From the moment I got pregnant with my first child, I started planning. Baby shower and baby shower plans evolved to plan our days around feeding and napping times after my daughter was born. Over time, I planned the schools she would attend and the activities she would attend. And finally I found myself plan to have another child. But one thing I hadn’t planned? Angry mom.
As my children have grown, their determined personalities have grown as well and, honestly, my tendency to react with anger has evolved as well. Most days are a never-ending cycle of butt heads with me and fights with each other. More often than I like to admit, my frustration with their responses to just about anything I say – and to each other – turns into full-blown anger and screams. It’s not something I’m proud of. But I am human, which means that there is a limit to my patience and my ability to remain calm during overwhelming motherhood days. Over time, however, I learned to pull myself out of anger quickly.
Instantaneous? Yes, you read that right. When I find myself sinking into an episode of Mom’s anger I step away from the chaos, pull out my phone and scroll photos of sweeter moments with my children; the must-have snapshots that will melt my heart forever, no matter how much madness swirls around me. You know those. Photos of the day they were born. Photos with toothless smiles and chubby thighs. Images of laughter and hugs, hugs and love. Photos of birthdays, family vacations and everyday adventures that practically scream with joy.
In almost an instant, these images ignite a sense of tenderness in me, soften my heart, and slow the pulse of anger. I immediately remember how much I love them and I quickly remember that although they test and break my patience far more than any adult, they are still young. In those moments of calm and reflection, I remember that it’s still kids doing exactly what they’re supposed to do: test, learn, push the limits, and explore the limits. Whether the images I browse are a few weeks or a few years old, it reminds me that tough days and frustrating times are temporary because my kids won’t stay that way for long.
The other day, after refereeing several rounds of fights between my son and daughter, I exploded against them, adding just another layer of hostility to their screaming match. I separated them and took my own time out holing myself in the bathroom, where I pulled out my phone. Do you know what I watched? Pictures of my daughter helping her little brother learn to walk, pictures of them both huddled together at a recent movie night, and a video full of hysterical laughter at a tickle match. I smiled and laughed, even though my face was red and angry moments earlier.
Scrolling through these sweet memories helped me take a step back – my kids might not always love each other, but there’s no doubt they love each other. I may not always like them, but I sure do. At the heart of parenthood, the days seem long, the battles endless. But when I thought back to what was surely other tough days, I saw just how good there was too. After we’ve all calmed down I apologized for losing my temper which prompted them to apologize to each other. Then I showed them the photos and videos I had just watched. They marveled at their small size, we all laughed at their silliness and they rushed to play like there had never been an argument. Looking at pictures seemed to remind them how much they loved each other too.
Mom’s anger is real, valid, and something we’ve all been through in one way or another. When you raise kids, every day is a roller coaster because there are so many personalities and so many emotions involved. Anger is definitely one of them, but it shouldn’t derail us. Taking a few minutes to remember and savor some of motherhood’s happiest moments through a photo is a quick way to help release anger and get back on track. It is so easy to sink into the hardships of motherhood that we forget the heart of it: love, laughter and joy. In times of anger these things are still there, but we just need help bringing them to the surface. Seeing pictures of favorite memories with and between our children can help us break out of mom’s anger by reminding us that the most unpleasant parts of motherhood are temporary and that there is much more to be hoped for.