The Angry Mom Epidemic: What's Behind The Online Rage?

If you’ve joined a mommy group on Facebook, you’ve seen them. We’ve all seen them… Seemingly innocuous posts that go from calm and rational to rabid and vitriolic in a matter of seconds. We’ve seen the diatribes, the rants, the verbal attacks.

There’s a real anger there. You can feel the stress, the build-up, and the violent explosion that bursts open the floodgates to rancor and spite. Suddenly, a resource that’s meant for discussion and support spirals out of control into a semi-anonymous forum to vent anger at anyone and everyone.

Sure, there are those hot button topics like breastfeeding and vaccination that are just begging for an all out war. I get that. People are passionate about their causes. Whether discussions are around co-sleeping or the cry it out method, moms are quick to defend and to promote what’s worked for them.

What I don’t get is the extreme and volatile anger. I don’t get the personal attacks, at the ready to beat people down for their choices. But most of all I’m just heartbroken to see the amount of anger we hold inside as moms.

We’re too quick to show our disdain for people we’ve never met, but some of these comments aren’t just heated, they’re fueled by a rage so intense and all-consuming that it manifests itself in calls to violence.

Case in point, when this video was posted showing a daycare provider handling a child roughly. She pulls the child up by the arm and pushes him away...

… the comments that follow promote violence towards the employee rather than concern for the child:

Moms are literally out for blood. I understand that the child is being mistreated and man-handled. But the highly graphic brutality in these comments seems to be a lot more vicious than the totally inappropriate way the child was handled. And I’m left wondering: Why has violence become our instinctual reaction, overshadowing our maternal and protective side? Save the boy? Yes! Remove him from the daycare? Absolutely!! Get her fired and alert the authorities? No doubt about it. But kill the woman, choke her, rip her arms off?? These knee-jerk reactions feel disproportionately aggressive.

Still, maybe there’s a level of relatability there. After all, a child was being pushed around. But the mom rage isn’t limited to those types of situations. In another post, a mother is looking for some advice or commiseration because of an unsolicited and rather rude comment from a lady at church: 

All this aggression is over an inappropriate comment that could easily be brushed off. Rather than consoling or giving out constructive advice, moms are reacting with a level of rage that’s literally promoting violence.

In a different post, a mother is upset over comments about her baby’s chunkiness. While most of the responses are positive and supportive, you still manage to find that one mother who snaps:

In a different post, a mother is so angered by the inclusion of the word ‘stupid’ in a cartoon that she actually wants to punch the writer. The irony, of course, being that she wants to raise polite and well-mannered kids but is enraged to the point of violence: 

The point here isn’t to call out any of these moms or to shame them. We’ve all been guilty to some degree – whether it was a social media post that made us snap or a rude checkout lady, our mothers, our friends, our partners – or even our children who just happened to catch us at the wrong time. But we need to look at the rage, and to understand it.

There’s a reason why mom memes about hiding in the closet and drinking wine resonate… why we joke about being fueled by coffee and sustained by wine. But there’s actually nothing funny about it.

Knowing Your Stresses

As any good CIA agent will tell you, sleep deprivation is an actual form of torture. Torture. It attacks the deep biological functions at the core of a person’s mental and physical health…. and it’s an intrinsic part of motherhood.

On top of that, you have hypervigilance to contend with. As new moms, we have an exaggerated awareness of stimuli, we automatically scan environments for possible threats, we’re on high alert for danger, and we’re acutely aware of any and all sounds (you know how the faintest baby whimper wakes you from your sleep?) and it’s all programmed into us, like it or not, to ensure the health and safety of our children.

When we talk about other people who have been exposed to similar conditions for long periods of time, it’s common to bring up PTSD. We accept that they’re struggling and understand they’re living in a state of anxiety. And yet, we keep soldering on. Meanwhile, alcoholism is rising among women with 58% engaging in high risk drinking (four or more drinks per day).  And while we have loads of mom memes poking fun at it, no one is seriously talking about what’s going on.

In our sleep-deprived, stressed-out existence, we’re then trying to measure up to these maddeningly unattainable images of parental perfection. From photos of adorably stylish, happy kids, share-worthy travel pics, babies crushing all their milestones,100% handmade birthday parties on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram – pick your poison – the virtual peer pressure is pervasive and platform agnostic. It WILL find you.

To make matters worse, most of what you see out there is trying to sell you something…. a product, a book, a way of life. And as new moms who are feeling vulnerable and insecure about our abilities – none of us have done this before – we fall prey to self-doubt.

What’s Behind All the Rage?

Motherhood is the phase of life that’s the most certainly uncertain. Especially as new moms, we’re fraught with anxiety and stress over the minutiae of our baby’s development and wellbeing. We sacrifice our own self-care and try to do it all. Some of the most common stresses for a mother include:

  • Being stretched too thin
  • A lack of adequate sleep
  • Financial worries
  • Hypervigilance stemming from protective instincts
  • Self-doubt
  • A lack of time for self-care
  • Fear of judgment
  • A sense of inadequate support

Sound familiar? Sadly, the stresses don’t necessarily go away as our children grow up. Instead, the to-do list grows. The responsibilities are compounded. There are bullies and grades and homework to deal with. Volunteering at school, teacher conferences, bad eating habits to correct, technology use to curb… and what’s your child’s GPA?

Our rage is rooted in these stresses and the uncertainty of how we’re doing as moms. What’s our measure of success? How well are we doing day in and day out? What have we missed? Where did we fail today?

We lose our sh*t because we’re charting new waters. Our rage, ironically comes from a need to achieve control, when we really, really, really need things to go right but are powerless to ensure the outcomes we want. Our rage comes from wanting to feel strong when we feel the most vulnerable. It comes from a place of indignation and outrage at the injustice we feel is happening to the person we once were. Why did we have to give that person up? And simultaneously guilty for ever thinking that thought.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful moments too. So much laughter and the joy of seeing your little one grow up. But it’s not without its battles. We go to sleep (or try to) with tomorrow’s checklist in mind. We wake up exhausted and overwhelmed with the day’s mothering tasks in mind. We try to keep up the best that we can. But there are moments we snap. Under all the stress and strain, we lash out. Those mommy groups are proof of it.

So How Do We Deal with It?

Anger is an expression of our unfulfilled need to control. I don’t mean to control the details of our daily lives – but to control the outcomes we want to see happen. It comes from the frustration and stress of knowing we can’t do it all the way we want to. It’s born of our deepest insecurities and our most weighty fear… To fail as a mother.

It’s easy to say that you have to check your expectations. I can tell you to push back… delegate! But to whom? Sleep more! When? Wine won’t help… or sneaking chocolates. ‘Take deep breaths’ feels like an insult when you’re boiling over with rage.

I’m not going to say you need to change, unplug, adapt or evolve. The blame here doesn’t lie with you. What we need is a cultural shift in how we see mothers.

As awesome as we mothers are, we don’t belong on a pedestal. We need to quit glorifying this role and equating it with all things saintly. The idea that we need to sacrifice our time, our ambition, and our identities to a higher purpose from the moment a child is placed in our arms really is an injustice. Giving up on ourselves isn’t a price to pay for having children. We’re not martyrs. We’re mothers… among many other things. And we need to be seen as all of them to keep that rage at bay.

How do you deal with anger in your day-to-day mom life?

Tags : confessions   conscious parenting   relationships   

Brian Miller
Man, I knew women could be catty but this blows my mind.
Sonia Gushman
I can relate. Ok, maybe not to the same degree and I've never left a comment remotely resembling any of the examples here. But some days, I feel like a pressure cooker. The stress is crazy and so damaging to me.
Elodie Nilsson
I'm sorry but those people really need therapy. I hate to think, if they're so quick to fly off the handle like that on social media, how they react to their own kids. I'm beyond disgusted.
Summer Kaplan
I've seen so many angry posts like these. Some of the mom on FB are just so hateful. If you don't have anything positive or constructive to say, it doesn't need to be said!!