Why I Absolutely Am The "Angry Mommy"

I'm angry because you expect me to do everything. I'm angry because you expect me to be everything. I'm angry because moms are not seen as people, but as emotional dump buckets who are also somehow expected to turn around and nurture from the same bucket already filled with everyone else's baggage.

"Are you the angry mommy?" the woman sitting across from me at the large round table asked me smiling. We were at a writer's conference in Iceland and I was caught off guard for a moment thinking my ragey, mommy past had followed me across the pond.

What does she mean "angry mommy?" Then I remembered. And laughed.

"Yes! I mean kind of, maybe not so angry any more. I write for Scary Mommy," I replied laughingly (correcting the hilarious linguistic snafu).

The word choice was indeed funny and totally accurate. "Angry Mommy" well, yes, probably. For many years I was a very tired, touched out, fed up, lost, angry mommy. The trouble with calling a woman "angry" (even by accident), is that women who aren't perpetually happy and smiling ALL OF THE FUCKING TIME are called "angry" by men and women by default. (Ahem, men and women with very sexist, narrow, and misogynistic thought processes call women who aren't smiling rays of sunshine 24/7, "angry"). That or we're told we must be "getting our periods." Women who aren't June Cleaver constantly are deemed "too sensitive" or "too emotional." The jabs all originate from the same fucked up place. This woman, however, was not making a jab. In fact, it felt like a compliment considering the emotional, well-being journey I've been on lately. A talk-therapy-sabbatical if you will.

To be honest, it's been one helluva ride, lemme tell you people. Like a rough, wild, scary, and also exhilarating and liberating motorcycle ride on a crisp Spring day.

So, OK, I AM angry. But not in the way I used to be. Not since I acted like a total asshole to everyone I loved and even complete strangers.

Allow me to elaborate on what an awful, horrific, mean-spirited human I allowed myself to be for awhile. If you cut me off in the Starbucks line, it was like fight club up in the coffee shop. HOLD MY HOOPS YO. Little things constantly set me off at nearly every twist and turn. Completely benign things I would somehow perceive (irrationally) as a threat. Criticism was a total blow to my ego (and insult to my intelligence)...supposedly. I catastrophized the smallest of illnesses, hurts, or behavior changes in my kids. Why are they limping this way? Do they have cancer? (No, they don't). Why is little one acting sad all of the time, does she hate me as a mother? (No, apparently she just needs about 30 more minutes of sleep per day to not be a weepy mess).
I would blow any and all situations out of proportion without a rational, step-by-step approach. I've been in attack mode for longer than I'd like to admit, and I'm exhausted.

Even for a fighter like me, constant combat got a little tiring day in and day out.

Let's back up to the days when I was a mother to two babies under two. The time when being in perpetual fight mode became most apparent. The situation I was in might be a stressful situation for anyone, but in reflection, I made it harder on myself by not dealing with my shit. You know what I mean, y'all with "MY SHIT." My baggage. My story. My damage. My Issues (with a very capital "I").

I'm not totally angry since my kids are no longer utterly helpless, crying, screaming, little humans (I HATED the baby stage - with and without booze). I'm not angry since the days of temper tantrums and toddlerhood have ended (wasn't a big fan of the toddler stage either).

I'm not angry like I was when the broken parts of me ruled my life. Impacted my parenting. Impacted my marriage. Impacted my jobs. Impacted how much wine I drank (aka A LOT- and side note - apparently if you're a mom that drinks a ton of booze this is a thing to be celebrated and glorified in our culture with cute napkins and magnets).

But make no mistake, I'm still angry. Just more about the stuff I should be angry about (i.e- definitely NOT the asshole in the Starbucks line).

Across the white linen table cloth the woman with wild salt and pepper, wavy hair and hip thick-framed glasses, and the most gentle and genuine smile says to me:

"Wait til I tell the ladies I know that I saw you here, they're going to love it. They love you and follow your work."

We were at a writer's conference in Iceland, OK? There were several smart, successful, and published authors at these workshops with me. The kind of brilliant minds that make you feel like you're surrounded by Joan Didion's and Stephen King's and you're the idiot they let just slide in because they felt bad or because they felt "Eh, she looks like she has potential." I know my place, but this woman knew who I was. Or knew of me, more accurately. Either way, I wanted to mouth kiss her in a room full of foreign people over a lunch of the most succulent lamb you've ever had.

When you say to a writer A) I've heard of you (or my friends have) that's like angels singing, clouds parting. Like, what? Who, me? SOMEONE BESIDES MY TWO BEST FRIENDS READ WHAT I WRITE- SHUT UP. Then B) "They love you" it's like this transcending moment- let me get this straight - people you know read my work ... and they still like me?!

I wanted to explain to the woman that I'm not angry in my writing (anymore so much), but certainly still very much aggressive

I aim to show the depths of pain mothers feel, women feel, whoever feels, but in a less fight-club, my-way-or-the-highway kind of way. (PS-I write about happy stories, and happy moms, and happy people too, ya know).

Sitting across from this woman - had I been my former, angry mommy self - I probably would've grabbed a glass of wine (or five) during the conference lunch buffet, got drunk, then made jokes to this woman about why all little kids who walk the earth are selfish assholes. Simultaneously I would've self-deprecated the shit out of myself and "mom life" with worn-out punch lines about unwashed hair and yoga pants....knowing....I don't do either. I wash my hair because I hate when it's greasy, and I don't wear yoga pants for anything except exercising.

I would've told her all of the reasons I am supposedly angry like, "I don't ever sleep," "I hate making dinner for people that won't eat it" and "I never have time to take a shower" and "my stomach looks like it's been hit with a butcher knife" or "I can't connect with my kid because she likes her tablet more than me apparently." Knowing that all of these supposed grievances are actually misdirected rage about bigger stuff. Stuff that's been piling up. Bad stuff that's been perpetuated over and over again throughout the generations in my family. Stuff I let be perpetuated in my own parenting. Disgusting stuff that has been a symptom of horrific societal and cultural problems.

"...it's not your fault you're fucked up. It's your fault if you stay fucked up, but the foundation of your fuckedupness is something that's been passed down through generations of your family." - Jen Sincero, author, life coach, badass

What I was really mad about back then  - I couldn't articulate. When you're a new mom you're operating on almost zero sleep with haywire hormones. Your mind goes into this very primitive mode where you basically attend to all of the things that will make your baby survive. Then you barely make yourself survive (somehow by magic). When I had babies I lost my language. I was in such a primitive state of survival that I lost my words, my ability to articulate, and my ability to communicate in a way that made sense. Nothing made sense.

So I swore a lot. People use profanity when they are in fight-or-flight mode. My whole being was expletives. Hell, that's what readers supposedly love about me. My ability to use fucks like commas.

I still swear a lot, but how do you effectively articulate an experience in motherhood you've never heard anyone talk about before? Furthermore, how do you voice your dislikes and issues with motherhood when in the past when you've even hinted at these things, you were shamed, silenced, and stigmatized?

When I complained about the total lack of sleep I was getting as a mom (to anyone that would listen and let me drone on) - what I was trying to say was: Why does our culture expect moms to do EVERY DAMN THING? Stop stealing my sleep away dammit. Everyone in my house, everyone in the world- I can't nurture everyone, every day, nor should I be expected to.

What I was really mad about when I complained about making dinner every night for my family, was that I was always the one expected to put it on the table. My energy was sucked up by this supposed maternal task. Cooking dinner, shopping for it, and planning for it totally stole hours away from my days. It tapped my energy that could've been used for something else- like connecting with my kids. Like putting more hours in for work. Like exercising. What kind of fucked up society puts the task of meal-making solely on one gender? Is marriage institutionalized slavery? (why, yes, yes it is).

What I was angry about when I said I had no time to put my body under a water spout for five fucking minutes and rinse it clean was, WHERE IS THE HELP? WHERE IS THE VILLAGE? WHERE CAN I HIRE SOME HELP? Oh that's right, not many families can afford quality childcare because it's too damn expensive and out of reach even for middle class families.

What I was mad about when I complained about my stomach looking like a chopped up piece of meat (because of 2 C-sections and a really doughy mid-section post-babies) - is that who groomed me to think this way about my body? Who taught me this unhealthy self-hatred towards myself? I'm pissed that someone (or several someones) got it in my head that the metrics of a woman's whole worth hung solely (or mostly) on the shape of her body and numbers on a scale. I'm still pissed about this whole "bouncing back" mantra as if women, post-babies, can ever go back to the way they were before in any way, shape, or form. They are new beings, wholly transformed, physically and emotionally. We don't go back, nor should we try.

What I was livid about when I blamed tablets and TV shows for making the connection between me and my kid weak, what I was really saying is: I have no time to connect because all of these other little tasks I'm expected to constantly compute in my head (as the mother and do-everything person)- are taking over my life all of the time. Logistics of soccer practice, dinnertime, doctor's appointments, dentists appointments, etc. AND I'M GIVING INTO THIS IDEA THAT ALL OF THIS CRAP MATTERS. Why did I think putting all of these supposed necessary things ahead of quality time with my kid was OK? Where did I learn it was OK to detach and not connect, I mean truly connect, uninterrupted, with my kid? Why am I prioritizing busyness and filling up time and not quality time?

So many sick cycles here that were passed down from several generations in my family, perpetuated through society, and validated in modern MAINSTREAM motherhood.

So, yes I'll be that angry mommy. I'm angry as fuck about a lot. Especially about expectations of women, mothers, and girls. But I'm taking my anger to get razor sharp focused on the heart of these problems. The root. I'm keenly observing my interactions and experiences without the wolf lens of my totally warped and damaged self. I'm looking at life and writing about it with my ever-growing, still evolving self. The one that wants to expand, and learn, and be mind-blown, and stay curious.

I can be the angry mommy. But I don't have to act (or write) in anger.

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