Confessions of an Angry Mom

anger in motherhood

A little hand reaches up to the counter, and papers flutter to the floor. While I restack them, a chair is pushed over. Maybe even a plant. Something in me starts to tighten and grow, a tense little ball of fire. Words spill out, but they are useless; they clink to the floor. My preschooler dances around the room, a sleep-deprived hurricane. Maybe he just needs to pee, I rationalize, drinking in deep breaths while my stuff hits the floor. My toddler calls out my name even though he’s already on my hip, attached to me like a baby koala while I tidy up the mess. But I can’t keep up. 

The little ball of fire inside starts to build. Suddenly I have two options: scream or shut down.

I’ve done the former, and I hate it. I hate that feeling of losing control, what Brené Brown calls chandeliering.1 Like a pressure cooker that builds until it explodes, my anger is left splattered throughout the kitchen, dripping from counters and trickling down walls, and everyone can feel the change in temperature. Through therapy and deep breathing and a lot of breath prayers2, I am learning not to react so emotionally to my children’s behaviors, or at least not to stuff my feelings inside until they mushroom, but I still struggle regularly. 

Two years in, and if I’m honest, I’m still adjusting to being a mother of two children, to having two tiny humans need me all the time. I once felt pretty proud of myself, back when I was a mother of one child. Other than the sleep, which has always been a problem for us, parenting wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined. I felt like a good and patient mother. I was doing all the gentle things, the positive parenting things. I was learning and using the scripts, and I felt fairly sure of my secure attachment with my first child. 

With two kids, I feel like I’m barely passing, and that’s difficult for an A-student to swallow.

The worst part is that I know what I should be doing. I’ve done the research; I’ve read the books. But I can’t seem to follow through with the scripts and tools when my brain is on fire. When my kids are hitting each other, when they both need my attention, when they start throwing objects or jumping off the couch or biting their sibling. And of course, these things always happen when my arms are covered in food scraps and dish soap, when I’m sitting on the toilet, when I’m chopping vegetables for dinner, or when I’m changing the little one’s diaper. 

The scripts tell me to remove my child from an off-limits location, to use my hands and not my voice; but they never tell me what to do when my hands are not free. That’s when I feel caged in, when I am faced with the options of freeze or fight or flight. All that repressed anger, lurking inside of me like a wounded dragon tucked deep in its cave, starting to show its face, starting to breathe out its fire and ice. 

Anger in motherhood is real, but it’s not something many mothers talk about. We are more accepting of conversations about postpartum depression, but depression and anxiety and anger are all facets of the same coin. And when we don’t acknowledge it, it just smolders, ready to ignite. 

I am realizing that I’ve been angry for a long time—sometimes, I’m not even sure why. I’ve locked it inside in order to wear a mask of a quiet, gentle spirit, and all that anger has stewed inside, turned to bitterness, and it has started to seep out in my motherhood like a slow leak that I can’t patch. 

Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed I could weep. Some days I want to scream. Some days my emotions are just a quiet simmer, and some days they reverberate through me, all whizz and bang until they pop. I think about the words of Paul in Romans: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

My therapist once said that no one leaves childhood unscathed. We all carry traumas from our past; we have all been parented imperfectly, just as we are all currently parenting imperfectly. I know that. And if I’m honestly looking at myself and my children and my life, I know that the good outweighs the bad. My children are loved and cared for, they feel safe, they have space to express their emotions and interests and desires, and their childhood is generally a happy one. But I am still a life-long perfectionist. I carry the pressure to be perfect, and it cripples me.

Most of the folks from my childhood would probably never consider me someone who struggles with anger. Perpetual shyness, maybe, but not anger. I’ve leaned into that descriptor all my life, the quiet one, but it doesn’t serve me to hide my anger. We have to be genuine with one another. This is why we need community, so that we have a safe place to come as we are. This is one of the things I love about the church. Because, in its health, it’s a place to hold us. To offer us grace. To help us find healing. It has its flaws, but I’ve known its goodness, and I see what it can be.

If we can share our weaknesses with one another, if we can admit we’ve reacted in ways we aren’t proud of, maybe it will ease the tension, that boiling pressure of perfection. Because anger doesn’t make us bad mothers. It makes us human. And if we relax into it, if we can allow our anger to simply exist, let it ebb and flow around us, without reacting, maybe it can teach us something after all. Maybe it will give us insight into the places we need to grow, and maybe it can help us become the mothers we want to be.


  1. Brene Brown on chandeliering
  2. About breath prayers
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Jenica Donahue is a writer, mother, and former ESL teacher living the fire-wife life in North Carolina with her husband, Riley, their two rambunctious boys, and a large black dog named Juniper. She enjoys writing about the intersection of faith and doubt, the joys and challenges of motherhood, and the practice of slowing down and noticing the present. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, traveling, and teaching English. She currently writes the newsletter Joy & Jubilee and is at work on other projects.


  1. Bridget on 26 February 2024 at 1:33 pm

    I could have written almost every word of this myself. It’s so hard to talk about. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Claire on 26 February 2024 at 6:22 am

    I completely relate to this. You’re so right that this topic is under-discussed.

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