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Mom rage is real—and it's a sign that mothers' needs aren't being met

The truth is, anger—real, fist-clenching, heart-racing, uncontrollable anger—is so much more common among mothers than many of us think.

how to deal with mom rage

Maternal anger takes most women who experience it by surprise. I'm not this person, we say, after feeling a shocking swell of rage during one of those inevitable moments of frustration we all face as a parent.

I never thought I'd be "that mom" who yells at her family, we say, after snapping and yelling at our toddler.

I don't recognize myself when I feel like this—and I feel like this more than I want to, we say, when we realize that our anger isn't a temporary, one-time thing but an undercurrent in our day-to-day, an undeniable presence like a shadow.

The truth is, anger—real, fist-clenching, heart-racing, uncontrollable anger—is so much more common among mothers than many of us think. And it's time to talk about what "mom rage" is, where it comes from, and what we can do about it.


What maternal anger is

Maternal anger is one symptom of postpartum depression and anxiety.

One in 9 women experience some form of postpartum depression or anxiety, but anger may not be the first symptom we think of—we're far more likely to imagine PPDA as persistent feelings of sadness or numbness.

"Women are more informed than ever about what to be on the lookout for after baby arrives: sadness that lasts beyond the first two weeks, difficulty sleeping when baby is sleeping, intrusive thoughts, excessive crying and trouble bonding with baby, just to name a few symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety," as clinical therapist Wendy Snyder notes. "But there is one symptom that still receives very little attention: postpartum rage."

Here's what moms should know about postpartum rage, and why it's so incredibly common but often overlooked.

Maternal anger is a symptom of anxiety well beyond the postpartum period, too.

Anxiety is practically written into our job description as parents: We worry about our children's health, their development, their happiness. We also worry about ourselves, both as parents and as individuals: Am I doing this parenting thing right? Am I too much defined by motherhood—or not enough? Am I still myself?

Anger is one way in which parental anxiety tends to express itself. This is especially the case if we don't have a regular way to release our worries and fears—self-care rituals that sustain us, a supportive partner, an understanding friend group or a rock-solid therapist.

"Motherhood is one of those knock-you-over-the-head-with-a-2x4 experiences that tends to bring us face to face with our issues," notes clinical mental health counselor Margaret Sky. "For example, many parents have deep-seated fears about something terrible happening to their children. This fear can manifest as anxiety or even as anger. When my toddler ran out into the parking lot recently, I instantly felt flooded with rage, but beneath the anger was fear and anxiety."

Here's what moms should know about the relationship between anxiety and anger.

Maternal anger can be a stress response to our kids' negative behaviors.

"When your child is experiencing a meltdown, you can become very frustrated...and most of the time it just doesn't come out in a very healthy way," says Brandy Wells, a licensed social worker specializing in childhood mental health. Our emotional reaction to our child's tantrums, meltdowns and negative behaviors is a stress response that can look and feel like anger. This anger can even become a cycle, where your child's behavior triggers your own emotional stress response, which in turn triggers more tantrums and negative behaviors.

"Get in touch with how you react to stress in general, but especially in front of your child," suggests Tomi Akitunde, founder of Mater Mea. "When someone cuts you off in traffic, are you yelling and hitting your steering wheel? Are you and your partner prone to huffing and puffing when confronted with an inconvenience? Do you talk about your feelings or keep things bottled up until you explode? Kids pick up everything—and that includes these cues on expressing emotions."

Here's what moms should know about the relationship between maternal anger and negative behaviors in our children.

Maternal anger is a symptom and an expression of grief.

We are all grieving losses on so many levels during this pandemic—we miss our parents and our friends, we miss our old lives, we miss our sense of security, we miss our old social supports. We miss the experiences we should have had. We miss childcare. When you think about all the changes the pandemic has caused, it's normal to feel grief.

One of the ways grief expresses itself, in both children and in adults, is anger. Here's what moms should know about the connection between grief and anger.

Maternal anger is an all-too-human response to the many ways our society fails moms.

Ever notice how anger is sometimes triggered by seemingly small things—that are really connected to much bigger things? You're not really furious at your toddler for eating their breakfast too slow. You're anxious and exasperated because of the chain reaction that gets set off when your toddler fights you over eating breakfast: You're late getting out the door, which means you're hustling for time just to be late for day care dropoff, and late for work, where you already feel stressed, unsupported and under fire as a working mother. It's not about the peanut butter toast.

Inaction from our partners can also trigger rage that seems out of proportion—until you consider the context. Your tearful fury when your partner drops their dishes in the sink while ignoring the dishwasher two inches away isn't actually about the dishes. It's about the mental load of motherhood. Among the thousands of other ways you're seeing around corners every day, you can't be the only person in the house who remembers to load the dishwasher when you're also the only person in the house who pays attention to when you're about to run out of dishwashing detergent. You'd have to be superhuman not to be angry about the level of invisible labor moms shoulder.

This lack of support for mothers is a systemic issue, and the pandemic has brought it to new extremes. "We're asking all parents, but it's especially moms on the front lines, to try to do 24/7 child care without a break at the same time that they're trying to often hold down a job," says parenting expert and clinical psychologist Laura Markham, Ph.D. "So, is there more mom rage? How could there not be?"

Here's what experts say about how moms—already overburdened and under-supported—are entering a whole new level of burnout caused by a lack of societal support during the pandemic.

What we can do about maternal anger

Acknowledge it

We can't ignore it away. We can't pretend it's not there. We need to acknowledge and name anger. It's an emotion that so many moms feel, for so many reasons, in so many ways—and our first step in dealing with anger in a healthy way is to name it.

Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting, suggests that taking ownership of our own emotions is the key to processing anger in a healthy way: When you feel angry, say, "I'm feeling angry right now, and I need to calm down."

Talk about it

"Many of us struggle with knowing what to do with our anger," according to couples' therapist Vienna Pharaon. "We either see red and then release it without any pause, or we shame ourselves out of expressing it at all."

As one mom who wrote for Motherly about her experience with postpartum rage put it, "Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the anger? I mean, it's embarrassing—I get it. No one wants to post a picture to their Instagram feed captioned, "This is what it looks like after you scream at your kids!"

Moms, we need to be able to talk about our anger with other women in a judgement-free way. We need to be able to talk about our anger with our partners in a constructive way. And we need to be able to model a positive response to "big emotions" like anger for our children.

Sit with it

"Allowing our emotions to be what they are has a wonderful side-effect; we start to realize our emotions aren't as scary as they once seemed, and that they don't have to run the show," notes Sky. "Often, our undesired emotions lose power and strength when we're not denying them or feeding them, but simply observing them without judgment." Rather than pushing anger aside or under the rug, allow it to be what it is—and then move to heal it.

Anticipate it

"It can be helpful to keep a journal about your emotions and responses," says Eanes. "Just by bringing awareness to the things that cause you to feel angry, you take away some of its power. We are often armed with our triggers in childhood. For example, if you were told often to 'quit crying' as a child, then hearing a child whine or cry may bring up uncomfortable feelings for you, perhaps even sadness. Anger is often the mask that sadness hides behind."

"Before we are angry we are ALWAYS something else," Pharaon writes. "Think of anger as a secondary emotion. Before we feel angry we might feel abandoned, embarrassed or betrayed, but because we tend to go from zero to 100 so quickly it's hard for us to actually connect to our pain."

Redirect it

"Find whatever it is that helps you calm down in the midst of a heated moment," says positive parenting author Katie Mertes. "This will be different for everyone; it could be taking some deep breaths, stepping away from your child, or taking a break." If nothing else, keep this list of calming phrases for moments of anger tucked away in a note on your phone so you can read it when you're hiding in the bathroom silent-screaming into the towels.

You can also work on reframing angry thoughts to defuse and redirect anger, suggests Eanes. "For example, if you often think, 'My kid whines about everything!' then those words will fuel your negative emotions. However, if you consciously choose to replace that with a more positive or accurate thought, then the anger has space to dissipate. Try 'My child is having a hard time and needs my help.' With consistency, you'll begin to automatically think gentler thoughts, and your responses will be more positive."

Get help

"Remember, if anger is less like the weather, which comes and goes, but more like the climate—"I feel like I am almost always angry"—then it might be helpful to talk about what's going on with a qualified mental health professional," says psychologist Kellie Edwards."So often past experiences can trigger emotions we can't quite manage and we can feel stuck in automatic reactions. It doesn't have to be that way and you don't need to go through that alone. Seeking help with difficult emotions is a gift to you and your family."

These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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20 baby names to set your child up for success

What do Jacqueline, Morgan, Madison and Parker all have in common?

They say picking a baby name is an art, not a science. But when it comes to figuring out which baby names have been linked to successful futures, there has actually been some scientific work on the subject.

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