Wednesday, May 5, 2010

making the case for anger - repost

This is a repost of an old blog, for my friend J, with whom I was discussing mommy anger over some fantastic red wine last night...


Now and then in my writing life, I've been "accused," subtly and not so subtly, of being too gloomy, disgruntled, biting, sarcastic and well, angry, about mothering and my experience as a mother. This is supposed to be a bad thing, because to call a mother angry is about the kiss-of-death in our cultural perspective.

*Mothers aren't supposed to be angry.*

 They are supposed to be good-natured and sweet, endlessly patient and kind, loving and cookie-bakin'. And ya know what?  I can sweetly, kindly, lovingly and patiently cookie-bake with the best of 'em (and my cookies kick ass. Really, you should try my Ginger Sparkles.  Just sayin').

But I also want to make a case for anger...

Let's start with all the things that being angry does not mean:

1. it does not mean that I am not insanely grateful for this beautiful family of mine;
2. it does not mean that I do not love my children immensely;
3. it does not mean that I do not find my life in many ways fulfilling, rewarding and generally fun.

So what then, might you ask, is putting the proverbial bee in my bonnet?

1. that unlike Julie from Julie and Julia fame, no one is reading my blog and raining down publishing contracts on my sad, sorry (and broke) ass;

2. that finding a balance between being able to nurture and sustain my family and being able to nurture and sustain myself often feels impossible;

3. that parenting books dealing with gentle and loving solutions to the extreme tantrumming problems we've been facing at home do not ever, ever, ever mention how to deal with said problems whilst at the same time gently and lovingly caring for a small baby;

4. that the sleep expert books dealing with gentle and loving solutions to the extreme baby sleep problems we've been having do not ever, ever, ever mention how to deal with said problems whilst at the same time gently and lovingly caring for a spirited pre-schooler;

5. that doing both of the aforementioned tasks is freaking impossible for so so many reasons, not the least of which is that I am chronically exhausted and depleted;

6. that I have managed to do not just one, but all of things I said I would NEVER do as a parent while attempting the aforementioned tasks;

7. that I regularly end my days feeling like an utter failure as a parent;

8. that I am inundated with helpful and loving (unsolicited) advice, which more often than not, makes me feel like even more of a failure as a parent;

9. that I passed over starting my PhD even though I really, really wanted to do it for me, because it was the right thing to do for my family;

10. that more often than not, books about feminism and parenting often refer to stay-at-home moms as being duped by the patriarchy;

11. that talking about post partum depression and post partum anxiety is still taboo (and that as soon as I mention PPD/PPA any un-fuzzy feelings get written off as merely 'hormonal');

12. that there are little real social supports for parents but plenty of judgement;

13. that the work I do is totally invisible;

14.  that I chip away at household tasks that by definition can never be completed.  There will always be a pile of laundry, there will always be a new sink full of dishes, there will always be new dust bunnies replacing the old ones;

15. that I really can't have it all;

16. that there's never enough time in the day, in the week, in the month;

17. that celebrity moms repeatedly drop soundbytes about how constantly and delightfully fulfilled they are with motherhood, while neglecting to mention the army of nannies, yogis, personal trainers, housekeepers, gardeners, drivers, poolboys and tutors that make such consistent joy and fulfillment possible;

18. that I get judged for kvetching about my kids (if I were a work-outside the home mom bitching about my bosses, no one would think poorly of me. Yes- I love my kids. As far as kids go, they are wonders and joys. But as bosses, they can also be really, um, challenging. And I'm gonna talk about it...);

19.  that not only is there no outside affirmation for the work that I do (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), but the most common response to my 'job' is poorly stifled surprise, pity and sometimes even disdain;

20. that I live in a world, country, city in which homophobia (both official and unofficial) will make the lives of my children more difficult;

21. that I live in a world with increasingly everpresent violence and hatred of all kinds, making me constantly worry about the welfare of my family and my children;

So yes. Yup. Uh-huh. Sometimes I'm mad. Pissed. Kvetched. Annoyed. Cheesed. Angry. I'm mad because parenting experts write theories that are fucking impossible to put into practice, resulting in me feeling like I'm a complete failure; I'm mad because mothers are held up to these impossible to fulfil standards; I'm mad because my kids live in a city where queers still get gay-bashed, where words like fag and dyke will find their ears. I'm mad because I mourn the pieces of myself I've had to give up. I'm mad because in order to be a "good mother" I'm not supposed to talk about the pieces of myself I've had to give up. I'm mad at myself for not being the parent I want to be.

I don't think it makes me a bad mother. I don't think it makes me a bad person. I'm going to go so far as to say I think it even makes sense to be angry sometimes.  There are many other moms, other parents, other people in general who rail against such expressions of anger and frustration at the catch-22 (or rather the multitude of catch-22's) of mothering.  These defensive responses, I think, only serve to emphasize the cultural muzzle we place on mothers speaking in real and honest tones about the complexity and difficulties inherent in their experiences.

In one of her many famous essays from Sister Outsider called The Uses of Anger, Audre Lorde wrote:  "Guilt and defensiveness are bricks in a wall against which we will all perish, for they serve none of our futures."

I couldn't agree more.

I'm mad.

Why aren't you?


  1. Thank you for putting into words MY life in a nutshell! I understand your anger because it is mine. Your critics are just as angry, but they cant see it cause they are more in denial.... (you know...that big river over in Egypt)

  2. YES! YES! YES!

    Are you IN my head? Because if I didn't know it, I'd say you were. I keep posting lighthearted kid related stuff on our blog in hopes of it turning my frown (as of late) upside down. It helps - temporarily, but I'm still pissed.

    And if it's any consolation, the whole homophobia thing pisses me off to no end and I'm not gay. I'm just tired of seeing my friends hurt.

    I kind of naively hoped and thought I might have seen a bigger progression towards acceptance in my 13 years of living in Alberta - no such luck. It just makes me that much more thankful to be back in Manitoba where I feel it's generally more openly accepted - though again I could be very wrong on that since it's not my lifestyle. What would your thoughts be on that one? I'd love to hear them.

  3. Nikki - in my experience, MB is emphatically better. Certainly on a governmental level, but also on the ground level too. (But maybe that's just because I spent so much time in Wolseley!)

  4. Nikki and Francina - thanks...

  5. Lets not forget about being trapped indoors during the long cold dark Winter months. HARD!

  6. Perhaps someday, when you've figured it out and when you do have some time to yourself, that book in point 3 could be authored by you! I bet your insight would be worth much more than said "experts".

  7. Right on.
    I'm right there with you. I'm angry at so many things. I'm angry at all the mothers who lie about how hard it is to be a mother. I'm angry that they make me feel like because I don't feed my kids all homecooked organic vegan delicacies every night I am a bad parent. I'm angry that they make me feel like I should be creating new games for my kids daily, that I should be taking them to yoga and spending every waking minute with them.

    I'm angry at our society for expecting us to do it all and know it all!

    I'm angry at everyone who thinks its their right to tell me what I should be doing differently!

    You are not the only one, and every side of motherhood is valid! It doesnt mean that you dont love your life or love your family.

    Rage on.

  8. we're all there at times. a couple weeks ago i yelled more than once. i hate yelling. sometimes you have nothing left to give your kids and damnit, they take a lot. it doesn't mean you don't love them. it doesn't mean anything except that you are not perfect and filled with infinite patience and energy. mothering can be difficult. stay-at-home parenting is not easy--it is isolating and sometimes you want nothing more than to do stuff without worrying about the little ones. be angry. it's okay. mothering is not all sunshine and roses.

  9. Thank you for this post. I'm tired of being angry while everyone around me expects me to be glowing. Parenting is hard, parenting while trying to be human feels almost impossible.

  10. angry...well, I know it all too well! I have 4 daughters...15, 13, 10 & 5...& no one ever tells you how to manage ALL of them at once...I've learned a lot the hard way!!! it's definitely the most difficult job I've ever done or will ever do...

    just trying to stay healthy & sane!

  11. Thank you so much for Your honesty in writing this!! I've been feeling so guilty for feeling so angry at the world but my life at the moment is single parenting my way through points 2 3 and 4 so hell yeah I'm angry. I hope you catch a break soon and manage some rest:)

  12. excellent! in our society moms are not allowed to be angry. they make pills to take care of that. we're supposed to grin and bear it & for the most part, i do, but sometimes i'm not actually grinning but gritting my teeth to keep myself from smacking someone in the mouth. and i don't mean my daughter. *sigh* yes, you are not alone and i know how you feel! what makes ME angry regarding motherhood? the fact that i'm treated like a bad mom because i work. i don't go to a job i hate every day because i want to. i go to work because i have to. i go to work because i don't want other taxpayers to support my family. i go to work because it's the best decision for my family. but the teachers and other stay at home parents look down on me for it & it pisses me off because they don't know my situation and they certainly aren't about to help me if i DID quit my job to stay home.

  13. Thanks for all the encouragment everyone! We need a mad-mama-change-the-world-movement.

    Raposa - I think all moms feel judged for the choices they make, whether they work inside or inside/outside the home. I don't think any of the choices are easy or better. We all do the best we can, with what we've got.