A few months ago, I erupted at my husband over a relatively innocent comment he made about how I cleaned the kitchen.
He is the most equal partner I know—we both work full time and aim to split family responsibilities as evenly as possible. We alternate cleaning routines and bedtime, we give each other time off each weekend, we try to check in and give one another what we need.
Still, I am sensitive to criticism of my housekeeping.
Still, I am in year 8 of back-to-back seasons of pregnancy and breastfeeding and sometimes feel like the physical labor of motherhood that only I can do is taken for granted.
Still, I am tired and worn down after a year of parenting four children with limited support and no social outlets during this pandemic.
So when he criticized my choice to leave dirty dishes in the sink instead of washing them, his little comment set off a volcano of mom rage. I screamed so loudly and quickly from within that I knew it was a trigger of a deeper frustration. I banged my hand on the counter. I wailed with tears that just moments before I didn’t even know were there. And though I thankfully only flip my lid a few times a year, the rage I felt was a sign of the deep well of frustration that was building up inside me.
I’m far from the only mom experiencing rage.
But we talk about rage—this uncontrollable emotion—in whispers, because we are ashamed to admit just how angry we are. We hide our rage because society says moms should just ‘be happy.’ We keep it secret because rage is an emotion that our male-centered society says we’re not allowed to have.
In fact, mom rage is one of the most common topics moms come to Motherly to read about*.
Our own rage can shock us. It can scare us. It can scare others in our family, even the people we love most. And it’s not an emotion that mothers want to experience.
There should be no shame in the rage mothers feel. The shame is in why they feel it.
Mom rage is a symptom of a much deeper social problem.
Mom rage is a symptom of how much we expect from mothers—and how little we support them in that work.
Mom rage is a symptom of the unpaid emotional labor that women do.
Mom rage is a symptom of a society that tells women to breastfeed—but won’t cover basic lactation support.
Mom rage is a symptom of a culture that pressures women to “get their body back,” but won’t grant them the paid maternal leave that is critical to their physical recovery.
Moms rage because it’s 2020 but they live in a parenting culture that treats them like it’s still the 1950s.
Moms rage because our government treated us like society’s “shock absorbers,” but does next to nothing to have our backs (see: no paid leave, the ‘motherhood penalty’ and male-centric corporate cultures.)
Moms rage because childcare is outrageously expensive and yet the selfless people who provide it are still underpaid for their labor.
Moms rage because schools assumed that their careers were expendable or flexible and that they could just bend time to manage remote schooling and paying the bills—all during a pandemic.
Moms rage because they don’t feel seen and that invisible labor builds up into years of resentment and it explodes into a primal scream.
Moms rage because the frustration and grief need somewhere else to go.
The mom rage that I experienced was not unlike a tantrum in my own children—and I’ve been parenting long enough to know that tantrums are always a representation of an unmet need in my kids. They’re the tip of a deep and desperate iceberg.
Moms are crying to be heard. To be genuinely, deeply, structurally supported—through paid family leave, affordable childcare, equal pay, flexible work, equality in parenting and modern school systems. Moms are desperate to have their burdens lightened and shared.
The load mothers carry is just too heavy.
So for now, we rage.
*Sometimes rage can be a symptom of a mental health issue that warrants treatment. Never hesitate to reach out to your provider or a mental health therapist if you are concerned about an emotion or thought you experience.