Angry mothers often feel inadequate as parents. This creates an on-going tension and irritability at feeling unable to cope with the demands of small children who, as we know, can be a handful. Associated with this inadequacy is helplessness – an inner sense of feeling out of control and unable to soothe or resolve the daily distresses of their children. These kinds of women are often very needy, if not demanding themselves, and react more like siblings than parents to their children. The anger explodes from a resentment that they have to put their child’s needs before their own. For women who may, for example, be used to just doing their own thing or getting their own way, it can be a culture shock to suddenly be surrounded by the needy cries and demands of children.
The following kinds of maternal anger or rage may reveal some of the subtleties of maternal frustration:
- The anger of the mother toward the child that exposes her inadequacy and lack of empathy for her child. A mother, who is unable to teach and encourage her child, because it requires an ability to forget herself, resents the interruption caused by her 4 year old boy who gets upset and frustrated with his inability to master a task. Unable to give him patient encouragement, she, instead, gives out to him for ‘whinging’.
- The anger toward a child that intrudes into a mother’s depressive withdrawal: For example, some mothers suffer from a kind of depressive negativity that requires that they withdraw from their children into a world where they need to pamper and soothe themselves. When their children naturally try to approach or break through that depressive withdrawal by acting up they can be met by a foul-mouthed rebuff. For example, the 3 year old child that asks her a question during the soaps, the older tired child that interrupts her bottle of wine at night, the child that seeks her attention when she has prioritised her own need for self-attention, all encounter contempt.
- The anger with the smaller child that is by nature harmlessly un-cooperative: In this case the angry mother expects that the child should co-operate with her instructions or orders. Some mothers expect little children to really be little adults and are constantly frustrated with their children’s age appropriate need for teaching. They get frustrated that their children need to be helped focus on things and to persist with things. The mother screams at her six year old, who has got distracted from her task, “I TOLD YOU TO BRING THOSE SHOES UP STAIRS, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU”. The child jumps with fright, brings her shoes upstairs, and lies on her bed crying while her mother fumes about downstairs at her siblings.
- The anger with the defiant child that thus allows the mother to explode into rage. In this situation the angry mother provokes an angry defiance from her child, which gives the mother the excuse to escalate her anger into rage. The mother’s rage here has nothing to do with the child but has been bubbling underneath the surface waiting to explode. “NOW LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO” the mother roars at her child after she knocks over her coffee in her fit of rage.
- The anger with the child that she expects to be a little adult. In this situation the mother expects a form of understanding from her child that she never got from her parents. She expects her child to understand and be sympathetic to how overwhelmed she feels. “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I AM TIRED. JUST LEAVE ME F*$% ALONE!” roars the mother.
- The anger at the child by the immature mother who competes with her own child and experiences her child as a rival that deprives her of her own needs. Mother roars at her six year old; “Goddam it, why are you stopping me from doing what I want. Give me back the TV controls. Can’t you see I am trying to watch the TV? Just get out. GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”
- The anger at the child who is tired and cranky and needs her mothers soothing and encouragement. At the end of the day the child’s needs begin to conflict with the mothers. The child who is tired, hungry, or irritable is so at a time when the mother is equally fatigued and fed up after a long day. A mother can explode into a rage when her needs are competing with her child’s and the angry mother will frighten the child into compliance.
All mothers feel overwhelmed at times. All mothers get angry. Some mothers know, however, that their anger borders on a resentment toward their children that bubbles up from feeling overwhelmed or inadequate. If you feel like this, do talk to someone. Seek some counselling or parenting support. You are not alone with these feelings. For many, the task of parenting is overwhelming – particularly if you have little or no support.