Throughout most of young adulthood, I had an inner vow that I would never be angry and lose my temper like my mom did when I was growing up. For my brother and me, growing up was anything but safe and pleasant. We have overcome much. My mom was an alcoholic and we never knew what her mood would be each night or on the weekends. Was she going to be the happy drunk who would walk around the house without a care in the world, or would she be the angry drunk who easily lost her temper and was impossible to reason with? And for much of my life, it was the sad and angry drunk. She was known to break things, hit things, and throw things. I was so thankful I didn’t carry that trait of always being angry… or so I thought. My faith helped me to overcome much of my dysfunctional upbringing, and for that I am so thankful.
It wasn’t until I started having children in my mid-twenties that I noticed it. It would start with a slight frustration or annoyance and then my mood would shift completely. I would yell at my kids for something and then feel so guilty later. But I felt like I couldn’t control it. I would become so upset at something they did (or didn’t do) that I would just lose it. Most of the time I just felt so overwhelmed and out of control- while they were just being little kids, making little kid messes and getting into little kid fights.
I remember when I had a newborn and a two-year old. I was sleep deprived and my newborn, baby Noah, was colicky for the first 6 months. I didn’t have any family close by to just give me a couple of hours of respite. My husband worked 6 days a week and had many meetings in the evenings. I felt like I was drowning with no life preserver in sight.
I found myself losing my temper more and more frequently. My emotions were raw and I actually scared myself at how angry I could become. You might wonder why I didn’t reach out for help right away. I was a young Children’s Pastors wife, I was in leadership at Mothers Of Preschoolers, and I was the Kid’s Choir Director at church. I couldn’t let anyone see that inside I was a mess. Looking back, I don’t think I knew how to let anyone in. I was ashamed.
We then moved from Irving, Texas, to Bedford, Texas, and I continued to try and keep it all together. I was very independent and would never think of telling anyone my struggles, let alone reaching out for help. I remember getting upset at my daughter, Hope, who was about 4 at the time, because she wouldn’t stay in bed and go to sleep. As I went back to put her in her bed, she said to me in her sweetest, saddest little voice, “Mommy, I wish we could move back to our other house.” This new house was much bigger with a great backyard and a swing-set, so I was surprised at her words. “Why?” I asked. She said, “Because I think this house makes you really mad.” I will never forget her words, as they were my final wake up call. I had to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore, and that I needed help for my anger.
If you can relate to my story, I want you to know, you’re not alone. Many moms share stories of their struggles with anger. It’s so hard to talk about and our shame keeps us silent and feeling alone. You are not a bad mom- you just need some tools to help you cope with the stress and pressures of life and having little ones. For me, I was just surprised that it took having three kids for my own anger to surface its ugly little head.
What can you do?
- Share with a trusted friend. Sometimes the first step is to break the silence and bring that thing you’ve been so ashamed of to the light. It’s actually freeing when you’re able to talk about it. Have accountability with a safe friend and allow her to ask you the hard questions. It would be great if you guys could meet together or talk on the phone weekly or bi-weekly.
- See a counselor. When I realized that this was much bigger than me, I knew I needed someone to talk to. I needed someone that could dig into my past and try to help me realize why I was responding the way I was. This was huge for me! If you’re noticing that your anger or rage is frequent/daily, please don’t hesitate to get help from a counselor. Don’t say, “I just can’t afford it.” Some counselors offer a discount based on your family’s income. You can’t afford not to. There is such a stigma in society today, like going to counseling is for people that have major problems. Guess what? We all have things in our lives that might need some outside counsel every now and then. This is nothing to be ashamed of! I applaud you for realizing there is an issue and being brave enough to seek the help of those qualified. After a few sessions with my counselor, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Wow, it’s a miracle you’re not totally messed up right now!” Do it for you and do it for your family.
- Seek out forgiveness. If you know you’ve disciplined your child out of anger, not out of love and normal parental discipline, ask for your child’s forgiveness. This is powerful! What a lesson for them to see that we can humble ourselves and ask for their forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong. And it brings healing to their little hearts. This also models to them how to ask for forgiveness when they’ve done something wrong.
- Set aside a mommy time-out. Let’s face it- even with the greatest of upbringings, when we’re in a season of raising littles, there are pressures, constancy, and exhaustion. These beautiful little people just know how to push our buttons, right?! It can be a trying season of mothering. I have a friend whose husband would give her 4 hours every Sunday after church ‘off’. She could schedule coffee dates with friends, impromptu catching up at a new restaurant, mindless wandering at Target, time to read a new book, or peruse a magazine at Barnes & Noble. She always knew, no matter how hard her week was that Sunday was coming! Another good time-out would be setting aside a time, even if it’s only once a month, for a date night with your spouse. This helps you to connect with your spouse and not feel so isolated. You could get dressed up and enjoy a nice restaurant or perhaps stay in your yoga pants and go see the latest movie. The point is to break away from the normal- it’s refreshing.
- Self-Reflect: Keep an anger journal. Keep a small journal with you and write down when you loose your cool. Look for patterns. What time of day do you get angriest? What are the triggers? This will help you to know if there’s a certain time each day when you’re most exhausted and can mentally plan for it. Maybe your kids melt down almost everyday from 4-7. Try not to plan too much around this time. Maybe you notice it’s one particular child that really pushes your buttons. The more aware you are of this, the more you can deal with the anger even before it hits. And if you notice you are having moments of anger and/or rage almost everyday, you can take your anger journal with you if you choose to see a licensed professional (See #2).
I share my own story with you because this topic of ‘moms having issues with anger’ is one of those taboo topics we like to sweep under the rug.
We are ashamed. And heaven forbid if anyone ever knew of all the times we’ve lost it and screamed at our children out of anger. The problem is the more we hide it, the worse it gets. And the more we try to control it on our own, the more out of control we feel.
What I have discovered through this journey is that though I will never be perfect, I can be whole. I don’t have to repeat the patterns of my upbringing and I can have peace in my home and in my life. Step out and take a chance to make a change. It’s never too late.