It’s been a long journey for me in my struggle with anger as a mom, and to be honest, I’m still in the midst of it. My willful toddlers have become energetic 4-year-old preschoolers. They do not run in opposite directions in Target (usually) and the tantrums have dramatically decreased. And it’s not because I’ve discovered a parenting secret. So much of it is developmental on their part— AND YET, I will give credit to God for rescuing me from being an angry mom. I want to share what’s helped me and it’s been multifaceted. Your own “anger plan” will be as individual as you are.
What I want to let you know most of all is that you are not alone! Anger as a mom is so shaming that it keeps us silent, especially in Christian circles. But every time I’ve brought up my struggles with anger, there is always another woman in the room who says, “Me too!” We need to walk into the light and be honest with God and one another about our struggles. So I hope that you will reach out and talk to someone about your struggle with anger, whether it’s big or small or somewhere in between.
Understanding what your anger is saying
I noticed many ways that anger can manifest itself—not only the loud yelling or outbursts, but also criticism, sarcasm, a lingering bitterness or resentment. The object of my anger was not always the one(s) I was responding in anger towards. Sometimes, I was angry at myself for getting angry; other times, I was feeling resentful towards my husband and directing it towards my kids; and yet other times I was upset with my kids but taking it out in an angry resentment towards my husband. Ultimately, I was angry with a God I viewed as controlling yet distant—far from caring, compassionate, and intimately involved in my day-to-day battles as a mom to twins. Some of the messages of my anger were:
- “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better treatment, more respect, kids who listen to me, etc.”
- “I feel so emotionally overwhelmed that I don’t know what else to do.”
- “I need a break.”
- “You’re getting in the way of what I want.”
- “You are not meeting my expectations.”
- “I feel helpless to gain control of you.”
- “I must have control.”
- “Life should be perfect. You should behave perfectly.”
- “CALM ME DOWN!” This one I am indebted to Hal Runkel’s book, ScreamFree Parenting, in which he discusses the need to take responsibility for my reaction toward my kids. Saying “you make me angry” just isn’t true. I get angry when others get in the way of what I want/think I deserve/expect in the moment.
- “You’re wrong, and I’m going to make you pay.”
- “God has left the building/house/Target store.” [And it’s up to me to provide for myself what I need.]
I have unmet expectations, desires that have become demands, and I need to reexamine those desires as well as readjust my expectations. Maybe I’m expecting more of my child than is developmentally appropriate. Maybe I have turned a good desire into a controlling (idolatrous) demand.
Your anger is always saying that something is going on inside you. You need to stop, pause, take a deep breath, and take time to reflect. Your anger should get your attention—it’s like a warning light on the dashboard of your car indicating something is amiss inside. The message of your anger that you’re taking out on those around you (husband, kids, friends, parents, in-laws) is always a picture of the message you’re giving God. Every emotion is ultimately directed towards God.
What will rescue you from anger
Rescue from your anger as a mom comes as you realize:
- You need to be rescued (you can’t manage your way out of this).
- God is powerful enough to rescue you and loving enough to rescue
- You are loved right now, right here, in the very middle of your ugliest mom moment. God knows you intimately (Psalm 139) and loves you completely.
Take a pause and rest here. You are loved. YOU are loved. God knows you. He compassionately stands with you and me, not as a judge from afar. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, there is no judgment for those who are in Christ. Only love. God is with you. Always. His resurrection power is at work to give you what you need to endure with patience. Colossians 1:11-12: “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Make a plan for how to remember and live out of the reality of your rescue from being an angry mom. Because you are already rescued forever, how can you live free? Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Freedom from …
- Guilt and shame
- Judgment and condemnation
- Hiding your struggles
- Trying harder
- Being controlled by your children
- Drudgery and duty
- Following a certain parenting method
Freedom to …
- Live forgiven and ask for forgiveness
- Engage in community
- Receive and show grace
- Be honest and vulnerable
- Stop trying
- Be the parental authority
- Enjoy your children as the gift they are
- Be the expert on your child
- Walk out of depression
Practical suggestions for making your freedom plan
- Cry out for rescue. Expect rescue. Celebrate past deliverance. This is the example of the Psalms.
- Pray, and then call someone: a trusted friend, small group leader, mentor, pastor, or counselor (or all of the above! I’ve certainly done that.). You can’t do this alone.
- Accept your limitations, physically and emotionally. You may need medication for a season, or counseling, or preschool, or a weekly babysitter, or housecleaner, etc. There is no shame in your limits, and relief can come as you live within them.
- Make a plan for how to remember and live out of the reality of your rescue from being an angry mom. Because you are already rescued forever, how can you live free?
- Preach the gospel to yourself moment-by-moment, day-in and day-out. You are not defined by your anger, but you are a beloved daughter of God through Christ. Your sinful anger is covered, and you’ve been given the righteousness of Christ in place of it. Live out of this new identity.