I never would have characterized myself as an angry person before having kids.
And I never would have imagined that I would struggle so much with anger as a mom. But three years into parenthood, I am standing before you now and confessing: I am an angry mama.
At first, I thought this was my new normal. I even considered changing my kid’s future college fund to a therapy fund (because, oh, would they need it!). But after some hard conversations with my husband, I came to realize this is something I can fight, but I would have to be intentional and learn my triggers.
There is power in knowing your triggers. If you know what makes you angry, you can take action to avoid it. So, I began asking myself, “What was I doing when I started to feel this way?” and I found some surprising answers.
Lack of Sleep
As a mom, we know that sleeplessness is part of the job description, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. This is a difficult trigger to avoid, as there isn’t much you can do to convince your teething toddler or sick infant to sleep it off. Some nights are just hard, and for me, that means the days are even harder.
Since I can’t control how much sleep I get, I have found two practical ways to manage this trigger.
- I pray: My faith in Christ is central to my life, and honestly, I have found no better cure to my angry heart than spending the first few minutes of my day asking the Lord to fill me up with His grace and peace and to remove the anger from my chest. Without fail, He answers my cry and my anger is removed and my patience multiplied. I could honestly not write another word in this post and have given you all the tips you need, but I have found other things helpful as well, so I’ll share those next!
- I resolve to take the day slow: The worst thing I can do if I wake up angry is to try to rush around doing the dishes, starting the laundry, and dressing the kids to get out the door. It only serves to increase my resentment and anger. I have found that if I wake up angry, I need to chunk my to-do list and only do what I feel like doing. Usually, that includes having a cup of coffee and a hot shower before trying to do anything else.
A Messy House
Seeing toys strewn all over the floor, dishes in the sink and clutter on the dining room table can send my blood pressure skyrocketing in seconds. So, every night I do a quick fifteen-minute run through of the house with a laundry basket. When I wake up in the morning and can actually see the living room floor I often thank myself for this kindness.
I’ve also started asking for help. My husband used to come in and leave a pile of shoes, windpants and a jacket on the entryway floor Every. Single. Day. After about the millionth time I picked those items up, I finally wised up and kindly asked him to PLEASE put his clothes in the hamper (I may have added “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY” to the end of that request….). I also asked him to take over the dishes after dinner. Because he is a fabulous husband and values my sanity, he kindly agreed and continues to be a huge help.
I think as moms we can take on the role of martyr. But refusing help teaches others that we don’t need the help. Then we resent them for not helping us. Mamas, we’ve got to stop this. Ask for help!
This was a difficult one to pinpoint, but thankfully it’s an easy fix! With littles, it’s often easier to stay home and avoid the chaos of being out in public with them. The downside to this, of course, is that you cooped up with the kids all the time. I’m not exactly an extrovert, but I have come to realize that there is a certain amount of socializing I need to be happy, and I have begun to be intentional about it. Now, I try to have two or three play dates or coffee dates (without kids) planned in my week. I have found that having those on the calendar is enough to brighten my mood and keep me from having a short fuse.
I admit it, I have over committed myself in the past. Between my writing commitments, church obligations, and volunteer opportunities, I keep a pretty busy schedule. I don’t know if you’ve spent time with many toddlers and infants, but they don’t do well with “busy”. They aren’t exactly “quick” to do anything, unless it’s dismantling your living room. So, on the days I had places to be and things to do, I would quickly become an angry mommy, barking at my kids to “HURRY UP!” and “GET MOVING!”. It’s ugly, I know. So, I tried to think through some solutions.
The first solution was to quit some of my many activities. It’s just not the season for a packed schedule. It was time to let some things go.
Once I did that, I made designated time for non-family activities. The kids are in Mother’s Day Out twice a week and those are my 12 hours to do with what I wish and move as fast as I like. If the activities don’t fit within those twelve hours, then it’s booted off the list. This has freed me up considerably, and now, when I am physically home with the kids, I am also mentally home with the kids and I am not putting pressure on them to keep up with my crazy schedule.
I realize that not all of you reading this are stay-at-home-moms, or your kids are now in school and you no longer have the luxury of “taking the day slow”. While your life may look different than mine, the truth remains that understanding what puts you on edge can revolutionize your attitude on those difficult days. Personally, since recognizing my triggers and establishing tools to dealing with them, my mind is more at ease. I’m ready to play, snuggle and meet their needs, knowing that my needs are getting met too.