Before I became a mom myself I had a naive image of motherhood. Moms looked like they had the coolest job. Mom life would be full of fun times with the children. Moms got to be in charge and chaperone parties. They got to go shopping all the time and who doesn’t love shopping?! Seemed like a great life to me. So naturally, when my hubby and I decided to start a family together I was pretty excited to become a mom. When I hit the 4th trimester with our 2nd child, my rose colored view of motherhood shattered as the reality of motherhood hit me. Being a mom with two little ones was absolutely overwhelming. The sleepless nights were probably the worst for me. I suddenly felt like I had no time for anything. I felt unappreciated and unnoticed. My personal time was nonexistent and if I ever did catch a few minutes of “me time” I spent most of it thinking about my children. I suffered through a severe case of postpartum depression. The despair and sadness I felt were extreme and the tiniest of things could trigger my tears. The reality of being a mom was quite a shock to me. It turns out though that I am not alone. In fact, the first year after childbirth 22% of women will experience postpartum depression (1). While I never personally experienced anger and mom rage, I can relate to feeling out of control of my emotions.
No matter the circumstances, being a mom is hard work. In fact it’s probably the hardest job in the world. Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You Mom” campaign does a beautiful job recognizing all the hard work moms do that sometimes goes otherwise unnoticed. There is one commercial, “The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world” that does a particularly fantastic job of showing all the behind the scenes work of a mom.
All the little things moms do really add up and are so often taken for granted. The endless responsibility of making sure everyone’s needs are met is tedious and steady work. Getting up early and staying up late to make sure no one forgets anything and everyone has clean underwear to wear is invaluable to a household and yet it contributes no physical value in dollars or cents. Even when moms are away from their children they spend a vast majority of their time worrying about them. It’s no wonder that moms get burned out. Sure enough, over time, the resentment grows. It’s not resentment that you are a mom or resentment towards your children, but it's resentment towards all the things a mom does that goes unnoticed, unappreciated, and undervalued. Along with resentment comes anger. All moms (and dads too) get angry now and again. Even the smallest thing, like spilling a freshly prepared bottle of milk, can send a mom into a fit of anger on a bad day. Feeling angry is a natural, normal emotion and it pops up more often then we all would like to admit. Anger is a feeling of aggression and it ebbs and flows depending on each circumstance we find ourselves floating through. Anger can actually be just the thing a mom needs to get ourselves motivated to take action towards change so we can feel like a happy mom again. When feelings of anger intensify, it can lead to extreme behaviors though. What was once anger is now rage and that rage can become uncontrollable especially when you combine a tired, overworked mom with happy, active, energetic, dependent children. This overwhelming feeling of anger and hostility could be caused by mom rage.
What is mom rage?
Mom rage is unmanageable anger characterized by physical and/or emotional hostility during motherhood. Mom rage is a symptom of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). The most commonly recognized PMAD is postpartum depression. While mom rage is not an official diagnosis, uncontrollable anger is a very common symptom of postpartum depression.
For example, in a fit of rage you might physically throw or damage things or you may use language that is emotionally abusive. In a fit of rage, conscious decision making is inaccessible and your actions feel like they are no longer in your control. Mom rage can even creep into your actions suddenly and unexpectedly. For example, while you are in the middle of being a fun mom setting up a colored bath for your kids you could lose your temper after you ask your kids for the 10th time to take off their clothes to get in the bathtub. You might go from zero to 100 and scream at them and grab their soft skin arm so hard it leaves a bruise.
Minna Dubin describes her own personal encounter with mom rage in an article for the New York Times, “The Rage Mother’s Don’t Talk About”. This is an excerpt from her story which was published in 2019:
“Mother rage can change you, providing access to parts of yourself you didn’t even know you had. Mother rage is “not appropriate.” Mothers are supposed to be martyr-like in our patience. We are not supposed to want to hit our kids or to tear out our hair. We hide these urges, because we are afraid to be labeled “bad moms.” We feel the need to qualify our frustration with “I love my child to the moon and back, but…” As if mother rage equals a lack of love. Fearing judgement, we say nothing. The rage festers and we are left under a pile of loneliness and debilitating shame. The shame is as bad as the rage and just as damaging.”
She was flooded with responses to her article. Some criticized her, yet many women responded to her article citing that they too felt the same mom rage in their lives. According to Dubin mom rage is, “ the colloquial term for unrestrained behavior a mom experiences during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond.”
What are the symptoms of mom rage?
Here are some signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing mom rage
Increased frequency of screaming or shouting
Physical use of force such as throwing or punching or breaking stuff
Violent outbursts towards family members (spouse, kids, parents)
Ruminating on something that upset you
How to control mom rage?
If you are feeling intense rage it is a sign that you may have a more serious perinatal mood disorder. Every woman responds differently to postpartum mood disorders so there is not a one size fits all treatment. However, the best first step is to speak with a medical professional such as your OB-GYN doctor. If your OB-GYN doesn’t offer the support you need, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. They can also offer the resources and professional help you may need.
It’s also very important to reach out to people in your circle of trust. Peer support is absolutely critical. Find people to be ‘your postpartum people’. Whether it's your spouse, another mom, your best friend or another woman struggling through postpartum depression, it doesn’t necessarily matter who it is just as long as you can trust them and be honest with them about your feelings. One thing is for sure, you are not alone in your postpartum journey. The sooner you reach out for help the better.
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Resources for Postpartum Mood Disorders
The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders is a branch of the Monmouth Medical Center with a Platinum Level Certification as a Maternal Mental Health Friendly Facility. They provide mental health services to the perinatal community.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a confidential suicide, crisis, and distress prevention hotline. It is available 24-hours a day for free. The phone number to call is 1-800-273-8255.
Postpartum Support International (PSI) provides information, resources, education, and advocacy for future research and legislation to support and promote the importance of perinatal mental health.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is a grassroots mental health organization with state and local affiliate branches that seeks to advocate and provide education to affect policy, system and environmental changes in order to enhance the quality of life for individuals and families affected by mental health.
About the Author
Kelly Hater, owner of Mama Bear Domain, has over 15 years of coaching experience. She is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and has a bachelor's degree in Health Promotion from the University of Cincinnati.
She specializes in helping clients overcome mom burnout by empowering them to stop existing and start living. Her clients no longer let mom guilt steal their identity and goals. Moms deserve to be happy and live a fulfilling life. She personally has overcome overwhelming mom struggles herself and has first hand experience. Kelly gives her clients the accountability and support they need to take action.
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Wisner KL, Sit DKY, McShea MC, et al. Onset Timing, Thoughts of Self-harm, and Diagnoses in Postpartum Women With Screen-Positive Depression Findings. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(5):490–498. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.87