002: Understanding Mommy Rage - Happy as a Mother

002: Understanding Mommy Rage


with Psychologist Dr. Ashurina Ream



WHAT YOU’LL LEARN


  • How Dr. Ashurina Ream Came To Specialize In Maternal Mental Health
  • Why We Experience Mommy Rage
  • How Common Mommy Rage Is
  • Coping And Managing Mommy Rage
  • Transformation Of A Mom

Do you experience mommy rage? Do you ever lose it on the kids or partner and wonder when/how your fuse has become so short? Dr. Ashurina Ream shares why mothers experience mommy rage and ways that it can be overcome. We’ll also take a look at whether it’s common and what to do if it might be a symptom of something deeper.

How Dr. Ashurina Ream Came To Specialize in Maternal Mental Health

“After I had my son, my focus shifted. It was the first time I really felt like I could connect with my patients, because I was experiencing so many emotions,” Dr. Ream said. “That’s how I became really interested in perinatal mood disorders and postpartum health.”

Until you’ve become a parent, you can’t understand what it is like to be responsible for the day in and day out of someone else’s life. “I didn’t have the knowledge or the training, because I do believe there is additional training people need to work in these areas,” Dr. Ream said. 

Sometimes after you’ve become a parent or have taken specialized training, you realize how you wish you would have handled things differently when you started. So much of postpartum care is focused on the baby such as how baby is developing, meeting baby’s milestones, and the list goes on. It’s nice to see people starting to care for mothers and their needs.

Why We Experience Mommy Rage

Postpartum rage can be a symptom of something like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. We expect women to be depressed, but they might be more irritated and that can be scary if you’re not used to it. 

Dr. Ream explained that this might not be something people feel comfortable talking to their partners or health care providers about, because we expect mothers to be tender and caring. Some people may be embarrassed to admit they’re snapping at their kid and easily agitated. “When you say, ‘I’m flying off the handle, and I don’t know why,’ it’s the opposite of what we think we should be.” We’re supposed to be the nurturer and the ones meeting all of our child’s emotional needs.

I’ve been open that after my third child I experienced postpartum depression. Even with my clinical background and experience, it came as a complete surprise (though in retro spec with the training I have now, I was a prime candidate). 

I was so fatigued I could barely get up and take a shower. Even the littlest tasks felt like they took monumental effort. I had support, used the coping strategies I knew, and still found it difficult to manage. Trying to wait depression out can be problematic as postpartum depression can worsen over time without the appropriate treatment in the form of therapy and/or medication.

Dr. Ream shared she had a colicky son who struggled with sleep which of course meant she struggled with sleep. “I put him in his bassinet and walked into another room and just started scream-crying,” she said. “I remember that irritability and being snappy and for me, it was often sleep-related but I knew I needed more support.”

A mom saying, “I don’t feel like myself,” is her waving her flag.” She needs help. Don’t take it lightly. If you hear a mom say this, try to give her some resources or share in a nonjudgmental way, but recognize it as a cry for help.

Sometimes a mom will say this to her provider and have it dismissed as baby blues or a lack of sleep. But when we dismiss a mom saying she doesn’t feel like herself anymore, we’re doing a disservice. We’re just making people feel invalidated. “A lot of practitioners have great intentions but can do harm when they say, ‘oh, this is due to X, Y, and Z,’” Dr. Ream said. 

I had this experience myself. The doctor told me I just didn’t have enough help with three kids under three. It’s become my mission to create a space for moms experiencing mental health challenges because it’s very hard to find in my area. 

How Common Mommy Rage Is

“I don’t know that there are statistics on rage as a symptom,” Dr. Ream explained. “I know that quite a few moms will report that.” But people don’t necessarily know that it’s a symptom of a perinatal mood disorder.

It’s hard to say how common it is because moms don’t know it exists, and providers aren’t tracking it, so there is no way to know. But it resonates with people. As soon as someone mentions being over irritable as a new mom, people start talking about it and commenting they experienced similar things.

Being open about it, not only as a practitioner, but also as we’re dealing with other moms could help give someone the support they need to feel validated.

Coping And Managing Mommy Rage

“Symptoms are signals. They tell us something. They’re telling a story,” Dr. Ream said. So anger and rage are symptoms. If I’m irritable and snapping all the time, I need to look at what’s going on in my life to make me feel this way. If I snap at my husband every time he leaves a dish out, it’s not about the dish. There is an underlying feeling that I’m experiencing that I’m not communicating or maybe I’m not even aware of it.

But it’s up to us to explore that and see what it is. Do we feel unsupported? Do we feel like household responsibilities aren’t distributed evenly? And the possibilities are endless here. It could really be anything. Once we’ve figured out whatever it is that’s bothering us, we need to try to relieve some of that pressure. 

We don’t need to avoid feeling angry or ragey, we just need to listen to it and see what it’s trying to tell us. This allows us to go into a creative space and look for solutions instead of fighting ourselves with inner turmoil, because we feel something we don’t think we should.

Some moms will say, “I’m a monster for feeling this.” Others will say they don’t know why they’re feeling this. But you’re not a monster. You have an unmet need. It can be something as easy as taking a break.

If you’re experiencing both postpartum depression and anxiety, the support for depression often involves relying on other people. But when someone has anxiety, the last thing they may want is to rely on someone else. 

Working with a professional may be necessary. A lot of people avoid getting help, because they don’t have the resources. But postpartum.net has free support groups, and they also have a hotline you can call. Some colleges or universities offer counseling at low or no cost. 

Transformation Of A Mom

There is also an amount of grief that comes along with a cute, cuddly newborn. “We were the most spontaneous people in the world,” Dr. Ream said. She told us about her husband saying they should go to Vegas and get married. They packed up a single bag and drove to Vegas from Arizona.  Now they didn’t actually get married that weekend. “We had this expectation that when we had our child we would just pick up and go like that,” she continued. But that kind of freedom ends with a child, and it doesn’t make us resentful to realize that. It’s okay to be honest that there is some grieving for a part of your life being over.

And sometimes when you try to communicate this feeling, you’re met with toxic positivity. Like you mention how much you’re struggling to get everything done, or care for your children and get comments like, “But don’t love your child.” Umm—yeah, of course, I do. I’m just saying I’d like to eat or sleep too. 

Motherhood is metamorphosis. We birth a baby, but we change as a person. And the transformation of what we go through is almost ignored. You take lamaze classes and birthing classes, but no one tells you how to take care of you.

My journey through three children in three years and postpartum issues with the youngest is where my passion for working with moms comes from. 

If you’re looking for more resources on dealing with mommy rage, Dr. Ream and I created a resource to help you better understand your feelings of anger and what to do with these feelings.

Dr. Ashurina Ream, PMH-C is a licensed clinical psychologist with advanced training in maternal mental health. Her passion for maternal mental health arose after becoming a mother herself. In addition to this specialty, Dr. Ream has trained in various disciplines as it pertains to the field of psychology. She has worked with those struggling with body image, eating disorders, parenting, health-related mood impairment, cognitive functioning, and general mental health. Dr. Ream is a wife, mother, and friend. She enjoys being connected with others, finding the humor in life, and advocating for those who struggle to find their voice.      


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