Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Being An Angry Mom


I had another post planned for today. But then something came up.

Sitting in a restaurant, I happened to mention to David how "hippy-dippy" our parenting was. You know, all that co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding and hugging and empathy and carrying our kids around in pouches on our backs and soothing them through temper tantrums. All those nights we didn't go out together, because we didn't want to leave our kids with a sitter/stranger/potential pedophile. All those neighbors and friendly critics who gave us the occasional look or comment like we baby our kids or hover too much. Like we were too involved.

In the middle of my talking I looked over at David. He had no idea what I was talking about.

That's when he said it: We are pretty tough on our kids. We yell at them. We are impatient with them. Then he started giving me examples. Real life examples. He was being kind of course, using "we". I mean, David might be many things, he might have extraordinarily bad taste in orange sweaters, but the man isn't a yeller. He gets short with them when they dilly dally getting ready for school sometimes, and he's had a tussle or two with Lucy over settling into bed at night. But I'm the yeller. What he could have said, and maybe should have said, was that I'm the impatient one, the intimidator, the one who can light a fire under their little bums with my blasts of furnace-like anger. He was also pretty sure the neighbors knew we were yellers as well.


To be fair, I'm loud by nature. When I'm happy, I scream. If you walk into a bar and I see you, I will leap from my chair, run across the room, clumsily bumping people out of my way like a drooling hyper-active Labrador, shout your name, give you a huge hug, and shriek about how gorgeous you look, so that even the table in the back of the room will hear it.

I get a lot of credit around this blog for being patient - all the cooking with kids, and the messes that I allow the kids to make in the kitchen, and the countless quelled temper tantrums and crazy brisket-wearing behavior that I write about here, and I'm pretty good at those moments of hysteria. I like the craziness, the nuttiness - but the truth is, I wish I was better at parenting. And I'm not looking for reader sympathy here. Sometimes I just do a piss poor job at this. It's a fact.

I wish I didn't lose my cool with them. I wish I could let Edie have her temper tantrums, where she lays on the floor and kicks her feet in the air and wails like a two year old because I'm not getting her chocolate milk fast enough. I wish I could just let her be angry, and unseemly, and not make her feel terrible for having the audacity for showing her true, ugly feelings.

I wish it didn't drive me bananas that Lucy is afraid to be alone in any room of the house and so when she has to go to the bathroom, I have to stop whatever I'm doing and sit on the edge of the tub while she poops. I wish I could just remember that I was the same way when I was little. I always thought there were boogey men behind the shower curtain and mice under the sink. I wish I didn't grumble about it and remind her she's six and this isn't what happens with six year olds. I wish I didn't make her feel small for sharing her deepest fears with me.

I wish that when the house is a total and complete wreck I didn't get resentful, muttering bitterly as I pick up discarded sweaters, stranded toys and bits of smushed bacon in the rug. I wish it didn't bother me that I found all of their Barbie clothes stuffed into the heating vent and I wish I didn't go on a tirade so epic that they feel their mother has vanished from the room and replacing her is a ranting, nagging, manic, dust-bunny fighting lunatic.

I wish I didn't show my disappointment, my seething pissed-offness, when Edie kicks over my wine glass for the third time in a single two hour time span. In the moment, I wish I could just see it as an accident. A stupid, unimportant accident. I wish I remembered that what I really wanted her to do was go to sleep so I could relax, maybe spend a few moments with her father, but she couldn't, and that's not really her fault at all.

I wish I didn't get grumpy with Lucy when she plops herself into my lap, with the grace of a camel, and slams the laptop lid shut just as I'm about to write something utterly brilliant and necessary. I wish I could see it for what it is - her message to me that she needs me. That I need to pay attention. I wish I could calmly explain to her in the moment what I needed to do to finish, and when I'd be able to give her my focus. I also wish I didn't get sucked into thinking that email needs to be sent immediately or that arbitrary deadline I assigned to a particular project has to met at the expense of time spent with my girls. I wish I had more balance.

I don't wish that I was perfect or an angel. That isn't the kind of role model they need to get them ready for the world. I always try to talk about my screw-ups with them, let them know why I blew up, but the yelling isn't the worst. It's when I show my unmitigated disappointment about something they've done or didn't do, when I momentarily - just for 30 seconds or so - withdraw my love, respect or admiration for them. When the frustration rises up in me and I can't push it down or away, or pretend it isn't there, and I feel the need to pelt them with it just a little, to send them a little message. And what they learn, I'm afraid, is that their mother can turn on them, will turn on them, will squeeze a bit of lime into their wound. That she can't be trusted to always be on their side. That I can't be trusted to always be on their side.

Just writing it down gives me chills.

What I'd rather do - what I'm going to try to do every day now - is reign myself in, be in the moment, think about my reactions, what I'm saying to them with my body, my words, how often I smile, take a second to think before I talk, and give them the benefit of the doubt first. Because if David and I don't, who the hell is going to?

As I'm writing this, Edie drops her melting ice cream bar into David's shoe. I really want to get this post written, just a few more words to go. I told her it was okay, no problem, just a spill. I got the paper towels and we wiped it up together. The ice cream in David's shoe was kinda funny actually. It took all of an extra minute. Not a single hurt feeling for her or flash of guilt for me. I still finished this post. Baby steps.

xo YM

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53 comments:

Amy | She Wears Many Hats said...

Excellent. Your words, my exact, pinpoint thoughts. Thanks for writing that for me and all the other moms out there that lose it in a flash. I feel that way lots. And then the "I can't be trusted to be on their side" floods my brain. Then I'm standing outside of my body looking back at myself like "What the heck is wrong with you?" They're kids. They're supposed to not know how to do that right. I forget so quickly that I'm dealing with kids. And I forget so quickly that I'm not perfect either and I'm an adult (I think).

Thanks much.

Elizabeth Nyland said...

Oh man does that ring true to me. It just makes it feel like you're not alone right, cause I know there are more people out there like me.

Recently we eliminated the timeout after reading that it creates a fear of abandonment in children. And you know what? They were f$%^&ing right!!

My three year old boy who would not be left alone in a any room (including the bathroom), who would not stay with his beloved grandparents for even five minutes so I could try on those cute jeans at the mall, now happily hugs me goodbye when I leave him there. It took two weeks and it is glorious. No more fighting to keep him in a timeout and everyone is happier.

Thank you once again for making my mind work so early in the morning!

famdoz said...

Excellent post Kim.

Nuts about food said...

Thank you for oputting in words what I feel most of the time. The guilty feeling of totally loosing it after something that seems so inconsequential later on. Because I am tired, it has been a rough day at work, the kids have been having tantrums or whining constantly and one of them just knocked over a glass for the second time. I try, it works for bit. And then I raise my voice and feel frustrated because I can't get what I need to get done done. What I can say is I try to respect them and teach them we are human and we all make mistakes by always saying I'm sorry and trying to explain when I go over the top. Admitting I was wrong and should have been more patient.

Adryon said...

Thank you so much for this.

My almost 9 year old is almost as tall as me and is more of a diva than Aretha Franklin.

I am always in a state of perpetually reminding myself that no matter how grown up she looks and acts, she's a kid - and the fact that her underwear can't find itself into a basket or that she destroys things is normal. It's so difficult sometimes.

Christine said...

Oh man, I fear that sometimes I'm a nagging wife too. Thanks for the reminder to try better.

Kristen said...

Oh my, how I can relate to this post... you have tapped inside the minds of many many moms and had the courage to write about how many of us are. You are not alone... we CAN be better, I know it, but it is just so darn hard sometimes to be that patient.
Thanks for putting this out there and for the look in the mirror. I needed that!

Paula said...

Such an honest post and obviously, you are not alone in your desire to be more patient with your children.
In the heat of the moment, it is so hard to remember that our children have had so many less years of living than we have. That they are only able to think and reason from their perspective and life experiences as a four, six, ten or twelves yr. old etc. You may not be the *perfect* mom that you think or hope that you should be but you are the perfect mom for your little Edie and Lucy. At the end of the day, at the end of every day, when they are settled warm and safe in their beds, they know that no matter what transpired earlier, they are loved.

Barbara | VinoLuciStyleh said...

My children are now semi-grown. One is 27 and the other 31. I say semi grown because neither are married yet or have children and I think both of those change you dramatically, particularly the children thing. And I could lament some of the same wishes but I won't, it's too late. And you know what? I carry no guilt over those moments. Because in the overall scheme of things I was just human.

Did I ever lose my temper? Ever get short, snappy, impatient? Absolutely. But this I know. They were truly loved and they knew it. They were fed and given a home. I went to games and concerts and movies with them. I've still got some of their homework projects we did together. They learned to cook with me in the kitchen and even more learned life lessons and skills at my side...my imperfect but always loving them side.

I love your honesty...but honestly? From this person's outside perspective you are doing a great job!

SaintTigerlily said...

I love this Kim. Thanks for sharing this.

FreeRange Pamela said...

I see myself in so many of your words. It's a tough gig, this parenting thing.

SMITH BITES said...

Kim honey, listen. If you didn't have a list of 'I wish I didn't . . .' then you'd be perfect. And we'd have to nail you to the cross and crucify you. And then we'd be worshipping and singing songs to you on Sunday mornings all over the world . . . actually, we DO somewhat worship you because you are human and you make us belly-laugh. You always tell the truth. There isn't a mother (or parent for that matter) who doesn't feel 'good enough' for MOST of the 18 years or so kids live in their house . . . and if that mother actually exists, I say she's so far out of touch, she may as well fly herself on up to Jesus because her feet are no where here on this earth. Now about that singing songs to you on Sunday part . . .

Maegan Beishline said...

This is just utterly perfect! Thank you for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. These are words I needed this morning. I see so much of myself here.

Carol said...

Kim, I have watched you with your children, and from where I stand you are tender, loving, gentle and incredibly reassuring and caring, available and encouraging. I am definitely a yeller, and I have to say that you have always been an inspiration for me on how to be better with my kids. I am not saying you are perfect, but in my eyes you are pretty close to what I try to be with my children. We are only human, we have our limitations, we are dealing with children, yes, but it's not like we are immune to frustration. Do what you must to feel better about your relationship with your children at the end of the day, but don't be too hard on yourself. My kids adore you because of how you are, and I applaud you for it all. xoxox

Heidi said...

This is one of the most honest, amazing mommy posts ever! Thank you for sharing with everyone and letting us know we aren't alone!

Jennifer said...

This post is exactly how I feel. Blah. Working on it.

Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) said...

I hear ya!

(And my almost six year old also makes me come to the bathroom with her and will never be alone in a room.)

Joy, The Herbed Kitchen said...

I held it together long enough to read your post but cried as I told my husband. I'm the yeller in our family, I am quick to lose my patience and even though I grit my teeth and tangle my fingers in my hair to distract myself, I still yell. The guilt and shame is intolerable but like you I strive not to. Each day is so hard. I look in two sets of sweet brown eyes and promise to be better but sometimes wonder, can't they for once listen? And, they will. One day. I started breathing exercises with my temper tantrum prone daughter and they are as much for me as for her. Even my calm boy, so much like his laid back father stops and breathes with his high strung mom and sister.

Kim, thank you for writing this, I know how tremendously difficult it must have been. Keep baking and playing with your kids and just breathe. You are a good mother, you're also human.

Janis said...

I had to smile at your post. Recently I was talking to my 27 year old daughter ( who just became a mom ) and i brought something up about how I was too impatient as a young mother. She replied that she didn't remember me being impatient. I also yelled a lot and she didn't remember that either. I walked away thinking "shit, I should never have mentioned it" Don' stress about it. they wont remember :--)

Dou-la-la said...

I've already shared this all over the place, but have to comment as well.

It's funny, because I usually connect to you more through food bloggy circles (Fab Frugal Food), and yet you're posting on something so relevant to the rest of my life, both online and off. I, too, subscribe (so to speak) to the same parenting philosophy fundamentals that I do - attachment, breastfeeding, babywearing, and on. And I, too, can relate to this so deeply that it chokes me up. I know that feeling where our emotions betray our ideals. I believe so strongly in attached, gentle, connected, non-punitive parenting . . . and yet there are times that it takes every bit of strength that I have not to take my toddler by the shoulders and scream - not even yell, SCREAM - in her face. I can't believe I just admitted that publicly. No, I don't do it to the full extent that I sometimes have to restrain myself from, but I most definitely do snap and yell way more often than I'd like. I think toddlerhood in particular is bringing out the absolute worst in me at times.

*BREATHE*

Anyway. I mostly just wanted to applaud your courage and honesty. Thanks for this, again. You're awesome.

Mars said...

Is it wrong that the thing that stuck out most to me was the knocked over wine glass?

Great blog. Are you my twin?

Mars said...

Is it wrong that the thing that stuck out most to me was the knocked over wine glass?

Great blog. Are you my twin?

Katheryn said...

Excellent post. I do my best, but many times I feel like my best isn't quite good enough. I also hate that I yell at my kids sometimes. That I get irritated beyond belief. Especially at my 6-year-old boy who has a temper like me.

Lauren said...

Your honesty is so brave. It feels like we put labels on us as mothers, either a good mother or a bad mother, but we all live in the gray area and it isn't always pretty.I think the times I respected my mother the most were the moments she admitted she was wrong. It meant she respected me enough to admit her faults and to not pretend that she was perfect. You're doing a better job than you think you are.

newincs said...

Thank you for this. I am right with you! We *practice* attachment parenting as well :) I say *practice* because we don't have it down perfect yet either lol. I am working on the yelling too... Sometimes it seems that yelling is the only thing anyone in my family hears... I would like to speak more gently and it is very nice to know that I am not the only momma in that particular boat! Thank you!

AHodges said...

Come on, ladies, it's called being a human being! We aren't saints, NO ONE IS. The fact that you even worry about it is a big sign that you're doing fine.

Give yourselves a break!

xobolaji said...

this post totally spoke to me. in fact, the many times i have been "an angry mom" i've chastised myself for it. i don't believe in guilt, per se, but i know deep down that many of these feelings stem from guilt, and general frustration of trying to be supermom, when in all actuality i am NOT. i tell myself, i shld be grateful for abc, so why am i sometimes resentful about xyz? to my mind, anger is a healthy emotion, and to think that the expectation that we and society places on moms to be sans anger is kind of ridiculous, and let's face it, completely unrealistic.

i often tell my daughters that it's ok to be angry, upset, unhappy, etc. as long as you don't dwell on those feelings for too long. and now i’m completely ok with giving myself the same set of rules.

i think it's also important to recognize and acknowledge the anger-free moments. and to know that anger stems from 'something.'

thanks for letting off steam on behalf of us all!

cheers, xobolaji

Molly said...

Thank you for such a wonderfully honest post. Really hits close to home for me, and I shared it with my friends (all moms of preschoolers). Sometimes just hearing something else admit they do the things you can't admit you do yourself really helps.

Anne said...

Hmmm...are you sure you're an angry mom, or did you just want an excuse to post that incredibly cute picture of yourself? I dunno Foster. Especially since I've seen you mother and it's top notch.

I've lost it. I'm not a yeller, but I storm out of the room and it upsets Walt lots. I'm sure it exacerbates abandonment issues and whatnot. I figured all the trauma I cause will only make him more interesting later on. I mean, emotionally well-adjusted people are nice but zzzzzzzzzz.

rita said...

awwww Kim - I've seen you in action with your girls and think you're an excellent parent. So you lose your temper sometimes - it happens. I agree with A Hodges. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're human.

Liz Vos said...

Thank you for being REAL--it is so easy to fall into the trap of how we wish we were and not accepting and moving forward with who we are. Doctors make mistakes because they 'practice' medicine and I feel like I am still 'practicing' being a mom even though my kids are 22, 18, 16, 14. And I still make mistakes. Hopefully less mistakes as time marches on but really, I am not sure that is always the case.

Don't be afraid to apologize and ask for their forgiveness when you blow it. The best moms are not perfect, but they do admit their faults and try harder the next time--it is what we expect our kids to do. If we don't model it, they won't copy us!

Winnie said...

This is a great post Kim :)

Kelly Hogaboom said...

This is a great post. And I'm guessing so many moms cabn relate.

Of course I haven't yet known a mom that wasn't doing most the work of the household - the visible housework, the unseen admin work, even laundering her partner's stuff & helping him with his job. I'm not making excuses for yelling/hitting/etc., I'm just hoping any moms feeling that pang of guilt would step back and think, how much support are they getting REALLY (from other grownups) compared to what they put in?

As for all the ways you delineate being more patient, present and kind - beautiful.

Kelly said...

This is the first time I've come across your blog and I just wanted to say - thank you so much for this post!

Mine is not old enough to be a toddler yet, but I know this is where my downfall is and I so want to avoid it. It is truly, truly helpful and encouraging to me to hear stories like this...thank you again and wishing you the best! :)

MommaMiller said...

i am bawling right now!! i have been promising myself for the past week that i will be a better mom to my whiney, clingy, cant be left in any room, insists he needs help in the bathroom, four year old. im so glad im not alone, though it doesnt make it okay to be an angry mom, its moving to know other moms out there lose their cool, and reading other moms comments makes me see things in a perspective ive never seen them before. thank you.

amy k. said...

This is my first time reading your blog. Thank you for this post...I really needed it today!

Lynne said...

Great post, Kim!
My children are all teenagers now, but it this makes me want to go back to those earlier years when my patience with them was much shorter and just give them great BIG hugs at those moments when I would lose it. The time passes all too quickly. This is still a great reminder for today though, too because it's still too easy to just react and not take a step back and think when something happens.
Thank you for the reality check!

Gadia said...

You are one sexy, creative, funny, fun mama and you just made my bad ol' day a little bit better - so much better that I am now going to pour myself a glass of red wine and relax (with the kids safely asleep, at least for now). By the way I think that every little thing you wrote about happens alot around here and thank god I'm not alone. Loving your writing!!!!

red skirt retro said...

Thank you for making me realize that i'm not the only mom that loses it (every day sometimes)and does the hippy dippy stuff at the same time... maybe that shows our kids (i have 2 boys) that we are human? we can be loving and caring and have a misstep every now and then? the hippy dippy stuff has however allowed me to be more readily able to ask for forgiveness and let my boys know that I love them and that my outburst was wrong. thank you, I will be following your blog for sure!
kendal in austin tx

MeredithLaura said...

you regularly make me laugh, and have many times touched me, but you've never written a post that has meant anywhere near as much to me personally as this one. i identify so thoroughly with aspiring deeply to be a thoroughly connected, open and patient parent, only to slip often into that chasm of cognitive dissonance where i experience myself falling so short. please, god, don't let my furious, disappointed or impatient face be what my girl takes w/her, as her clear memories of these early years.
thank you, kim, for saying it so eloquently.

uaoo said...

I've always been a yeller, but it is punctuated with lots of hugs, kisses and I love you's, so I'm inclined to think there is a good balance.

I also find it imperative to share my feeling with my kids. WHY am I angry/frustrated/sad whatever. Otherwise they will just make up their own reasons, and will probably end up blaming themselves. And even if they have done something, they need to know it is the action which is displeasing, not the person.

Lorelei said...

Honestly, I had stopped reading you for awhile because it often made me feel bad about myself because it's just not possible for me, as a parent, to be as cool as you. Yeah, you're human! Thank you for sharing. Beautiful post. Forgive yourself first and never stop practicing!

Aimee @ Simple Bites said...

Awesome, Kim! I've so been there. Thank goodness that each day is a fresh chance to be better, do better, react better.

Thanks for your words.

Amy said...

What a wonderfully honest post. Linked to in from FB, and I am so glad I read it. I am struggling with these feelngs and behaviors everyday, always thinking I am the only one (I know I am not). Good luck to you, and all of us that struggle to be the parents we want to be.

Samantha said...

I'm not a mom, I'm a daughter. One of the not-yet-grown-because-I-am-neither-married-nor-have-children grown daughters. I moved out of my parents house three months ago to live with my boyfriend who lives two hours away from both of our parents (we grew up in the same town). My Mom is a yeller, God bless her. She was disappointed in me more times than I can count. But it was all deserved and I can see that now. At the time I was bitter and would withdraw my love from her as I saw her taking her love away and replacing it with anger over these things that I felt were in no way my fault.

I came home to visit my Mom two weeks ago and all I could do for two days was thank her for being the amazing woman that she is and has always been for me. Because of her shouting, her demanding the best from me, I now demand the best from myself. She lent me ambition when I had none, showed me the motivation and zest for life I could possess and has always loved me in the way only a mother can.

I demand so much of myself that I've paid for four years of college on my own, I help pay rent and bills in my new home, I work, I am an intern, I am a volunteer, I am a sister, I am a girlfriend, I am a best friend, I am about to become a college graduate for the second time. But most importantly, I am my mother's daughter.

Thank you for your words, they help me better understand my Mom. You are not a bad mother, I promise. Anyone who loves their children enough to write words as distraught and honest as yours could never be a bad mother.

candy / musik said...

thank you for writing this article. I have a 1o year old and a 10 month old. and let me tell you it is not a picnic. Most nights I just want to curl up and sleep and I end up getting so frustrated that my little one just wont go down like I want her too.

half way through the day I tear my 10 year olds head off because she is pmsing (yes truly she is) and I just want her to do this one thing, whatever it may be, and she just cannot understand what I'm talking about. So I yell at her. The mother I have become is not the one I intended to be when I set out for this ride.

Jessie said...

Thank you. For writing this article and making me take a minute to reflect on what's important. I am starring this to read when I'm having an impatient day. This post just perfectly sums it up.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Kim, I just love you so much.

Anonymous said...

Came across your blog today and am totally grateful I did. THANK YOU
You rock for writing this

Anonymous said...

thank you. that was truly an amazing post. i just wandered here from charcupalooza... i am so glad i found this.

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Lee Shin said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin
www.trendone.net