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What is 'mum rage' and how can we manage it? A psychotherapist gives advice

Author Cristalle Hayes shares her experience and tips

mum rage
Sophie Hamilton
Sophie HamiltonParenting Editor
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Ever feel like you're going to literally explode if your kids call out 'Mummy!' one more time from their beds?

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As mothers, we give and we give and we give, and then we get to the point where we just can not give any more and are totally out of energy. That's when the all-too-familiar 'mum rage' can rear its ugly head – and it's normal, we aren't machines.

woman screaming

HELLO! spoke to Cristalle Hayes, existential and trauma-based psychotherapist and author of Angry Mother Assertive Mother: From maternal anger to radical repair, who revealed exactly what mum rage is, why it happens and what we can do about it.

She has some brilliant tips for managing feelings of anger and harnessing them for good in our lives. We're all ears!

Below, Cristalle shares her experience and advice…

"The other night I was doing the usual bedtime routine with my two young boys. I was exhausted and desperate for time on the sofa with my partner to watch the latest film on Netflix. I was rushing bedtime so I could have me time without children demanding my attention. I was touched out and had nothing more to give.

I wasn't taking my usual care and attention over getting my sons to sleep and tried to save time by reading the shortest story on the bookshelf. I was outwardly annoyed at the many requests for milk and chats. The delaying techniques were winding me up.

Once they were asleep, I went downstairs and relaxed on the sofa, finally, only to hear a small thump from upstairs and a sound of tiny feet coming downstairs. 'Mummy can you read me another story?' At this point, I felt the rage, an intense feeling of anger overwhelmed me, my eyes watered, and my jaw clenched.

I shouted at my little boy, 'Just get into bed!' He looked surprised and upset and ended up going straight to bed without his beloved bedtime story. I felt so guilty about how I had handled this situation. I am meant to be the adult, but I felt I wasn't behaving as I wanted - with patience and compassion."

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READ: When mums multi-think: why we do it and how to stop


What is 'mum rage'?

"What I just described is mum rage. Mum rage is when we become overwhelmed with anger and struggle to access the calm and patient side we usually experience as a parent.

Mum rage is when motherhood makes us angry, and that anger blindsides us. We expect motherhood to be a blissful experience that only brings joy, but motherhood is much more complex than that. Motherhood, whilst it can be wonderful, can take its toll on women.

We experience maternal rage when we are in a place of lack - lack of self-care, lack of time to ourselves, lack of sleep or lack of support. We experience maternal rage when we have unresolved traumas from our childhood which motherhood can trigger. We experience maternal rage because we are raging at the shift in our identities as women. We rage at our partners whose lives may seem more unaffected by parenthood. We rage at the lack of support, burnout, and constant criticism and judgment from society.

We may also feel rage when overwhelmed with the mess, perpetual laundry and sensory overload. The noise from plastic toys, cartoons, siblings fighting, and constant demands for snacks.

How to manage mum rage

We can manage our maternal anger by reflecting upon and getting to know our unique relationship with anger. When do you get overwhelmed with anger? What are your unique triggers?

Take time to reflect on what is going on for you when you are in a rage. Are you in a place of lack, and if so, how can you get what you need, so you are not running on an empty tank?

I realised that if I had more time to relax with my husband, I wouldn't feel so desperate for it each night. Now I am carving out more time for myself and ensuring I have more resets in the day.

When reflecting on your anger notice how anger affects your thoughts, does your thinking feed into the anger? You don't have to believe everything you think. Noticing how anger feels in your body is also helpful as the body can be a warning that we need to pay attention to.


Making an anger plan

Another thing mums can do is create a plan for when the anger rises. Once you know your triggers, work out what helps you regulate your emotions.

Simple ways we can regulate our emotions include stopping and pausing, stepping away, drinking a cold glass of water, taking ten deep breaths, noticing your environment, and noticing the sensation of your feet on the ground.

You can also take a moment to watch a quick comedy clip on YouTube, send a message to a friend, or do a simple mindfulness exercise. As long as your children are safe, do what you need to do to look after yourself and reset.

Remind yourself that this stuff is hard and give yourself a break in moments that are a specific trigger for you. Remind yourself of the times when you have displayed patience and parented in the way you wanted to. Look at photos of your children happy and smiling. Speak to your mum friends and share anecdotes. These can all add some perspective to times when it can get too intense."

When anger is a concern

If there are more moments of anger than joy and peace, then anger becomes a worry.

Notice if perhaps you are getting into a rage at situations that previously wouldn't have troubled you so much. Is your anger harming your children? Do you feel your relationship isn't as close as it used to be? Are you feeling more out of control when something trips you up?

Be honest with yourself and know that you can reach out for support. Contact your GP or a therapist, increase your self-care and engage in journaling to help process your emotions.

Shouting occasionally at your child won't harm your child as long as you repair afterwards with an apology, an explanation and a cuddle. Constant outbursts of unexplained anger without repair however will cause harm."

How to harness anger for good

Anger gets such a bad reputation, but it is an emotion we all experience and can be harnessed for good in our lives. Anger is a protective emotion that alerts us when our needs are not being met, when boundaries are not being respected or when we are potentially in an unsafe situation.

When anger is harnessed for good, tremendous positive changes can happen. Listen in to your anger and hear what it is telling you.

Anger is a compass to other emotions and feelings that are going on, so it is worth tuning into our anger, checking in with what is going on, and using our freedom as human beings to make the changes needed and find acceptance with what can’t be changed.

I can’t change my children’s behaviour around bedtime, but I can set boundaries and expectations. I can also make sure I am not so depleted by the end of the day. I can use this as an opportunity to carve in more guilt-free self-care."

Angry Mother Assertive Mother: From maternal anger to radical repair by Cristalle Hayes is published by Rethink, out now, available on Amazon

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