It started as it often does on a WhatsApp group, this one of mothers – ‘Does anyone here struggle with anger issues?’
Slowly but surely, nearly everyone on the 50+ strong group chimed in with their own stories of losing it with their kids and dealing with the crushing guilt that follows. As they shared their experiences, wondering if this kind of rage that felt irrational and uncontrollable was normal, I realized how keenly I identified with each of them – their situations, their reactions, the despair and of course, the promise to do better, to be better next time.
It is a universal issue, this sagging under the enormous weight of motherhood, often synonymous with selflessness. Balancing our own needs with those of our families is no small feat. We keep insanely busy schedules, have high and often unrealistic expectations of ourselves AND our children, and of course, social media doesn’t help either. And throw into this mix, the little people with endless energy, fierce wills and varying personalities.
In an ideal world, these little people who we are meant to love and cherish and protect would only see the best version of ourselves. They would see their mamas kind and patient, happy and smiling, all the time. As we all know, this is not how it goes down, the daily grind of parenting builds up over days, or even weeks. And when we break, we not only release the pent-up anger but also leave a huge dent in our self-confidence in our ability to parent our children.
So how do we deal with mom-anger? Half the battle won is knowing what triggers it. Anger is often classified as a second feeling, meaning it is brought on by something else – fear, hunger, stress, exhaustion etc.
● Have you got enough sleep/rest?
● Have you spent too much time on technology?
● Not enough water/food?
● Are you feeling unappreciated?
● Spouse not doing his bit?
● Something else stressing you out?
These are just a few triggers, and we need to realize that for each of us, the triggers could vary. Identify what your triggers are so you can then come up with calming strategies to deal with them. It might be a long and hard process but so worth it!
Some common calming strategies are
● Breathing deeply (this is to alleviate the flight or fight response that stressful situations put our bodies in)
● Giving yourself a timeout – even if it is just for two minutes
● Closing your eyes or repeating dhikr to recenter yourself
When my kids were younger and I was struggling to be patient with them, I was given a pro tip I’d like to share with you. All I had to do was call on Allah SWT by his name As-Saboor (the Ever-Patient) when I was at breaking point until I calmed down. It took a little while for me to understand the signs leading to a breakdown, and then reminding myself to start reciting. But once I started, it worked like a charm! It was a good reminder that I should seek help from the One who could provide it, and that my children are an amanah from Allah Azza waJal.
One friend with much older kids says she closes her eyes and imagines her teenagers as the sweet little babies they once were and that helps her calm down. Another says forcing herself to smile and whisper when she wants to frown and yell helps her to check her anger.
As Muslims, we are often told that anger is from the shaytan, and if you look at the list of actions recommended by the Prophet PBUH for anger, you’ll find they’re also calming strategies. The sunnah too recommends that we distance ourselves from the situation when we’re angry.
Whether you use any of these calming strategies or develop your own, they help in making the choice not to react in anger. As adults, we need to take ownership of our reactions, and choose to act when we are calm, and can rationally decide how to proceed with the situation.
If you do end up flipping out at or around your children, treat it as a teaching moment. Apologize for losing control, and for your actions and let them know that you will try harder to rein in your emotions. It is important for children to see anger as a real and manageable emotion, and also how to fix it when tempers are lost. It is also a good reminder to children that their parents are regular people who make mistakes and work on fixing them.
Last and not least of course, remember that mothers are the cup that nourishes the rest of the family, so remember to fill your own cup first, and do it often. Prioritize whatever actions replenish you, guilt-free because a happy mom means happy kids!
- written by Mona Siddiqui