“Love is not easily angered; does not fly off the handle” – 1 Corinthians 13:5
“Anger is a short madness.” – Horace
Mom anger is an uncomfortable but important topic for us to discuss. Statistically, it holds more potential to hurt children than bullies or scary strangers at the playground because of its greater frequency and probability. In anger mothers wound spirits, identities, and worse. How do we guard against it? Address its roots: impatience, shame, helplessness and fear.
To see how this plays out, let’s revisit the story of Christmas Eve 1996 from our last discussion. You have just reduced ¾ of your dear babies to tears because you blew your top. What were the root causes of your melt down?
Impatience: You wanted the children to clean their rooms. Not unreasonable, but the way you went about it was. First of all, it is unfair to ask three boys between the ages of 4 and 7 to go solo on picking up a space that was so trashed that an adult would have felt overwhelmed. You were impatient with their skill/maturity level and pushed them beyond it – an all too common mommy-blunder.
Shame: You can fight me on this if you wish, but no matter how old you get you will always long for Mom’s approval and feel shame when you don’t get it. That Christmas Eve you weren’t laboring out of love for your family; instead, your motivation was overcoming your Mom’s previously shaming remarks.
Helplessness: The goals you set that day were too impossible to reach at the level of excellence you were aiming for. Believing that a “good mom/wife/woman” would easily achieve it all, you were trying to prove yourself to yourself. Unfortunately you couldn’t make the cookies rollout right (choosing a new recipe was not the wisest), make three small boys clean like adults, and get everything else on your list done. You were helpless.
Fear: This was the main issue, really. Subconsciously you had decided that if you couldn’t pull off Christmas Eve the way you envisioned then your worst fears were true: you are not good enough.
This story actually has a happy ending. After blowing it, you see the roots of your anger and how silly it all is. Then you go back into the boys’ room, apologize, give hugs, wipe tears away and give them your full attention. In a sudden moment of inspiration you turn room cleaning into a game. “Alright, boys, let’s see how fast you can get all of your dirty clothes in the hamper. Ready, set, go!” They totally get into it so you repeat this for books and toys. They have a blast, the room is clean, you call Troy, he picks up some cookies from the store on the way home from work and you have a pleasant rest of the day. If only you could have done all this before you lost your temper!
So, when you start to drift from irritation to anger, ask yourself: what is the root of my frustration: impatience, shame, helplessness, or fear? Dealing with the root cause(s) will start you on the road to a solution instead of adding to the problem.
Love, Older Wiser You