How to turn mum rage into a positive emotion

How to turn mum rage into a positive emotion

Author and psychotherapist Cristalle Hayes reveals how mum rage and anger can be useful, and even positive.

Despite the messages that have been fed to women for centuries, feeling and expressing anger is not something we as women and mothers should feel ashamed and guilty about. Anger gets a bad reputation and is often portrayed as a negative emotion. Anger in itself isn’t necessarily good or bad, negative or positive. It is how that anger is understood, connected with and expressed that is important. Anger can be a positive and valuable emotion for mothers if harnessed in a specific way. If we let go of the messages and conditioning around anger and think about why and when we get angry, mothers can get in touch with the positive side of anger and use it for their advantage.

Like all our emotions, anger is a compass that points us towards something that needs addressing. Anger typically shows up for us when we feel disrespected, hurt, our needs are not being met, or a boundary is being crossed. We feel anger as a trauma response, and we go into fight mode, ready to attack the symbolic tiger. So being angry is full of meaning. It means something. Often it means we need to change something that isn’t working for us. We need more sleep, or we need that person to respect our boundaries; we need more support or more power. As mothers, we may throw a pair of shoes across the room in anger because our 6-year-old won’t put her shoes on, but actually, that mother is angry because she isn’t being heard and not being heard is extremely painful. Mothers can then use this expression of anger, however, misplaced, to figure out what can they do next, what needs to happen. Do they need their voice heard more? Need more respect? Then learn how to ask for what they need with clarity.

Anger is a powerful emotion that mothers can harness to implement tremendous and necessary changes. It was people’s anger at racist violence that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and abuse against women that led to the #metoo movement. Collectively we can use anger to make essential and much-needed changes.

We can also do this on an individual level. We can tap into our anger and use it to push us into being more assertive and more explicit about our limitations and needs. We can learn more about our values and what we accept and don’t accept behaviour-wise from others through our anger. When we get angry as mothers and then make the relevant changes, we are making a statement that my boundaries and values matter. I matter here.

Anger also keeps us safe. It tells us when there is a risk. I know I can want to respond with anger when I see my child putting himself at risk. I remember as a child my dad shouting at me when I was out riding my bike with no helmet. Ultimately, we sense the vulnerability of our children and our own vulnerability, and at the same time, we are aware of the overwhelming responsibility of being a parent. That intensity can come out as anger. Actually, that anger is marvellous as it keeps our children safe and alive. Anger is a positive emotion, as when anger is absent, there is a risk of falling into complacency. As mothers, anger can feel messy and may make us feel like failures, but anger motivates us to be good parents. Get in touch with your anger and see where it takes you.