You have to feel calm and collected on the inside to express those feelings on the outside. It’s as simple as that.
Having been a human being for 35 years, I know from watching people and existing in the world that the emotions a person expresses outwardly don’t always match those that the person is experiencing. I know that there are a lot of people out there that have to work very very very hard to make sure those inner emotions don’t explode and spiral out of control—this especially applies to parents. And we have all been on both sides of the fence: the one where we are judging a parent for screaming at their kid public and the other side where we are the one screaming – in public or otherwise. I recently read an article that I thought was worth sharing (by Wendy Bradford in 2013): The part of parenting we’re too embarrassed to talk about.
Parenting is an exercise in self-control. Control your voice, control your feelings, control your language, control your reactions, and control your actions. But what happens when you just can’t? When you have pent up emotions (i.e. anger) from many years of being a human in the world and someone triggers those emotions (i.e. a kid who won’t listen, throws an insane tantrum at the grocery store, and becomes irrational in a situation when you can’t calm them)?
Staring down the barrel of a temper tantrum, an explosion from your own offspring, whether at home or in public, is an intense situation that requires the utmost emotional intelligence and control. But often, our kids can push us to the limits of what we can tolerate, and I know for myself, that the intense emotions I feel in those situations surprise me all the time. Who knew people that we love so much could push us to the brink of tryingnottoloseitcompletely. And often, multiple times, in one day!
Kids have a way of bringing us to the edge of everything, including anger AND love. What other role than parenting can do that? I for one have never felt any emotions so strongly as those related to mothering and I’ve been very in love with my partner for over 12 years.
So when you’re on the edge and you feel like you might “snap” with your kids, what do you do? I am lucky. I have rooms to escape to, help to call upon, a supportive network. And even with that support, I am so sad to admit that I am regularly “losing” days to my emotions, and most particularly, my anger. I am often ashamed by my anger. My little guy and I have a fight, where he has a tantrum that inevitably leads to me exploding, and that day is lost—lost to emotions I should be able to control. I spend the next week reflecting, hoping I didn’t scar him with my raised voice, and longing for a time when he just wanted to snuggle me, not throw fits with me. I can see each tantrum and its outcomes clear as day in my head, and I have so many regrets about how I handled certain situations.
Mom anger, meet mom guilt: you two are very good friends aren’t you?
I think about those of you out there that don’t have any support. You might be a single parent or you might not have friends and family close by. And often, even when all of those supports and pillars of sanity are in place, you might just be too overtired to be able to control those emotions.
I want you to know, those of you in those situations, that we all feel you. And that there is support for you if you don’t have it around you already. I have been doing a lot of digging on research on anger and mothering, and to be honest, the stuff out there barely scratches the surface. This article is the one I felt had at least some useful tips: Managing Your Anger: How to Cool Off Before You Melt Down.
One of the most striking insights: “Until one has children, it’s often easy to escape the darker parts of our personality. Yet, once we become a parent, we are often so tired or pushed or overwhelmed that those darker sides we’d rather not acknowledge make all-too-frequent appearances.”
Don’t lose too many days. Find some support if you find that your anger is over-the-top. Your kids and your heart will thank you for it.
If you know of online resources or local ones you can share for mamas out there looking, please post in the comment section.