I'm a mental health expert, and I still experience 'mom rage'

"I believe—firmly and to my core—that I'm a good mother. I also believe that, during these difficult times, good mothers feel angry."

dealing with mom rage

"Fine," I surrendered to my 4-year-old, through gritted teeth, as I grabbed his arm a bit harder than intended. "I'll come with you to the bathroom."

I was in the middle of—what else?—a Zoom meeting hosted by our school superintendent about plans for the fall. My son had to use the bathroom and, although he'd had no hesitation about going by himself prior to the pandemic, he now insists upon grown-up company. His timing, in this case, was particularly poor, and no amount of pleading on my part was going to convince him to go, even just this once, on his own.


My son's need—physical, emotional, whatever—clearly wasn't going to wait for my meeting to be over, and I suddenly felt so, so angry about that. And so, the gritted teeth and arm-pulling.

I'm not proud of any of this, of course, but I'm sharing my struggles rather than letting shame and guilt reign victorious, as they have for parents—especially mothers—for so long. Even as a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with parents, I sometimes experience intense anger at my children, usually for reasons that are not even a little bit their fault. Recently, it's been happening more frequently. And I'm not the only one.

In her fantastic recent piece in The New York Times, Minna Dubin correctly observed: "Between stay-at-home orders, COVID-19 health concerns, financial instability (or fear of it), and police violence against Black people, it is no surprise that mothers are experiencing intensified rage above the surface, and feelings of grief, fear, and loneliness below." And in her aptly titled Wall Street Journal article this summer, Anger Management for an Angry Time, Elizabeth Bernstein wrote, "We're living in a time of great fury. The strain is spilling over into our personal lives, fomenting hostility with friends, family and even strangers..." I'd only add to that list, separately and explicitly, our children. We—albeit, thankfully, not all the time—are feeling hostile toward our children.

And it's really, really uncomfortable. In all kinds of ways, and for all different reasons. Good mothers aren't supposed to feel this way. I mean, right? Wrong.

I believe—firmly and to my core—that I'm a good mother. I also believe that, during these difficult times, good mothers feel angry. And that, because good mothers are human, our children are sometimes the unintentional recipients of our anger.

Sadly, the hardships Dubin spells out (see also this other piece by Deb Perelman) are here to stay, at least for now, which means our anger is too.

Here are a few suggestions for how to cope with it:

1. Embrace "radical acceptance."

The Buddhist psychologist Tara Brach describes radical acceptance as having two interdependent wings: seeing our experience clearly, and holding our experience with compassion. Together, she writes, they "they enable us to fly and be free." Flying free sounds great to me, but so does just getting through the day without flying off the handle at my kids. That first wing—seeing experience clearly—means accepting life on life's terms. This is where we are. It's real. It's happening. We don't benefit from judging our anger, pushing it away, denying it, or exerting energy wishing it were different. Rather, we see it clearly, and we welcome it. I used to have Rumi's poem "The Guest House" taped to my fridge; perhaps it's time to put it back up. The first few lines read: "This being human is a guest house. / Every morning a new arrival./ A joy, a depression, a meanness, / some momentary awareness comes / as an unexpected visitor./ Welcome and entertain them all!"

Once we see clearly that we're angry and own it as what is—not as what should or shouldn't be—then we meet the anger with compassion. We're doing the best we can. We feel deeply because we have big hearts. We have reason to be angry. We are going through a tough time. This is what is; this is radical acceptance.

2. Complete your fight response.

As one of the emotions that triggers our "fight, flight or freeze" response, anger is an evolutionarily adaptive reaction to danger, a warning in the face of threat. Interestingly, when wild animals have their lives threatened, they do not experience the same after effects of trauma that humans do. This is presumably so, as hypothesized by psychologist Peter Levine when he developed his Somatic Experiencing treatment, because they physically release the energy that gets accumulated in the nervous system during stressful events. Humans, conversely, frequently override their fight response, because their thinking brain—judgments, etc.—gets in the way and inhibits the nervous system's natural capacity for self-regulation.

Allowing your body to release the physical energy associated with anger—to have its fight response—helps your nervous system recalibrate to a place of calm. The good news is that, from the perspective of your nervous system, there's no difference between actually fighting your children (not recommended) and finding another physical outlet, such as exercise. It might not seem natural to put on your favorite dance song when you're on the verge of strangling your kids, but it doesn't need to—no matter how contrived it feels to your thinking brain, your nervous system will welcome it, and so it will help.

From a physiological standpoint, it can also help to release the energy by yelling. One of my favorite ways to allow my body to have its fight response is to punch the air and yell something silly at my kids—my nervous system gets the release it needs, and my kids know I'm still in control of my anger. "OMG!" I'll scream occasionally while clenching my fists. "If you don't stop asking for snacks I'm going to pour sauce and cheese on you and throw you in the toaster and turn you into a pizza so you can eat yourself! Grrr!" Mission accomplished.

3. Channel it.

There are plenty of things to be legitimately raging about right now. If you're upset about misogyny, children in cages, systemic racism, police brutality, gun violence or something else, you can pick one and go to battle for what you believe is right. There may be people and policies that deserve our collective anger at this moment in time, but our children are not among them.

4. Make a point of focusing on the good.

Let me be clear: this is something I recommend not as a replacement for any of the above, but, rather, as an addition. Be deliberate about finding ways to feel—not just recognize, but actively feel—love toward your kids. Notice how sweet they look when they're sleeping. Look at pictures from the day they were born. Watch a video of when they took their first steps. Dig out their preschool Mother's or Father's Day art project—the one with their tiny fingerprints.

5. Own your mistakes.

I'm a broken record these days when it comes to discussing rupture and repair and the importance of apologizing to our kids when we mess up. That's because it might be the most important thing we can do these days (also: always). Even if you do all of the above to a tee, you're still going to make mistakes. When you do, say you're sorry. The world needs more apologizing and forgiveness; what a gift that we can start right here in our homes.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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