How to deal with mom rage, from a psychologist who experienced it herself

Family posing for a photo with baby
Courtesy of Lauren Cook
  • Lauren Cook is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist.

  • She experienced mom rage after her son was born in May 2023.

  • She says talking about mom rage is important.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lauren Cook. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Before I got pregnant, I'd never heard about mom rage. That's surprising since I've spent years as a marriage and family therapist, but it shows just how taboo the topic is. I want to speak out about mom rage to push back on that stigma.

Last year was a big one for me. My son Derek was born in May, and my book, "Generation Anxiety," was published in September.

Becoming a mother was wonderful, and publishing my book was the highlight of my career so far. But doing both so close together led to a lot of comments and opinions from others about how I should be spending my time. I found myself consumed by rage at unfair and unrealistic expectations that our society has around working motherhood.

One day after the book launch, I called a loved one to celebrate a work accomplishment, they replied "Shouldn't you be home with the baby?"

All the anger I'd felt over the past months came to the surface at that moment. I was speechless, but I stewed on it all day. At 2 a.m., my feelings erupted into a letter that I later posted on Instagram.

I spoke up about my rage that society told me I couldn't be a mom and career woman, rage that I cared what other people thought, rage that I had internalized the shame other people put on me.

Letting the pressure out was cathartic, but I knew I needed to find long-term ways of coping with my anger. It wasn't going to go away entirely because our society isn't changing any time soon.

Here's how I've done it:

Write it down

Words are powerful. I felt better just typing that letter into the "Notes" app on my phone. You don't need a fancy journaling practice, just space to say what society tells you you can't.

See when the anger is coming from

Reflect on what's making you mad. For me, it wasn't my baby, my husband, or my publisher. It was these much larger social issues. Understanding where the anger is coming from can help you process and maybe even resolve it.

Consider sharing

At first, I thought the letter would be just for me, but when I shared it publicly, I was floored by all the responses. It was so validating to speak with other women who felt the same way. Sure, some people (including my parents) said I shouldn't talk about these things publicly, but the support I received was well worth their discomfort.

Know your values

Judgment from others can make you question whether you're doing the right thing. But when you know your core values, you can make sure you're living by those and simply move on from the judgment. For me, sharing and chasing professional dreams is instrumental. I know I'm staying true to myself when I do those things.

Decide what you'll let go

Despite what millennial women have been told, we can't do everything. Trying to can fuel mom rage. So, decide what you're willing to set down for now.

For me, that meant fewer speaking engagements — something I'm finding stressful and overwhelming, even though it's been rewarding in the past. Maybe you decline overtime, stop nursing, or buy store-bought baby food. Know when to say no so you can direct your energy toward what's best for you.

Don't try to make others' lives easier

On the flip side, think about what's most important to you and remember that doing that is never selfish. For me, promoting the book has been so fulfilling. Sometimes, that means more childcare falls on my husband. That doesn't make me a selfish jerk. It's simply the reality of egalitarian parenthood, and it's not my job to always make his life easier.

Practice your scripts

I've been speechless at rude or misguided comments a lot this year. Rather than thinking about what I could have said afterward, I try to plan ahead for future comments.

My go-to response is curiosity. If someone tells me I'm not going to bond with my baby because I'm away, I say "Why do you think that?" This can open a more authentic conversation with loved ones. Of course, you don't always owe a response, and it's OK to shut down rude comments, too.

Take a moment

I've learned moms need time outs, too — just a moment to regroup and get our bearings. I like to physically change the space I'm in to help shift my mindset. A drive, a walk outside, or a trip to the coffee shop can be just the reset I need.

Motherhood is full of seasons, and I suspect that all of them will come with a bit of mom rage. I've realized that learning to navigate anger when it comes up is a skill that will last long past the infant stage.

Read the original article on Business Insider