When Moms Get Angry
- Friday, May 23, 2003
We've all seen other parents "lose it" at times ― at a restaurant, the mall or in the grocery store checkout line. Sometimes we wonder why the parents don't have better control of their emotion (and their kids); other times we're just thankful that it isn't happening to us.
After all, struggling with anger is a battle many parents fight, and almost as many lose. Indeed, you've probably experienced your fair share of emotional meltdowns.
You desperately want a nap, but your 2-year-old won't go down for hers. Your 4-year-old throws a tantrum because you cut his sandwich into quarters instead of halves. Your 9-year-old has taken to rolling her eyes at your every request.
Sound familiar? From "He started it" to "I'm not going" to "You can't make me," you've likely heard them all, and you just can't take it anymore. Pair these challenges with never-ending piles of laundry, dishes and bills and something's got to give! All too often, it ends up being mom's temper.
You may have been calm, cool and collected before kids, but if you're like most parents, having children helped you discover the temper you never knew you had. Many children, it seems, are born with the uncanny ability to transform even the most mild-mannered mom into a screaming maniac.
While experts shower us with parenting books, videos and magazine columns, few can prepare a mother for the force of her own emotions. Yet whether you're prone to frequent explosions or the occasional outburst, Julie Ann Barnhill is here to assure you that you're not alone.
"I wrote the book I needed to read," Barnhill says, explaining the inspiration and motivation behind She's Gonna Blow! Real Help for Moms Dealing With Anger. "I wanted to write about what moms struggle with, but what they will never say out loud."
Judging from sales and the outpouring of response her book has received, Barnhill did just that. Mixing real-life experiences, biblical truths and a hefty dose of humor, Barnhill aims to shed light on this very sensitive topic.
"It's a shameful subject that's easier not to discuss," she says. "You could get a bunch of moms together and start talking about being mad or miffed, but no one wants to talk about anger, rage and the shameful things you do in secret."
Barnhill remembers one particular incident when her anger blew out of control. A combination of financial worries, a husband working long hours, a voracious newborn boy and an energetic 2-year-old girl led to a moment when Barnhill says she "bottomed out on everything."
She had just gotten her children in their beds for a nap and was ready to settle in for a much-needed 20-minute snooze of her own. Before long, the baby started screaming and her toddler walked in, announcing that she couldn't sleep and sporting soiled pants despite a healthy dose of potty training.
That's when she lost it.
Barnhill recalls scooping the little girl into her arms, shaking her and finally tossing her in the general vicinity of her mattress. Instead, her daughter hit the wall. That's when Barnhill broke down.
"Instantly, I wanted to vomit," she recalls. "I stepped toward her and she just cowered. . . . I never imagined that I could act that way!"
Thankfully, her daughter was unhurt, and even though 12 years have passed since that day, the memory still shocks her. Barnhill knew she had gone too far, and she came away from the experience knowing that she needed to deal with her anger.
Common Warning Signs
Sometimes you can see it coming. Money is tight, dirty clothes are piling up, the kids have runny noses and you've just discovered that you're out of milk. So you make what you hope will be a quick trip to the store, only to run into mad traffic and a red light at every corner. You can practically feel your blood pressure rising.
Barnhill says it's often the "little" things in our everyday lives that are the most likely to send us over the edge. Simply being aware of these trigger points is often enough to keep you from exploding.
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