As always I could be totally off and the only one who has felt this way but I’m willing to risk the embarrassment in case there is someone else who needs to know they’re not alone.
I also want to preface this by saying that if you’re a parent who has a lot of whānau support and has never felt this way because there’s always someone there who takes baby before you get anywhere near that point, maybe you live at home, no judgement because you’re living your life, but please reserve your judgement on those of us who maybe have a bit less frequent availability to their support system.
We hear about parents getting angry at a toddler packing a tantrum about not getting what they want but those kids are 2 or 3 aren’t they? And they can walk and talk and all sorts. Nobody talks about the mini tantrums before and how to handle it. It’s one thing to know that your little person can’t walk or talk or help themselves but it’s another to actually be in the moment catering to their every need even when they’re squealing like a piglet under attack for the 3rd time in an hour at 4am.
I actually googled this to see if it was a thing - anger in parenting an infant. I searched through pages of links before I found one single article. That could mean 2 things - either I actually am alone with this feeling, OR it’s even more important that I write about my experience because it’s so uncommonly spoken about that when it happens to us we’re all embarrassed and hiding it.
It’s happened to me more than once where I’ve found myself overwhelmed and my heart is racing with all the frustration of how I’ve got to this point, I can almost feel my blood literally boiling beneath my skin. I’m not a saint who counted to 10 and that was the last time I ever got angry. In fact, I’ll probably get angry again, maybe even today. What’s important is that I realised before I acted. I’ve definitely found myself in that white, or red, or whatever colour rage of “omg just go to f****** sleep” more than once. Sometimes I’ve even said that out loud, it’s not the kind of parent I want to be, it’s not the kind of parent I am most of the time. Sometimes there isn’t anyone else there to switch with and you just have to carry on. When you’re there by yourself with a little person who screams blood curdling screams at you every 5 minutes because they want something but you can’t figure out what that something is it can get pretty damn frustrating and overwhelming.
There’ll be some people who might read this and think “oh wow that is horrific, how could she get mad at such a precious little angel.” I’ve thought it about myself too, I get upset at myself for even having got angry in the first place, for not being able to handle it all. We all have our emotional and physical limits to what we can provide. Sometimes our babies just need a little too much, that’s why they say it takes a village.
It‘s so uncommon and taboo of a topic that I even used to think in the antenatal classes when they would say “put baby in a safe space and walk away” that I would never need to do that. I’ve seen first hand what domestic violence does to a child so I thought that I would be completely immune to any type of anger or frustration when it came to my own kids because in my mind the two were one in the same. Man was I wrong. Anger is a healthy emotion, showing our babies how we go through it and get through it is actually healthy! There’s been loud narration through gritted teeth in this whare on more than one occasion and a few mocking screams here and there never hurt anybody. I’ve never been violent towards my bubba. Absolutely no judgement if you’re here reading this and you’ve been in that place but are bettering yourself now.
When I’m calm I know that he doesn’t mean it, that he just needs me, and that he’s the most precious taonga on this earth. But in that single moment the adrenaline blurs everything and it feels like everything is bubbling right at the surface and I can’t escape it in my head, as if I’ll be in this exact moment forever and the only way out is to explode “F***”. It’s not logical, anger never is. It’s not okay to swear at, or yell at our babies, but it does happen. What is most important for us in our whānau is that we apologise afterwards if we overstepped and we work to do better next time because that‘s the kind of behaviour we want our babies to grow up knowing and living. Suppressing our anger doesn’t teach them how to deal with theirs it just makes it feel even more foreign when it does happen for them.
It hurts me that I feel so whakamā about a normal emotion that we all experience at some stage and that it‘s so hidden away that I need all these disclaimers but I need to say that I’m in no way condoning out of control anger being directed towards our tamariki. What I do know though is that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. We all get angry at some point, we all have a limit, we all have stress. Telling you not to feel bad about it isn’t going to help at all but I do want to say that if you felt bad about it then that’s a pretty good indication that you want to do better next time and you likely will! The goal isn’t to normalise getting angry, it’s to bounce back once you have, to not beat yourself up about it because as I learned the hard way, that only puts more stress on you and makes you more susceptible to another outburst. Even if next time isn’t perfect it will be a step in the right direction, a work in progress. You got this māmā!
I just want to add in on this topic that if your anger does get out of control, or you’re worried that it might, there are places you can go for help to protect your little one so they’re still there to cuddle when you’ve calmed down. Please remember newborns especially have really delicate heads and necks and they can’t be shaken. All ages are delicate. Put them down, crying while you calm down won’t hurt them, carrying on trying and working yourself up in the process might.
Mothercraft (Hamilton) - 07 839 8899 ext 96550
Waikato Family Centre (Hamilton) - 07 8342036
Waikato mental health crisis team - 0800 50 50 50
National call or text line (24/7) - 1737