I think one of the biggest challenges we face as mothers is managing feelings of anger.
These feelings can range from mild irritation and frustration through crankiness and sarcasm to outright rage and snapping into violence. Of course violence can range from smacking the table hard with the fist and yelling something that would go “beep” on TV to losing all control and shaking a baby.
Mothering young children is so stressful and requires so much self-control. Some days it feels manageable and some days it feels downright impossible.
Here is one little tip that can make a huge difference.
1. Describe your anger!
How do you know you are angry? Often we blurt out horrid things before we even realize we are angry.
Write down your levels of anger from 1 – 5. 1 is your mildest manifestation of anger and 5 is your personal worst expression of anger – your most destructive acting out of your anger.
Here are some examples of different levels: feeling completely overwhelmed and frustrated by dropping things, being aggressive in traffic, storming out of the room / house, yelling, being sarcastic and mean, pinching, smacking, pushing, and being rough.
The plan is to name and identify your anger when it’s at the 1 or 2 levels. Before you do and say things that you regret.
2. Identify what you need!
Usually we feel frustration and anger because we are not getting something we need. It might be more sleep, more time alone, more nutritious food, fresh air, a walk, a good cry with a friend, or simply telling one’s partner what is bothering you.
Think deeply about what it is you need. Name it and acknowledge it. Be in touch with yourself.
Create the awareness that you have needs that are valid and that YOU need to be responsible for getting them met by voicing them clearly.
The important people in your life are not mind readers! You alone are responsible for identifying what you need and asking for it (from yourself or someone else).
3. Get what you need or work at shifting your perspective.
Either go and get what you need as soon as you can, or make a plan to get what you need at some point.
If what you need is not possible to obtain (such a more money, a bigger house, hired help etc), then do all you can to shift your perspective.
It is helpful to distinguish between the things you do have control over and those you don’t. Very often, when we are angry, it is because we are focusing on trying to control the things we do not have control over and ignoring the things we do have control over. It is true that we have some control over our perspective, or attitude.
And even around the things we feel out of control over, we have some control.
If you feel like a single parent because your partner travels so much, then acknowledge that you have no control over his or her traveling, but you can increase your feeling of being part of a community of mothers. Think of the things you can do to change that, rather than dwelling on the bitterness you feel about being alone much of the time.
Above all, be kind to yourself and forgive yourself for slipping out of awareness and being angry. Just learn from it and resolve to improve your management of your own anger!