parent opinion

"Inflammatory labels aren’t helpful." Why we need to rethink the term mum rage.

Inflammatory labels aren’t helpful. Instead, we need to normalise the spectrum of emotions that are common in new parenthood and give mums the tools and support to navigate them.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this feeling rather ragey. I’m recovering from a bout of food poisoning, my middle child ran away from home (he made it as far as the garden hedge before sending me handwritten notes via his little brother), and my to-do list is monotonous and never-ending.  

My rage is warranted but does it really need the word "mum" in front of it? Can’t I just be a woman/business owner/mother who is angry? As far as I know, the term "dad rage" doesn’t exist yet I’m quite certain (read: I know) that dads tend to get angry sometimes.

Watch: The things mums never say. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Considering the general lack of support for mothers coupled with unrealistic social expectations, it’s no wonder we’re angry. For many, the enormous mental load of motherhood can feel persistently overwhelming. Couple this with the intense transition that is postpartum - sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations, unmet needs, lack of support, identity crisis - and you’ve got the perfect ground for some very valid anger. 


Anger in matrescence is common (but not often discussed).

You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard the term matrescence. It’s enjoying a revival in the postpartum sphere at present but it was first coined by medical anthropologist, Dana Raphael, in the 1970s. 

It describes the period of new motherhood that is more of an unfurling process; a total upheaval of the person you once were and a tentative adjustment to the new mother you have become. 

It’s not dissimilar to adolescence in that your whole world - and your perspective of the world - has shifted dramatically and it’s going to take a while for you to find your ground. It’s a hormonal, physical and emotional rollercoaster and many mothers don’t know it exists until they’re dazed and confused in the midst of it. 

If we consider adolescence, it’s a given that teenagers are angry and sometimes ragey. They’re hormones are (quite literally) raging, their body is dramatically changing and their emotions are all over the place as they discover who they are, where they fit, and how they relate to those around them. 

Add 10 to 20 years and a baby and you’re basically describing a new mum. The difference is that we don’t judge these emotions in teens because it’s an expected part of adolescence. But mothers? We’re judged and we generally enter postpartum with little support or awareness, hence why consciously planning for postpartum and the enormous physical and emotional shifts can be so helpful. (It’s a major focus of my new book The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth). 


Anger is normal. Here’s how to release it.

Recognising your emotions and then processing them is a life skill and a really good one to take into new motherhood with you (discuss it with your partner in pregnancy and consider it practical postpartum planning). Rage is a result of suppressed anger; it’s when your emotions boil over and you feel overwhelmed with frustration, stress, and tension.

When we’re angry, the rational part of the brain is switched off. The best way to get it back? Regulate your nervous system which means releasing your anger and finding some semblance of grounding again. You can do this by:

  • Saying you’re angry out loud - this is an acknowledgment of your emotions which means you’re practising self-awareness.

  • Making sound - sing, hum, scream into a pillow - sound helps to process emotion.

  • Wringing a wet towel with your hands (it’s hard work but a good way to channel your angry energy).

  • Coming back to your breath and let out audible sighs/ommms with your exhalation (the vibration can soothe your nervous system).

Suppressing your emotions isn’t helpful but being open and honest about them is. Once you have regulated your anger, talk about it with your partner, your friends, or your family. This is a practical step that can lead to important conversations about feelings, expectations, and boundaries. 

Listen to Fill My Cup. In this episode, Allira Potter is joined by Seriya Cutbush, Co-Founder of Sound Healing Australia, to chat about the transformative powers of sound healing. Story continues below.

Anger can be a symptom of perinatal depression and anxiety.

There are so many things that can contribute to your anger as a new mum, including:

  • Sleep deprivation.

  • Relationship tension.

  • Resentment.

  • Unmet needs. 

  • Hormonal imbalance.

  • Lack of time to yourself.

  • Financial stress.

  • Persistent overwhelm.

  • Work/motherhood juggle.

Anger is normal in motherhood but it can also be a symptom of depression and/or anxiety. If you feel like you’re experiencing persistent low mood, overwhelm, distressing thoughts, disinterest in your day-to-day life and these feelings remain for two weeks or more, it’s a good idea to reach out for support. The biggest and best first step is acknowledging that you need help and asking for it. Remember, it is not a reflection on your mothering and it doesn’t define your future in any way. Perinatal depression and anxiety is common and treatable and seeking support from a professional is a really positive step to taking good care of yourself. 


Start with your GP who will typically ask you questions about how you’ve been feeling, set you up with a mental health care plan (this offers you 10 subsidised sessions with a psychologist), and refer you to a psychologist in your local area. 

This week is Perinatal Mental Health Week. If you feel like you need support, reach out to PANDA’s National Perinatal Mental Health Helpline - 1300 726 306 - which is a confidential and safe service. If you want online resources to support your mental health journey, visit Panda.

Sophie Walker is the founder and host of Australian Birth Stories podcast that has over 9.7 million downloads and is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives. She also has a range of education resources available, including her online birth preparation course, The Birth Class. Every week on the podcast she shares an interview with a woman who steps into her most vulnerable space to detail all the precious details of her pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. Each story is unique hence the podcast is an amazing education resource for pregnant women, their birth support partners and professionals working in perinatal health.

Feature Image: Getty.

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