"Mom Rage" and Why It's More Than Just Feeling Mad, According to an Expert
A good mom should have a certain set of qualities (even if those qualities are wholly untethered from reality): You speak with a soft and gentle voice. You have abundant patience even when your kids are destroying the house and refusing to eat their vegetables. You're skilled at letting stress roll off your back while quietly juggling the everyday chores of raising kids . . . until you can't anymore.
Then, in one second, you're cooking dinner when your kid spills their milk, and the pot of water on the stove boils over simultaneously. And this is enough to send you into "mom rage," where you're slamming cupboards and yelling about how you must be everything to everyone.
No matter how it manifests, maternal rage often catches moms off guard, and it can leave us feeling helpless and guilty. But mom rage is more common than we might think, and knowing why it happens — and how we can better manage those emotions before we explode — is better for everyone. So, we turned to the experts.
What Is "Mom Rage"?
Mom rage, sometimes called "maternal rage," isn't an official diagnosis. Instead, it's a term that's used to "describe the intense feelings of frustration, anger, or overwhelm experienced by mothers or parental figures," mental health and parenting expert Caroline Fenkel, DSW, LCSW, the chief clinical officer of Charlie Health, tells POPSUGAR. "Mommy rage manifests as an emotional outburst often triggered by parenting challenges."
Inextricably linked to mom rage outbursts are the expectations placed on women and moms when it comes to expressing the challenges and emotions that come with motherhood, according to a 2023 study published in Sex Roles.
The study explains that mothers are not only expected to prioritize the needs of others before theirs, but "often motherwork (i.e. the perceived responsibilities and appropriate performance of motherhood) suggests mothers also must be a center of calm, supportive, and care for their larger family networks." It continues, "These expectations create a context in which mothers must manage their emotions, despite the strains and stressors they themselves are experiencing, and provide support for their families to be a 'good' mother."
To put it simply, moms are told to "suck it up" when experiencing challenges in motherhood. What's more, we're led to believe that we're doing motherhood wrong if we complain. And that combination creates the perfect storm of frustration bound to bubble up.
What Are the Common Signs and Triggers of "Mom Rage?"
Dr. Fenkel says common signs that a mom might be teetering on the edge of a mom rage episode include "increased irritability, frequent exhaustion, or difficulty managing daily tasks," which are often brought on by "sleep deprivation, feeling overwhelmed, and a lack of personal time."
Ann Hand, a mom of three young boys who live in Chicago, tells POPSUGAR that feeling like she "had to do it all" was the biggest trigger for her mom rage. "The demands of work and motherhood left me feeling exhausted, stressed, and frustrated," she says. "I noticed a few signs of 'mom rage' in myself: getting easily irritated by small things, snapping at my children," she acknowledges. "In those moments, I would find myself swearing, yelling, and feeling the tension build up in my body."
Hand shares that in those moments, she "was not who I wanted to be." And after the rage passed, she was left "feeling overwhelmed with guilt."
What to Do When You Feel Mom Rage Coming On
Knowing the triggers that set off those feelings can help you counteract quickly to calm the nerves. "I often advocate for immediate grounding techniques," Dr. Fenkel says. "Practicing deep-breathing exercises can swiftly regulate heightened emotions," and she recommends the 4-7-8 method, which is described as "breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds," as a first step to reducing the tension that's building.
"Additionally, encouraging a pause — stepping away momentarily, seeking a moment of solitude, or engaging in a brief physical activity — provides a crucial reset," Dr. Fenkel says.
How to Prevent Mom Rage From Bubbling in the First Place
Preventing mom rage from bubbling in the first place would be ideal, and there are measures you can take to help lessen getting to the end of your rope. Dr. Fenkel suggests the following:
- Prioritize self-care, such as practicing mindfulness, getting adequate rest, and/or engaging in activities that bring joy.
- Maintain open communication with your partner or coparent if you have one.
- Open up to your support systems and be honest about your feelings.
- Recognize your limits.
- Ask loved ones for help when needed.
Hand shares that making three practical changes to how she runs her household significantly reduced her experiences with mom rage. "Work was a major source of stress for me," Hand explains. "As a result, I made the decision to resign from my high-pressure position and transition to part-time work. This change has significantly alleviated a great deal of stress within our household."
Another step she made at home centered around one trigger: being late and scrambling. "When we have a specific time we need to leave, I ensure that I give my kids plenty of time to prepare," Hand says. "Alternatively, we establish limits on technology usage. It's a huge trigger for my boys, so we try to limit the time on those items."
Self-care is another big factor that helps Hand from getting too overwhelmed, and it doesn't have to be anything extravagant. "Take a walk not only for your physical well-being, but mental health," Hand notes. "That daily habit has helped me tremendously." Dr. Fenkel adds, "Self-care plays a pivotal role in managing rage, and it's time moms prioritize their well-being."
When It's Time to Seek Professional Help
For some moms, the anger and frustration can linger despite having placed mindful boundaries and being aware of triggers. If this happens, Dr. Fenkel says seeking professional advice would be a good next step.
"Signs that a mom should consider reaching out for professional help include strained relationships, persistent feelings of distress, physical and mental exhaustion, and feelings of burnout," the doctor notes.
"It's essential to encourage open communication about these challenges and reduce stigma surrounding seeking help," she explains. "Moms should be reassured that reaching out for support, whether through personal networks or professional services, is a courageous and responsible step toward ensuring their well-being and that of their families."
Ultimately, Dr. Fenkel wants moms to remember that "being a mom is a really hard job, and it's OK to ask for help!"