Mummy rage is not something women talk about a lot.
Road rage, trolley rage, queue rage, you-name-it rage, sure. We’ve swapped stories at barbeques and in workplaces about watching a man jump out of his car and punch a lane changer’s windscreen, or a neighbour screaming at another neighbour for Sunday morning leaf blowing.
But mummy rage? It’s not so public. The witnesses are usually the smallest people in the house. Sometimes they can’t even speak. Or they are teens, and considered rather “overly dramatic” retellers of events.
Listen to Zoe exdplain what Year 12 for a kid is really like. (Post continues.)
The thing is, mummy rage is not meant to happen because Mummys are soft and cuddly and full of kisses and burp rainbow bubbles and cut sandwiches into love hearts and remember everyone’s birthday, and eat the burnt bit of toast, and skip for no reason.
They don’t scream until their voice goes hoarse.
They don’t smack before they’ve even registered they’ve smacked.
They don’t say something nasty to a teen, just to be nasty.
They don’t storm down the road away from their families, jaws clenched.
They don’t snap at another mum at the swings.
But mummy rage happens. (Not being an adult English aristocrat walking around with a teddy bear in one hand and scotch in the other, I think it’s time to call it mum rage).
I've heard about it. I've seen it. I've done it.
Sometimes I think it's a more complicated rage than someone losing it over the car in front going too slow. Sometimes I think it is just as base and a sudden burst of anger, no matter what the cause.
What are the hallmarks of mum rage?
- There's no pre-planning of your actions. No I am so angry about [insert event here] I am going to slam this door five times and yell 'shit shit shit' each time and roar. You just do it. Then you have to deal with your actions after.
- Burning up from the inside because you feel like a victim. Like you have been badly done by. That life is unfair. That everyone was having a better time than you are. It's kind of an emotional state that swings from toddler tantrum to teen mood and back again.
- Wanting control, but not feeling in control at all.
Dana Posthumus in The Tribe admits to bouts of mum rage and says she believes there are three main roots to her anger where she feels, "that horrible gut wrenching hot rage".
Unmet Unrealistic Expectations
"I have never felt so angry about my house being dirty. How could I yell at my two year old daughter for touching the sliding glass door as I am currently wiping fingerprints off?" Dana asks.
"Because I have the unrealistic expectation that my sliding glass door will be print free and she is getting in the way of that."
"Our world is full of messages about who we need to be as mothers," Dana says.
And those messages are unrealistic. But from pop culture to advertising to good friends on social feeds, we take them in and feel lesser in the "most important job" in the world.
Not taking the time to take care of myself.
If you take care of yourself, Dana believes, you will be able to handle the everyday stressors that come your way.
"I kicked the hallway wall so hard one day in a fit of frustration when both kids were crying and whining and the house was a mess and I had just spent an hour on the phone with the cable company," Dana writes. "I remember they both looked at me surprised and I did not feel any better. In fact my foot just really hurt. I needed a break."
Di Westaway felt stuck. Then she walked herself out of a wife and mother crisis.
Then there is the theory that rage and frustration can stem from anxiety.
In The Sydney Morning Herald, Natalie Reilly writes about studies that have linked anger to anxiety and also about her own anger being an "addictive distraction".
"I found this out soon after giving birth to my first kid almost four years ago," Reilly writes. "Lacking sleep and sense, I noticed myself becoming enraged at a barista for pronouncing "soy" as "shoy". I refused to pay a cab driver because he took the long route. I believe I told him I'd see him in hell?"
Instinct and experience tells me it's not just one thing that makes you throw a plate of food over a back deck because someone refuses - again - to eat their dinner (ok, that was me).
Powerful emotions have been brewing for a long time. You are trying. You are failing. You are not perfect. But rage is not helpful. Rage doesn't achieve anything, in fact it probably makes things worse. Despite the stories we retell at barbecues of drivers winding down windows and screaming and doing the finger, rage is not funny either.
Maybe we need to talk about mum rage so we can work out how to lessen it. Maybe we need to not expect so much of ourselves so we can relax more and accept the mess of motherhood.
Because it really doesn't make anyone feel better.