An angry mother is an underresourced mother


Thursday night was one of the most relaxed nights I can remember with my kids. I played and bathed with them without having to feign interest. There was no arguing or gritting my teeth despite my unfairly low-sleep-needs firstborn not being interested in sleep until well after 9pm. I was solo parenting but had it covered. I am smashing this mum-of-two thing, I thought as I dozed off alongside both of my sleeping cherubs, I’ve got this in the bag.

The following night, less than 24 hours after patting myself on the back, I flipped my lid and yelled louder than I’ve ever yelled. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Then, only a few days later, this quote from Happiness Is Here blog was shared on the Raised Good Facebook page:

“If you are struggling to respectfully parent and find yourself getting overly angry or frustrated or just ‘snapping’ no matter how much you have practiced, how much you’ve read, how many parenting techniques you have up your sleeve, then it’s probably because you have some internal work to do.”

Once upon a time, reading that would’ve stung me hard. My rage must be because I hadn’t done enough “internal work”. I just need to try harder, reflect more, be better…

Thankfully, I am no longer interested in improving myself to death. Yes, I have done stacks of “growth” work. Yes, learning about the social rules of “good motherhood” and concepts like the “mother wound”, childhood experiences and inherited family trauma has been very helpful in dialing down my reactivity as a mother. But also, no. Suggesting I (and other mothers and parents) get angry purely because they haven’t done enough “inner work” is, to put it bluntly, bullshit.


So why was I in max relax mum mode on Thursday, and an erupting volcano on Friday? Surely all my “inner work” hadn’t leaked out of my brain onto my pillow as I slept, had it?

When I yelled that night, I had parented alone for much of the day. The baby was unwell on my hip, wailing in my ear and biting my shoulder (those teeth are sharp!), but would not be put down or be wrestled into a carrier. My four year old was melting down that she needed a smoothie made right now or she would undoubtedly expire and why did I never do anything to help her, despite the fact her dinner was on the stove and less than two minutes away from being ready, and if I started making the smoothie now the dinner would be ready first anyway.

On top of the immediate situation, I had an event for work on Saturday morning (the next day) I needed to prepare for, a list of jobs as long as my arm to complete before going away on Sunday, and I’d just found out a family of mice had made themselves a cosy home in the laundry. These were overlaid upon another recent interest rate rise announcement, serious concern for a friend’s welfare, knowledge the governments of the world were doing jack shit about an unfolding genocide, and trying to figure out if I could make it to the Rising Tide coal port blockade in Newcastle between our other commitments and what it would mean about me as a parent whose kids will inevitably be impacted by climate change if I decided it was too hard.

The noise built and built until the dam wall was overwhelmed and I yelled. Like really yelled, really loud. There was stunned silence, a flash of fear across small faces. Cowering. More crying. A rupture, then a repair.

It’s not like I’d suddenly done less “internal work” over the course of my life by Friday than I had the day before, and I still lost it. Which begs the question: did I really need to do more inner work to avoid the “triggers” that preceded this outburst, or did I just need an extra pair of hands? Because on Thursday, when I’d thought I was smashing it, that’s exactly what I’d had. For five hours between 1pm and 6pm I'd essentially had a body double: a woman without kids who was happy to switch in and out of household tasks, hands on child care and play. I had space to think and talk myself down from my spiralling worries, a brief moment to check in with that ill friend, enough clarity to prioritise my tasks, do (or delegate) the most pressing ones and put the others back on the mental shelf for later - all while still being available for my kids’ emotional and physical needs as they came and went.

During that blissful lower-intensity-but-still-constantly-working five hours, and in the 3.5 hours that followed between her leaving and my kids falling asleep, I was the relaxed, fun and caring mother I wanted to be. Even before she arrived, I was chilled and playful because I knew respite (and a chance to get done what I needed to get done) was coming.

So often angry mothers are told their rage is a sign there’s something wrong with them. Therapy is often suggested. Hands on help pretty much never is.1

I’m not poo-pooing self-reflection, personal growth and therapy altogether, although as critic Ayesha Khan says, “therapy isn’t a universal indicator of morality or enlightenment.”2 It can be valuable, but “inner work” done through individualist frameworks (whether done alone or with a therapist) can only do so much when the reason for “snapping” is overwhelm caused by conditions externally enforced upon us.

As carers, we need others contributing to the load of caring. Telling us to simply work harder on ourselves without reference to our broader social context will further entrench the burden of guilt, overwhelm and anger mothers and default parents experience.3


As it stands the Australian Psychological Society’s recommended fee for a psychology consultation of 46-60minutes duration is $300. [Yes, you might get some of that back with a mental health care plan, but only for 5 rebated sessions not 10 because the pandemic is over so we’re all sweet now, amiright?] Babysitters and nannies generally cost $20-35 an hour. If you have funds available to put towards professional support, only you can tell wether investing in up to 15 hours of help or 1 hour of therapy would be more worth your while.


This article “Therapy Won’t Make You a Better Person” by Devon Price may also be of interest.


I talk about this cycle and how to push back against it in my book, “Mama, You’re Not Broken: Unmasking the Unspoken Emotions of Modern Motherhood”. Please reach out if you would like me to present my "Moving Beyond Mum Guilt" workshop to your preschool parent cohort or community group.


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