Mom rage, fighting against the new normal?

The talk of mom rage is bubbling up online again, bringing with it questions of how well moms in particular re-set expectations around raising kids. Does heading off meltdowns mean sacrificing the old "normal" for the new? 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/FILE
Two mothers, one with a double stroller, cross the street with their son and daughters on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York, New York on May 17, 2012 .

Bloggers who are mothers are abuzz lately with the notion of mommy rage – what to do when you see moms, pushed to the brink by their kids, freaking out in public. Or worse, what to do when the mom is you. Wendy Bradford, for instance, recently spoke out in the Huffington Post.

Maybe not every day with kids can be a good day, but surely moms can up the odds. For instance, Motherhood 101 – easily forgotten in the swirl of daily life – says that a meltdown, be it of mother or child, can often be headed off. If both of you are rested and fed and back home before the next need for food and sleep, then chances look up for a good day.

That means a huge lifestyle shift for the new mom: creating and committing to a daily schedule for meals, naps, bedtime, and activities. Boring. But for day-to-day harmony, structure is the child’s – and thus the parent’s – best friend.  

Just one extra errand too many can ignite trouble, so be careful not to push too many things into a day. And if, despite it all, your child is provoking you, the conventional wisdom and etiquette is to pretend you feel calm, pick up the child, and leave, even if it’s hugely inconvenient or embarrassing. 

As in many parts of life, ratcheting back your expectations takes family life out of the vise grip. The less you expect, the less frustrated the realities of life with children will make you. There will be more days than not when a peaceful co-existence means you get nothing done but the naps and the meals.

You may be happier if you try to fit less into a day, and extend that to a week, and even a year. Raising young kids in particular, you are often in a period devoid of the kind of accomplishments much of the rest of the world considers important.

It’s a sacrifice, let’s face it. Baby bump and how-fast-did-you-lose-your-baby-weight talk aside, raising a family is serious business. Parenthood holds many rewarding moments, but fun is not the goal. When you’re out with the kids, be mindful that as a mom you have great dignity, and that it is no small matter to care for them, and to anticipate and head off trouble as you’re teaching them how to go about daily life.

Even during the simplest errand, you’re demonstrating how to wait, to ask nicely, to reply politely, to learn to say no to many impulses, to be friendly, to call people by name, etc., etc., etc. Yours is a big job, which is why, again, you deserve to be rested, and so do your children. 

And that brings us to the work/life balance. An occasional flareup is part of things. Doesn’t every kid know what it’s like to “get yelled at?” But if you’re struggling with ongoing anger, you might need to look for a broader solution than an evening yoga class. Maybe you need to get a job and a babysitter. Maybe you need to quit your job and scale expenses way back. Maybe you need professional help, be it from a cleaning service, a parenting course, or a therapist. We’re all different. Just be sure the demands you’re placing on yourself reflect you, and not someone else’s idea of what mothers should be doing.

For their part, witnesses to a parent’s distress can help head off trouble. God bless the lady behind us in line who makes funny faces at our cranky toddler, shortening the wait. And the hostess who distracts the little girl whining to go home. And the fellow passenger who engages the restless boy in talk of sports.

Again, all mothers lose it from time to time, and the memories can be awful. Sure, this can also be an opportunity to reflect, to adjust your ways. But staying too long in the muck and mire can make you feel so bad you forget the good you do.  

Some spiritual thinkers recommend a habit of reflecting, each evening, on the ways you might have seen God during the day just passed – in the actions of a stranger, perhaps, or in the friend who called with a funny story, or a child who ran for a toy to calm a crying sibling. Never forget that, were your family to look back on even the worst of your bad days together, they’d still see God present over, and over, and over again in your actions as Mom. 

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