Mom Rage Is So Real, But Why Can't We Talk About It?

For the angry mom who feels like they're failing. You're not alone.
Amelia Protiva
5 min read

It’s only 7:45 AM, and yet Emily is already feeling the weight of the day. Her toddler, Max, is clamoring for attention as she scrambles to get breakfast on the table, her eyes heavy from a night fragmented by the baby’s hourly awakenings. Yesterday’s frustrations—a day marred by tantrums and no time for an uninterrupted, not-microwaved-ten-times cup of coffee—are still simmering just beneath the surface.

Just last week, Emily felt like she was finally getting things somewhat into a routine, but then her husband Nate had an unexpected work deadline, shifting the full weight of parenting and household management solely onto her shoulders. After the past few days, this morning was ripe for mayhem. As she turns to open the fridge, Max knocks over his cup of milk. The liquid runs across the table and drips over the edge onto the hardwood floor.

At the sight of the spilled milk, Emily's voice rises sharply as she yells at Max, her tone far harsher and louder than she intends. "Can't you just sit still for one minute?! Stop moving and pay attention to what you’re doing!!" As the words echo in the kitchen, Max's eyes widen and he bursts into tears. Emily’s heart races, her face flushes hot, and her hands feel clammy and a bit shaky. She scrambles to wipe up the mess, whispering over and over “I’m sorry, baby, I’m sorry,” as shame and disappointment floods her being from being a less than perfect mom once again.

This experience feels all too familiar to many moms across the U.S.

The scenario of a morning gone awry, where innocent spilled milk is a trigger that unleashes a seemingly irrational torrent of anger. Mom rage isn’t simply the result of an insignificant trigger, but stems from a chronic, cyclical experience of pent up and tamped down frustrations turning into a strong emotional and sometimes physical outburst. Moms have described their experiences of maternal rage as an out of body feeling, as if they're watching their own intense emotional response from a distance. A feeling both complex and overwhelming that can be difficult to understand or control in the moment.

The impact of maternal anger extends beyond the immediate moment of rage. It affects mothers’ self-esteem and mental health long term, leading to feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and can strain the emotional climate of the entire household.

Addressing the root causes of our anger

The root causes of mom rage are multifaceted and deeply embedded in both our unmet personal needs and unhealthy societal expectations, which may include:

• Sleep deprivation

• Lack of physical support

• Unfulfilled emotional needs

• Social isolation

• Care burnout

• Financial stress

• Hormone fluctuations

These root causes contribute to a chronic cycle of pent-up frustrations that can culminate in intense emotional outbursts, as exemplified by Emily's experience. Maternal anger can be frightening for everyone involved and lead to feelings of shame or failure, especially in comparison to our perceived notions of what a "perfect mother” is or should be. The pressure to flawlessly juggle various roles often leaves women feeling like they are failing across the board when, in reality, the standards themselves are unattainably high.

Societal contributions to mom rage

The weight of societal expectations on mothers in the U.S. is palpable. The pervasive myth of the perfect mother, effortlessly balancing parenting, household responsibilities, and often a career, sets unattainable standards that leave women feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. This idealized image, perpetuated through social media and cultural narratives, compounds the challenges faced by moms who are already navigating a full load of responsibilities without support.

Furthermore, familial legacies of poor parenting, rigid gender roles, and a lack of positive role models contribute to the struggles of modern mothers. Compounded with political and economic policies, like non-existent parental leave, limited access to affordable childcare, and gaps in healthcare and mental health services, leave entire families without crucial support systems. In addition, modern urban planning exacerbates this isolation, with the lack of walkable spaces diminishing opportunities for serendipitous connections without the added mental load of coordination. Addressing these systemic issues requires redefining our societal expectations, advocating for policy changes that prioritize maternal well-being, and fostering more safe and inclusive public spaces that provide mothers with the support they need to thrive and flourish.

So what can be done for us moms?

First of all, recognizing the factors that contribute to maternal anger is essential in framing our rage as a legitimate response to external pressures, not as a personal failure. So how can we support ourselves and each other?

1. Talk about it.

Start an open conversation with trusted mom friends. I can almost guarantee you’re not alone in your experience, and having other moms in your corner is vital.

2. Practice emotional awareness.

Sitting with our own feelings without self-judgment can be a powerful step in understanding and managing our intense emotions.

3. Step away physically.

When you’re feeling like you might explode from the frustration of it all, stepping away momentarily from the situation can prevent the anger from escalating. This might mean taking a few deep breaths in another room or going for a short walk.

4. Redirect your anger.

Finding healthy outlets for anger, such as physical exercise or pushing toward improved policies for parents, can help mitigate the intensity of your emotions.

5. Practice self-acceptance.

You’re human, mama. Extend yourself some grace and self-love.

6. Seek professional help.

Consulting with a therapist can provide strategies to cope with anger and address underlying issues contributing to your emotional distress. Seeing a professional can be key in prioritizing your mental health and self-care.

Mom rage, a complex emotion rooted in societal pressures and personal needs left unmet, is a shared experience for many moms. Yet within these very personal battles lies an opportunity for us to grow and support one another in new and meaningful ways. As we prioritize self-care and support, seek mutual understanding through open dialogue, and work together to advocate for policies and spaces that prioritize maternal well-being, we can navigate motherhood with resilience and self-compassion. Acknowledging maternal anger as a valid response to where we are as a society and intentionally nurturing our communities that foster empathy and acceptance creates a more supportive world for us all.

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