A lot is written about male anger. While men perpetrate by far the preponderance of serious domestic abuse and violence, women and mothers can be abusive in the home. In recent weeks I have found myself working with a number of mother’s that struggle with controlling their anger. In some cases this is very distressing for the children. In most of the cases I am dealing with, it is also distressing for the mothers themselves who cover up their sense of inadequacy or helplessness with anger or rage. It got me thinking on the different kinds of anger experienced by mothers who have a problem with their own frustration and rage. Most mothers find ways of coping and managing. All mothers get angry. But some anger is a symptom of a deep inadequacy, of a sense of really being overwhelmed by the tasks of mothering. For some mothers, the maternal instinct is not natural and they are unable to identify with, and even resent, the easy earth-mothering they see in their friends.
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:
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.
Dr. Colm O'Connor is a Cork Psychologist. He has written hundreds of articles on family psychology - some posted here.