overflow.
We can feel angry at ourselves, angry at the world, or sometimes angry at our beloved children. Anger can feel shocking & scary. We can feel a little out of control. We might feel guilt & shame.
Right now, with everyone's nerves a little frayed, under extraordinary pressure, even less time & space to ourselves, anger, frustration & resentment can so easily overflow.
Anger is a normal, human emotion. Part of our survival mechanisms. It’s important to let ourselves feel it, rather than fight it. But also to notice our triggers & notice when we’re nearing capacity. We’ve got a dedicated section on @thenourishapp under FEELINGS with lots of practical, bite-sized tools to help you feel & accept those big feels but also help soothe and ground you.
It is OK to feel angry at times. BUT if you are feeling angry or irritable a lot of the time or you are concerned at all about your mental health, PLEASE reach out to your GP or other health professional. Please know it’s not your fault, we all have these tricky minds. But please don’t struggle alone, help is available. Your GP / health professional will want to hear from you. More resources: www.thenourishapp.com/resources.
Mothering can bring out the best and the worst in all of us and when it’s the latter it can be quite a shock. With my eldest nearly 15 and my youngest twins at 7, I’ve had years on the emotional rollercoaster of motherhood and I’m still learning, every day, in every way. Even therapists need constant reflection and work along the ride!
So when it’s good, wow, it’s mega good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid. My heart swells and sinks daily. I cope in several ways, depending on how intense the emotions are that I’m feeling.
Firstly, it’s a few slow, conscious, mindful breaths from the diaphragm and fairly loudly out of the mouth. Secondly, it’s noting the emotion that I feel and sitting with it. For example, “I am angry’, said 3 times. Then I forgive myself and my children and I ALWAYS hug, kiss and explain the why’s. It’s important for our kids to see that not only is it ok to express emotions, but that we must always allow loving space to talk about it, forgive, be compassionate, kind and move on with our day.
Trigger warning - maternal violence. “Put baby back in cot roughly” “Patted baby back to sleep too hard” “Grabbed the toddler violently”.
1 in 5 mums in my survey shared experiences of acting aggressively with their children. Many more talked about the urges and impulses to hurt their children.
This is a really really difficult thing to talk about, especially publicly. But we must. Because it happens, quite a lot. And because the shame mums feel is imprisoning them in a terrible world which will only perpetuate these overwhelming feelings. And the lock down is a fertile environment for overwhelming feelings, an inability to self-regulate and obstacles to support. “What woman, in the solitary confinement of a life at home enclosed with young children... has not dreamed of ‘going over the edge’?” ...asked Adrienne Rich in 1986.
This question was relevant before lock down. It may never be more so than now, when mums are working round the clock looking after children, often on top of a paid job, sometimes without a partner, perhaps with deep concerns about finances, always without the extra support of wider family, and with more challenging children than normal because they too are grappling with this life changing experience.
If our inner state is in turmoil, our capacity to regulate our children is dramatically reduced. And everyone’s inner state is in turmoil right now.
I want mums to know these urges and their occasional expression is common and understandable and they can and should reach out for support.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about abuse. Abuse would be categorised as extreme or repeatedly difficult interactions. Yes, the behaviour I’m referring to will impact children, but these ruptures are repairable.
These infrequent ruptures all have the potential for repair IF the mother is able to admit it, feel some self-compassion and then acknowledge it to their child expressing awareness that what they did was not ok.
We need to own and voice these urges in order to neutralise their threat and continue working towards relationships built on awareness and empathy.
@hand_in_hand_parenting is a wonderful resource and has a podcast on what to do when you are triggered and overwhelmed and they also provide professional support and listening partnerships for parents in need. @janetlansbury also has episodes on these experiences. @_drboyd has some fantastic resources on her website on intrusive thoughts.