We all know how stressful parenting can be. The multitasking and energy required. The weight of responsibility and how much this all tends to fall on the shoulders of women. Working mums also have the responsibility and pressure to succeed in their careers, to show up for their clients, teams and employers. The stress and burnout that working mums face can lead to anger and frustration, potentially derailing their work and home life. Yet, while coming from a dark place, all this anger can bring some light and power into working mothers’ lives.
Anger can be a positive and valuable emotion as it keeps us safe. It protects and respects boundaries, needs, values and identity. All we need to do is to pause and listen. To become more aware of our anger, to make more space for the sensations in the emotions, our embodied experience of anger. Allowing anger into our lives will ironically make us less angry and less reactive to our anger. So next time you are feeling the anger and rage rise, take a moment to check in with yourself. Where are you feeling this in your body? What time of day is it? Where are you, and who are you with? This process will start to bring awareness to your anger.
How can we then make this emotion useful? Reframe anger as an emotion that respects and protects our values, needs and boundaries. Next time you feel rage and frustration, ask yourself, what do I need right now at this moment that I am not getting? Am I feeling undervalued, or do I feel my values are being disrespected? Or is it a boundary that isn’t being respected and needs protecting? Or is it all three that needs reassessing and realigning? Values, needs and boundaries are linked and are all extremely important. Anger, therefore, allows us to get back in touch and reassess our values, needs and boundaries.
It’s also worth remembering that it becomes tough to get our needs met when we are parents, our values will change, and some may have to take a back seat, and ultimately our children are hardwired to push boundaries. The set-up of motherhood makes anger entirely possible, and it may feel impossible for anything to change, but even small wins can make a difference. For example, I noticed that I was getting increasingly angry every time my five-year-old woke me up in the night for cuddles. The disturbed sleep and pressure to be on form for work and parenting culminated in me feeling tearful with frustration in the mornings after a disturbed sleep. Yet my son only wanted comfort in the night, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I felt I was in danger of taking my frustration out on him. I had to take this seriously, so I listened in and realised I needed to reset my boundaries with my boy. Night time waking also tapped into my values. Not only do I value and need sleep, but I value feeling refreshed in the morning as that means that I can perform better, which means I value performing well. I have since bought my son a gro clock, and he only comes into the bedroom after 6 am unless he has had a nightmare or is feeling unwell. We navigated this boundary together, and so far, it is working. I feel reconnected with my boy and less frustrated with him in the mornings. This reconnection is all because my anger told me that my values, needs, and boundaries were not respected. Listen to your anger in this way, and it can be your superpower!
Article by Cristalle Hayes, existential and trauma-based psychotherapist and author of Angry Mother Assertive Mother: From maternal anger to radical repair, published by Rethink, out now, available on Amazon.