Friday, 2 November 2007


Originally posted on British Parent Bloggers

A friend and I were discussing MumRage recently and I think it’s one of those things that people don’t speak about because it’s considered an unnatural instinct.

MumRage is born of frustration, exhaustion and the whole feeling of being trapped. Never having any grown up conversation about world events; always feeling as if you’re drowning in the minutiae of children/pregnancy-related topics which are of no interest to proper grown ups.
I can remember at a family dinner party, my newest brother-in-law saying: ‘Can’t you talk about anything other than children?’ Excuse my language a moment but: BASTARD!!!! Talk about rubbing it in and driving it home. It made me not want to talk at all in polite society. Because, no, with two offspring under five years old, I didn’t seem to have opinions relating to anything much other than children, poo, breastmilk and vomit.

My friend spoke of wanting to hit out and I can empathise completely. Sometimes I just wanted to slam cupboard doors and throw things… and, to my shame, I did. Children’s toys and once a paring knife across the kitchen. There is still a savage mark in the fabric of the sink. Completely unpredictable outbursts of explosive irrational uncontrollable anger that sprang from nowhere on the back of a relatively minor irritation.

The advent of the online supermarket shop was a great help in alleviating one of the trigger points for me personally but you still have to be organised enough to book that slot sufficiently in advance to get your delivery when you need it! When I first had my kids, I had to make the time to get to the supermarket complete with two children, the first of whom would be removing her outerwear as fast as I was able to dress the baby in his. Sometimes something so simple seemed to evolve into such a mammoth undertaking. And that doesn’t even start to deal with having to decant the kids into the double-seated trolley and push it around, complete with all the shopping therein, followed by unloading the car and putting everything away with two scratchy and tired children.

So, what with the weekly shop, the disturbed nights because my son would not sleep for very long on his own and my seeming obsession with trying to be the perfect wife and mother, keeping on top of the housework/laundry, whilst wading through rooms that were suddenly knee-deep in wall-to-wall lego when only moments previously my efforts had left them relatively tidy, I was permanently exhausted. My Husband never seemed to be able to understand why the house wasn’t pristine when he got home in the evening or why there was a distinct absence of dinner once I’d got two children.

Juggling time and children, ferrying them to try this or that activity for fear they would miss out on the one thing that could have changed their lives forever, feeling guilty for sitting them in front of a video so I could at least get some housework/laundry done or just sit down and have a cup of tea. Looking back, I remember fondly that we did so many things together, both at home and out and about. Painting, playdoh, shops, colouring, puzzles, games, cooking, trips to various local amenities. I don’t think there was ever an entire day when they had to make their own entertainment by themselves.

Yes, I did have parents who could have helped but my mother was looking after her mother who was bedridden and over 90 years old and my father was caring for my step-mother who was in the early stages of Alzheimers so I didn’t like to call upon them too much as they were already wilting under the strain of their own caring responsibilities.

It was only when my son went to nursery school when he was almost three (my daughter was already in the Infants) and I started to get a little ME time that I started to be able to control those feelings of frustrated MumRage. Not totally, there would still be incidents where it all got the better of me and, to this day, I feel deeply ashamed for the times when I shouted or smacked bottoms, when there was definitely a better way of handling things, but I just didn’t have the patience left to find it.

MumRage is horrible and we all need to recognise its existence so that we can put in place procedures to help ourselves. We need a certain amount of ME time at least once a month. Something to look forward to that is just for us. Even if it’s only getting your hair done without a child in tow or sitting down for an hour ALONE without someone jumping all over you or shouting ‘Mum’.

And yet I wonder whether MumRage is a modern phenomenon? Did it exist in my mother’s day but they were too well mannered to express it? I’m sure my own mother didn’t attend to me and my sister 24/7 and certainly didn’t feel guilty for not having spent the greater part of the day satisfying our every whim.

In those days, we didn’t have videos and children’s entertainment was PlaySchool at 11am, Listen with Mother at 1.45 on the radio and a short period of kids TV between 4.30 and 5.45, culminating in The Magic Roundabout or Hector’s House. The rest of the time we had to provide our own entertainment, helping Mum with the chores or playing by ourselves or with a sibling; we certainly read more books. There wasn’t a social network of coffee mornings and mother’s groups the way there is today. Maybe because there were less distractions, the children were less demanding in their desire for entertainment as provided by Mum so she had more time to get the jobs done. But I also think that there was less laundry. People wore clothes more often because it wasn’t just a case of sticking it in the washing machine, most laundry was done by hand… on a Monday. By seemingly making our lives easier, the mechanical improvements have also made them harder because we place greater demands upon ourselves, set higher standards of cleanliness and housewifery.

We have built a culture of baby first and foremost to a degree where they learn to wait for nothing, their needs are satisfied immediately and they are not encouraged to use their imagination to pass the time. We have allowed ourselves to become slaves to them and to our own pernicious fear that if we do not fulfil their every desire, we will somehow be shortchanging them. Add this factor to the demands of being a domestic goddess and it allows us no time to be anything other than Mum.

And sometimes that is an overwhelming burden.


EmmaK said...

I doubt kids were less demanding in the 'old days', in working class communities and to some extent middle class ones, didn't the mums all get together and share the stress/childcare or the kids play in the street? There wasn't the pressure to entertain them with 'educational activities' all the time. Also, MomRage was suppressed to some extent by tranquillizers ;)

MomRage is totally normal. Please don't beat yourself up about it. You just need to find lots of friends who you can rant honestly about what is bothering you.

DJ Kirkby said...

You are such a good writer. I agree that we can make more work for ourselves by trying to be so totaly involved in our childrens activites. I remember being sent out to play and not returning till lunch! The thought of doing that to N3S makes me feel faint and N1 and N" sons would ahve 7 fits if deprved of their TV etc. We didn't even have a TV when I was a kid and you are right we sure did read a lot more and help more with household chores. Dunno which was was better, probably a mix of the two eh?

bittersweet me said...

MumRage - good word!

It is the unspoken shame, to a certain degree, although living in a small vilage and walking to school is useful .. you can HEAR the other mummies' frustrations as you stroll past!

It is why we find solace in like-placed friends - because the need to vent is powerful and if you haven't been in this situation, you don't get it. I'm not sure even my husband understands how terrifying that sensation of drowning can be.

I have had to leave the house before now, just to stop myself breaking something.

Orgasms help :)

Johnny Huxley said...

I second that last comment.

Waynecoff said...

dads get it too, it frustrating for us, we all need a bit of time, fresh air, some sort of distraction, x

Johnny Huxley said...

re sympathy
Don't knock it. I have a friend who says that if she had not gone for the sympathy fuck, then her virginity would have grown back by now.

having my cake said...

Emmak - I think that's spot on. We all played in the street and all the parents effectively were keeping an eye on us. It also promoted the fact that the older ones had a responsibility towards the younger ones which is absent in many cases these days.

djk - thank you. And I dont think it did us any harm helping out with chores mixed with a spot of tv. We were certainly more challenged than some of the kids today who sit for ours having their minds numbed and controlled by their interactive games consoles.

Me - I cannot claim the word. It was my friend that coined it. I assumed it was in common usage. And you're right, when you walk to school, you dont feel so isolated. You can hear all the similar disputes that rage in other families. If only Id found out about vibrators earlier :)

Wayne - I hadnt thought about it from the dad's viewpoint.

Johnny - Are you deliberately trying to make this Mummy rage? LMAO

Pixie said...

There is a very fine line between maintaining control and beating hell out of our children.
And the more we can own this as you said cake the more acceptable it will be to own those feelings of pent up rage.... great post hon.

Lady in red said...

when I was carrying #3son I went to my GP and told them to do something before I threw #1son out of the window
my health visitor came to see us at least once a week after that to help me with #1sons sleep problems. that was a really tough one to deal with a toddle that didnt sleep and a baby as well as being pregnant. there were times I locked myself in the bathroom saying I didn't want to be a mummy anymore.

even now my mum keeps telling me that she used to hear me shout at the boys from the end of the road. she said it again last week and I asked her if she would have preferred I had been hitting them. I think she heard me once but always tells it as though it was everytime she visited.

we didn't have tv either until I was about 9 but I read a lot and we would be out on our bikes all day when we were not at school.

Devilbluedress said...

Kids are there as part of your life. They enrich. They challenge. They grow. It gets easier. It gets more challenging. Yes, take the precious time to be by yourself. Make tiny routines that help. Find ways to bring peace. Even if it's making (not eating) dinner by candlelight!

nitebyrd said...

My heart always aches a little bit for women with small children - it is so difficult. You tend to lose "you" when becoming "Mum/Mom."

It is trying, rage inducing, rewarding and joyful. Sometimes all at once!

I also love the term, MumRage!

having my cake said...

pixie - thanks. I'll probably be in the minority but I still think a good unexpected sharp smack on the bottom delivered just prior to or after a child transgresses is a far better deterrent than anything else. Whacking them all the time loses shock value, a bit like shouting - where, after a while, they just filter out Mum's moaning :)

LiR - I feel for you. Three small children with one who wouldnt sleep - or let you sleep - must have been purgatory. I used to laugh with my neighbour a few doors down because we were surprised that we couldnt hear each other shouting at 8am. Turns out, we were both shouting simultaneously. We should have just made a cd to play at that time :)

devilbluedress - Welcome. As you say: It gets easier. It gets more challenging. With two teenagers, some things are less frustrating but now there are the fears when they put themselves at risk through not seeing the big picture.

nitebyrd - that's it exactly. You lose you.

Lady in red said...

lol at the simultaneous shouting my neighbour said she never heard me shouting because she was doing the same. I have hardly shouted at all for years now. I went through a stage of blowing a whistle but I had to hide it cos they thought it was fun. then there was the stage where I put on my shoes and coat told them to look after each other ...good bye cos mums had enough ........I would walk out the door with them hanging onto me ....dont go mummy we will be good we promise
or the times I would stand in the middle of the room scream and start jumping up and down like a child in a tantrum.
I just tried all different ways of getting their attention as like you say you end up shouting louder and louder just to be heard cos they tune you out.
I think I have lost my temper once since SF moved out and on that occasion I just took the cutlery drawer out and tipped it upside down on the kitchen floor then went to bed.
our home has been much calmer in the last 18 months without SF around