As a psychologist, I’ve had the privilege of hearing countless stories from mothers who struggle with a powerful emotion known as maternal rage. This intense, often overwhelming feeling can be difficult to talk about, yet it’s a reality for many. If you find yourself feeling this way, know that you’re not alone. Let’s explore what maternal rage is, why it happens, and some practical strategies to manage it with kindness towards yourself and your family.

What is Maternal Rage?

Maternal rage is a term that describes intense, often uncontrollable anger that some mothers experience. Unlike the typical frustration or irritation that might come with parenting, maternal rage can feel like anger on steroids. It’s often set off by the little things… or even “nothing.” This intense anger can manifest as snapping at loved ones, feeling irritable, or even throwing things. For many, this rage can be frightening, both for the mother experiencing it and for those around her.

Why Does Maternal Rage Happen?

There are several factors that can contribute to maternal rage, and understanding them is important in learning how to manage it. Here are a few key reasons:

1. Hormonal Changes: After childbirth, a woman’s body undergoes significant hormonal shifts. These changes can impact on mood and emotional regulation, sometimes leading to intense feelings of anger and frustration.

2. Sleep Deprivation: The sleepless nights that often come with caring for a newborn or young children can severely impact mental health. Lack of sleep can impair judgment, lower frustration tolerance, and increase irritability.

3. Unrealistic Expectations (directed at yourself and others): Society often sets high standards for motherhood, promoting the idea of the ‘perfect mom’. When reality doesn’t match these ideals, feelings of failure and inadequacy can build up, contributing to rage.

4. Stress and Overwhelm: There is no doubt that parenting is demanding, and many mothers juggle multiple responsibilities, from work to household chores. The sheer volume of tasks and the pressure to do it all perfectly can lead to overwhelming stress – and stress releases cortisol, the anger hormone.

5. Past Trauma: For some, past experiences or unresolved trauma can resurface, amplifying emotional responses. This can make it particularly difficult to manage anger and frustration.

6. Postnatal Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Postnatal depression (PND) and Postnatal Anxiety, are serious conditions that affects many new mothers and often include symptoms of irritability, anger, and rage. When untreated, they can exacerbate feelings of anger and helplessness, leading to episodes of maternal rage.

7. Sensory Overload: Sensory overload occurs when our senses are overwhelmed to the point that our brains can’t process any more input. This is particularly common in postpartum and motherhood due to the constant demands and lack of opportunities to recharge, leading to rage and overwhelm.

8. Parental Burnout: Parental burnout combines overwhelming exhaustion, emotional distancing, and a sense of ineffectiveness due to chronic parenting stress. This can lead to a consistent bad mood, inability to control emotions, and a quickness to anger.

9. Intergenerational Patterns: Parenting is often influenced by how we were parented. If you experienced a lot of yelling as a child, you might find yourself doing the same as a parent.

How to Manage Maternal Rage

Managing maternal rage is a journey, and it often requires a blend of self-awareness, support, and practical strategies. Here are some tips that might help you navigate through the storm:

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s essential to recognise and validate your emotions. It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Accepting these feelings without judgment is the first step towards managing them effectively.

2. Take Care of Yourself: Prioritise your physical well-being. Work towards getting more sleep, eating regularly, and exercising can significantly impact your mood and energy levels. Don’t underestimate the power of taking time for self-care, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Use strategies to improve your sleep quality, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants before bed, and creating a restful sleep environment.

3. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Mindfulness, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can help calm your mind and reduce stress. Even a few minutes a day can make a significant difference in managing anger.

4. Set Realistic Expectations: Let go of the notion of the ‘perfect mom’. Allow yourself grace and remember that it’s okay to ask for help. Setting realistic goals and being kind to yourself can reduce feelings of failure and frustration. Adjusting your expectations can prevent anger and rage when they inevitably go unmet.

5. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Whether it’s a trusted friend, a support group, or a mental health professional, having a support network can provide comfort and practical advice. You don’t have to go through this alone. Professional support, particularly from therapists specialising in the postpartum experience, can be invaluable.

6. Develop Coping Strategies: Identify triggers that lead to rage and develop strategies to manage them. This might include taking a break, talking to someone you trust, or engaging in a relaxing activity. Creating a ‘toolkit’ of coping mechanisms can be incredibly helpful.

7. Embrace Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to another mom struggling with similar issues. Self-compassion can improve your emotional well-being and reduce the stress that contributes to maternal rage.

8. Repair Relationships: Finally, repairing relationships after an outburst is essential. Apologising and discussing the incident with your children (and partner) can help demonstrate the importance of taking accountability for your actions, rebuilds trust, and gives opportunities to talk about better ways to manage tough emotions.

Remember, Even Good Moms Get Angry 

Maternal anger can feel awful, but it doesn’t have to define you as a mother. Learning why it is showing up for you and then implementing strategies to manage it, can make a huge difference. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You deserve support, understanding, and most importantly, kindness—especially from yourself.

If you’re struggling with maternal rage, take a deep breath, reach out for help, and know that there’s a path forward. You are not alone.

Share article