Meltdowns aren’t just limited to kids ― mothers get them, too. Here’s how to keep calm and carry on.

After Peggy Lim whips up a nutritious lunch for her three kids, she rushes off with her two younger kids to pick up her daughter from kindergarten. Her daughter then asks to visit the supermarket instead of going home right away. When Peggy says no, the little one starts whining.

Suddenly, Peggy is overcome by a wave of fury. Instead of placating her daughter, she storms off with her other two children while shouting at her misbehaving minor. Her daughter is now bawling her eyes out in front of her siblings.

Sounds familiar? At some point, every mum has found herself in a situation where she’s filled with all-consuming rage, so you don’t need to feel ashamed. Instead, learn what triggers your “mummy meltdowns” and find ways to cope with these feelings…

Common triggers that give rise to mum anger

#1 They are stressed

“Stress is a notorious trigger for anger,” notes Reshmi Karayan Kayanoth, principal clinical psychologist, Department of Psychological Medicine, National University Hospital. “A mum, who is usually calm, but placed under severe pressure from multiple fronts, like work, extended family, and health or financial issues, can end up losing it.”

This explains why if a child is acting unruly, a tired mum who’s had a long, hard day at work will react to it with anger, while a well-rested mum will tackle it in a more calm manner. If stress is part and parcel of your everyday life, here are some simple tips to manage it.

Stay-at-home mums, especially those with very young children, are under more intense pressure, as they’re constantly tending to their children’s needs and have very little time for self care.

#2 They feel overwhelmed

Not having any time to recuperate or indulge in me-time is another reason why mothers tend to blow up easily. Feeling stretched all the time can result in pent-up resentment, negative feelings and distress. Keep suppressing your emotions and it’s going to get ugly when you eventually explode, notes Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

Stay-at-home mums, especially those with very young children, are under more intense pressure, as they’re constantly tending to their children’s needs and have very little time for self care.

They also lack other types of stimulation that can help to make them feel more rejuvenated, points out Reshmi. “Hence, these mums may feel trapped and be more prone to venting their negative emotions, especially when they do not feel appreciated for their role,” she adds.

However, working mums don’t have it easy either. As they don’t have the luxury of time to tune in to their children’s needs the way SAHMS do, they might respond in an unpleasant way, which leads to more stormy interactions with their kids, Reshmi says.

#3 They lack support

Marital conflict and a lack of support from your spouse in managing the enormous responsibilities of parenting can lead to unhelpful expressions of anger, notes Reshmi. Unfortunately, very often, mums tend to take out these frustrations on their kids.

#4 They are too hard on themselves

Having high and unrealistic expectations of yourself can cause you to feel disappointed when you don’t meet them, so you take your unhappiness out on your child, Koh states. While everyone faces challenges in their lives, what separates those who act calmly from those who don’t is the type of coping mechanisms they use, Koh explains.

#5 They use anger to assert themselves to junior

Some mums may feel that their kids only respond the way they want them to when they show signs of anger, but it doesn’t have to be the only solution, Reshmi says. “By establishing a relationship of warmth and trust, and using positive disciplining strategies that do not involve anger and blame, it is possible to get the child to comply without using harsh strategies,” she adds.



Strategies to deal with your rage

Now that you know your triggers, here are five ways to cope with your anger…

#1 Share the burden

Very often, the responsibility of day-to-day discipline and childcare does not fall on the dads, so they tend to become the indulgent and playful parent, points out Reshmi. Because of this, mum has to assume the role of disciplinarian. Break the cycle by sharing all responsibilities. Husbands, you also have to acknowledge your wife’s efforts, so that she feels appreciated. Give her enough time to rest and take on more parenting and household chores.

#2 Stop trying to be a superwoman

Nobody is perfect. Be fair to yourself and forgive yourself when things don’t work out. Look at your skills and strengths and build on them. The same goes for your children. Don’t compare them to their peers and also don’t compare yourself to other parents. If you feel like you need more support, talk to someone, says Koh. This can be a trusted friend, family member or a therapist.

#3 Breathe…

If you feel mum guilt at any point, don’t! Never feel guilty about having me-time, or taking a break from your responsibilities. You shouldn’t feel guilty about resting or think it’s a waste of time or as this helps refresh you, so that you can complete your tasks better.

Pamper yourself with nice things as you deserve it and get your partner to take over caring for your child. It is also good for the child to be with others to build up their bond, plus, your child will miss you and appreciate you more,” Koh suggests.

Contrary to what most devoted mums think, self-care is not an indulgence, it’s of the utmost importance.

#4 Think “me first”

Contrary to what most devoted mums think, self-care is not an indulgence, it’s of the utmost importance.

Reshmi notes that mothers often fall into the trap of believing that in order to provide the best care for their children, they have to devote all their time and energy to their children. “Unfortunately, what results is that mum feels overly stretched and depleted, and frustration sets in.

As the saying goes, you can never give out of an empty basket. Devoting time to replenish their own inner resources by taking good care of themselves is a worthwhile investment in being able to make the relationship with the child wholesome and creative.”

So, how can you do this? Reshmi has tips. “Carve out time for interests and hobbies, exercise, couple bonding and connecting with friends and family.” And do these without feeling any guilt!

#5 Adopt healthy discipline

Mums, listen up: The foundation for healthy discipline is setting limits in a collaborative manner. This way, your child understands the rationale for rules rather than feels limited and imposed upon, explains Reshmi.

It is also important to be consistent with discipline, so as to give your child a clearer understanding of what will happen if rules are broken. If not, they will be confused if they get different outcomes for the same misbehaviour at various times or from different parents.

By doing so, you’re establishing a trusting and secure parent-child relationship within a predictable environment, which is where the best kind of relationships thrive in.

Photos: iStock

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