I don’t want my kids to remember me as a grouchy and angry mom. I don’t want to look back and have regrets. So it’s time to figure out what’s behind the crabby attitude and figure out how to stop being an angry mom.
I’m not a cryer. Never have been. My go-to response to stress, frustration and sometimes even sadness is anger.
When my kids WILL NOT stop messing with each other in the back of the van. When I drive across town to a meeting and then see the email cancellation. Or when I’m staring at my empty Click-List cart at 11 p.m. or looking around my house at the shoes and coats lying in a puddle on the floor even though I’ve asked my children every day of their blessed lives to just put things away when we walk in the door.
Things happen in my busy, working mom life, and I get mad. Not Hulk-mad with bulging eyes and neck veins, but seriously grouchy. Then the crappy attitude rolls like a dark cloud from me over my entire household and just lingers there.
It turns out that I’m not the only one. I asked our Facebook group of busy moms what they struggle with most, and feeling like a grouchy and angry mom topped the list.
I saw the impact my attitude was having on my household, and it was a big reason I chose “positivity” as my word of the year for 2020. I’m focusing on it because:
- I don’t want my kids to remember me as a grouchy and angry mom
- It doesn’t feel very good to be in a bad mood
- When mom is happy, the whole ship tends to sail smoother (I stole this perfect wording from a top-notch mom in our Facebook group)
There are Reasons Busy Moms Are Angry
These reasons don’t justify a crappy attitude, because I know women in some of the most difficult situations imaginable who stay positive much of the time. But it helps me to dig down to the root of my anger so I can figure out better ways to deal.
Reason #1: We’re overwhelmed
We have a cleaning service that comes once a month. Miss Lori was scheduled to clean today, so last night became a scramble to pick up the house so she could actually run a vacuum and clean our showers. We threw final things in cupboards this morning, and I felt my stress level literally go down as I looked around at our clutter-free counters and cupboards. I asked my husband if he gets the same feeling. He said he likes when it’s clean, but he honestly doesn’t really notice or think much about it when it’s dirty. Not me. My anxiety bubbles over when the mail and the kids’ school papers start piling up.
I know there are times I get angry and it doesn’t really have to do with anything my family says or does. It’s those stupid papers lying all over my counter. Or knowing that I have hours of work to do after the kids are in bed while I complain about bedtime moving way too slowly.
And for most of us, annoying things like clutter in the house are just the tip of the overwhelm iceberg. Maybe there are even deeper, ongoing or serious things going on emotionally.
Over the past few years, researchers began studying what they call “parental burnout.” Past research looked only at burnout in parents of sick children, but researchers are now finding similar results in parents of healthy kids. Exhaustion caused by “prolonged situations of emotional imbalance, where the burden of perceived stress exceeds personal resources to cope with it.” The study, in Frontiers in Psychology, points to causes like fears about not being a good enough mother, perfectionism, pressure from societal norms or even self-imposed ideas.
Reason #2: We’re unhappy
Busy moms hold things together on a lot of fronts, and it’s hard to do that when underlying problems with our marriages, our jobs, our families or our friendships weigh us down. It’s hard to be a positive mom if we’re unhappy.
Reason #3: We’re irritated by other people
We’ve all got our pet peeves. My daughter has a loud voice and an obnoxious laugh that she breaks out when she’s feeling ornery. It’s seriously ear-piercing, but I’m embarrassed to admit how much it irritates me because the apple didn’t fall far from the tree – I’m loud, too But there are evenings when I feel like the only thing I say to her is to quiet down, and the more times I say it, the grouchier I get about it.
Reason #4: We’re tired…or hungry
Nothing flares grouchy mom syndrome like lack of sleep or hunger. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at my husband and said, “He’s just hungry” or “She’s exhausted” as an explanation for why our kids are acting like lunatics. Apparently that continues into adulthood. I’ve tested my ability to forego sleep and food many times. It always ends badly. Beyond the occasional special circumstance, it’s just not worth it. I would rather have a little less time and be a nice person.
Kelly Holmes, author of the book and blog Happy You, Happy Family posted about her unique suggestion for How to Stop Being an Angry Mom Now…Using 5 Hair Ties. It’s simple, but it worked for her and I can see why. If you want a more structured approach, she also has a Happy You, Happy Family book/workbook. I love the description that it’s for moms when “the chaos of parenting life leaves you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or just vaguely annoyed all the time.” She had me at “vaguely annoyed.”
So, How to Stop Being an Angry Mom
I take my 2020 word of the year seriously (it’s “positivity,” in case you forgot), so I’m looking for tangible ways to be less grouchy and angry at home this year. The reasons above offer the foundation for building solutions, but where do we go from there?
When the grouchy mood creeps up, we try to figure out the real reason we’re angry so we can put the anger in its place. And then we:
Fix fixable problems
That means eating food when you’re hungry and sleeping when you’re tired. Or better yet, try to avoid being hungry or tired in the first place with healthier habits.
Stop doing things the same way and expecting a different result
We’re too smart for this. If the rushed morning routine makes me angry, I need to change it. Get up earlier, do more the evening before or let go of being out the door by a certain time if that’s a self-imposed deadline. It’s within my power to prevent at least a few of my recurring anger-inducing situations.
If you’re looking to make a bigger scale change, take a look at our Good Busy, Bad Busy online workshop. It walks you through five key areas where intentional decisions will lower your stress and help you know you’re being the mom you want to be – with no regrets! The next live workshop kicks off March 2, and registration is open until Feb. 26. Give an hour a week for six weeks and you’ll feel more in control and less angry. We’ll help you stick with it!
Let things go
- Every bone in my perfectionist body shudders at this one. But I’m concerned that my kids will remember my constantly crabby attitude far more than they’ll remember being on time to basketball practice or home-cooked meals. The overwhelm I feel doing the things I “need” to do to be a good mom make me a grouchy mom.
Stop, breathe and break the anger habit
Bottom line: I don’t need to yell over spilled drinks or kids who won’t get out of bed or don’t want to take a shower. I need to take a breath, consider whether it really matters and think what other options I have for responding.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, says while we can’t control when things make us angry, we can learn to control what we do while we’re in the grip of anger. We can train ourselves to make different choices in the “gap” between feeling angry and acting on that anger. This blog post on Goleman’s site explains a little more.
My daughter put my positivity to the test with a bedtime meltdown this week. I made the decision to do everything in my power to stay calm. I gave her simple choices with clear consequences. I acknowledged that she was angry that we didn’t have time to read a book and made a joke instead of just ordering her into her bed. The night ended with me snuggling with a slightly weepy kindergartner. No yelling (which puts the whole family on edge right at bedtime) and no boiling blood. We can do this!
This is my daughter smiling from a pile of Girl Scout cookies as we organized her orders mere hours before her devilish bedtime tantrum. Heaven help me with this child. And I thought the boys would be my problem