When Mothering is a Struggle: On Anger and Forgiveness

My heart is heavy, mes amis, because I yelled at my little ones today--full volume anger about their inability to get along harmoniously while I made dinner. It was an extra-long parenting day since my husband couldn't make it home until bedtime. My children and I had passed the afternoon with violin lessons followed by free play in the pouring rain, but the kitchen was a mess and my fatigue reared up with such harsh words. I apologized and embraced my children, trying to restore those bonds of love, but even though children are able to forgive and move on so much more quickly than adults, we adults know the damage is deeper than they realize.

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Once when I was a sassy preteen and my mama was particularly tired, she shook me by the shoulders and yelled. When she lectured me afterward I just stared with tear-filled eyes at the birch trees out the window. I'd won the battle but we'd both lost something precious, and I knew it. Anger is so destructive to relationships. While I love my mama, bien sûr, only now do I realize I may not have ever forgiven her for that moment of anger--until tonight, that is, as I reflect on how challenging it is to mother consistently with grace and peace. That moment between us did not characterize our relationship, and I'm grateful for the emotional control that she usually displayed.

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  Welcoming our niece

Welcoming our niece

As I took a deep breath this evening, I remembered that my husband has let go of job opportunities that offered significantly more pay and prestige but required long hours away from home. I'm grateful that he's less motivated by personal ambition than by the current needs of our family. (He, like the French, seems to grasp this essential work-life balance so much better than many Americans do.) But my husband can't constantly be here to share the work of parenting, and I need to remember than anger can never make things right--not with my children, and not with God (James 1:19-20).

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My friends and family often comment on how patient and calm I am as a mama. If I rarely show anger, it's because God is working in my life to show me how ineffective and damaging it is. None of us are immune to it, but all of us can learn to restrain our words and actions before they injure the people we love most.

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What do you do with anger towards your children? I've been told to whisper instead of yelling, but amusingly, I find that singing my frustration to my children is a more realistic response for me. While my children don't necessarily respond any differently than if I had yelled, at least it transforms our home into a comic opera (in French!) rather than an abusive abode. I did this after my initial outburst tonight, and it helped me gain some distance from the situation.

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I generally write about more encouraging topics here at Intentional Mama, but I wanted to share an honest moment of mothering with you in hopes that you can relate and grow along with me. I may be an intentional mama, but I have plenty of room for improvement as I respond to the challenges of parenting.

What parenting quirks--like singing your anger--do you have? What did you learn from the way your parent(s) managed anger?