“Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter 7: “An Unthinkable Rage”

Was this chapter hard for anyone else to read?  Parts of it were so hard, to see the deep pain (I think the authors call it that at one point) of these mothers with their small children.

And didn’t this chapter just make you mad?

Mad that mothers and parents in general are so unsupported in our society;

Mad at things that make mothering and parenting a standard of perfection to be reached (which is really unattainable by anyone);

Mad that more resources are not available for mothers who are clearly on the edge and have no one to talk to in real life;

Mad that mental health benefits are so under-covered by insurance and that there is also such a stigma on admitting emotional challenges that need professional help in order to be whole parents;

Mad that there are so many parenting books and parenting advice that makes one feel there surely should be a “clear answer” for any challenge you are experiencing as a parent.   And anyone who has been a parent KNOWS there often is NOT a clear-cut answer or path.

On page 152, the authors write, “…And that is a terrible feeling – the fear of losing control with the children we love and are obliged to protect.”  They take up this theme through the whole chapter. On page 158:  “But we wonder how different we really are, and we fear the dark urges that may lie dormant, waiting to explode within us.”

They also write about how parenting does NOT come naturally to so many women, and how this thought that we “should” be a natural parent is so anger-provoking for so many mothers.  If only I knew how to be a natural parent, the mother reasons, things would be different in their households.

This idea of a natural parent, whatever that means, really is a difficult one.  I think too, we are at a place in our society where many women do not live close to family for imitation of a mothering model, we have more and more women who are trying to recover from their own shattered childhoods where nothing was done that was warm or nurturing so they are trying to set a completely new mothering path, and we also live in a society where “experts” seem to know more than the parents.  Sleeping problems?  Call in an expert.  Discipline problem? Call in Supernanny.  But not everything in parenting is immediately fixable like the way a television show resolves all problems in a half-hour span.  I am certainly  not saying there is no place for an expert, children and families today are often coming with more and more complex challenges that do need a sounding board or an extra eye or different ideas,  but I think we often fail as a society to acknowledge the tremendous work of the parent, the intuition of the parent.  The parent is hopefully the one striving to be an expert and an advocate for his or her own family.  Yes, we all need help along the way, but let us not diminish the role of the parent.

And let us have the courage to face the darker feelings of motherhood and parenting – the ones no one wants to talk about.  Resentment.  Anger.  Exhaustion.  Depression.  There is a whole section in this chapter about “A Cry For Help” regarding crying babies, that talks about the overwhelming pressures of parenting. It is such a hard thing to read, but a subject that needs to be covered.  An infant’s life may depend upon it.   The other part of this in dealing with children toddler- aged and above is that:  “One good reason to be concerned about intense anger toward someone we love is that, when we’re enraged, we want to inflict pain or punish.”

I really urge you to drop your end of the rope in those heated moments.  Just drop it. If no one else is home to calmly step in and help you out and change the energy of the moment, then you have to become strong enough to  change the energy yourself.  Step outside.  Just stand there and breathe if you cannot leave your child alone, even if your child is yelling or screaming.  Call a friend, call a neighbor, call a child abuse prevention hotline.  Do what you need to do, but do not engage your child when you are so angry.  Nothing positive can come of that.  Get counseling to heal your past.  Go to bed early when your child falls asleep if you know they are likely to be up several hours during the night and you are sleep-deprived.   The housework can wait. This is just a season. Stop putting pressure on yourself to do it all right now and do it all perfectly. Accept the help that family and friends offer.

Let us come together in person to share these dark feelings, but also let us come together in positive action to support one another to rise up, to nurture each other and to nurture our children.  Let us use words that nourish our children, let us learn how to set limits and show our children what they can do, and let us learn how to do this calmly.  Let us learn that hitting, spanking or verbally demeaning a child is NEVER the right answer. Let us learn that we can be good parents and not crush the spirit of our children.

There is a compelling and sobering part of this chapter regarding breaking the cycle of abuse, the cycle of not only physical abuse but of EMOTIONAL abuse that damages the human soul forever.  “Not every parent is able to cope nonabusively with anger.  Parents who were abused themselves as children may need to seek professional help in order to break the cycle.”

There is no shame in ever getting help to become a better parent.  Such power in admitting that there is a need there, such courage to do this in action, and such powerful love to bring this striving into the home.

A powerful chapter.  A sobering chapter.

What did you all think in reading this chapter?

Many blessings,


7 thoughts on ““Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter 7: “An Unthinkable Rage”

  1. I haven’t been reading the book, but I could really relate to some of what you wrote. For the last year and a half I was really struggling with anger and depression and feeling so desperate and alone with being home with my 1 and 3 year old, even though we live near my family and my husband is really supportive and helpful. I finally talked to my doctor about feeling depressed and he sent me to a counselor and she has helped me so much. Just going and talking to someone who is not involved in my life and who can help give me little things to do so that I can be a better mother, it has been a tremendous help. The hardest part was realizing I needed this help, and then reaching out for it, even though close friends and family said it was just a hard time in my life…it is a hard time, but when you’re in the moment, it feels like so much more than that.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. 🙂

  2. I am not reading along. But this is a thought I have very often. I am a yoga teacher. I’ve trained in meditation. I have years of experience with children. I am a kind, sweet and loving person. And I wonder, how it is that other women without these skills can do the job of mother and childcare provider. Because, there have been days it is ONLY these skills that hold me together. Over the years it has become clear that it is not the children, but outside sources that cause the irritation. And argument with your spouse, bills that cant be paid etc. Every single mother should have someone they can call, without judgement, when they need help. That alone would lift us up. I called my mother this week and asked would she please come over, and without questions, she was here within an hour. I wish we all had this blessing. With the internet, and blogging, I think that at least mamas are aware that not everyone does everything perfectly all the time- but we can all still be perfect in our imperfections. I have found that when I tell my children that I am feeling a little overwhelmed and need some space, they are very respectful. When my grandma died, my aunt said “She was not a women without flaws, but her flaws were so endearing.” That, there, is my goal.

  3. Thank you for this post. I needed to know that I am not alone today. I sometimes feel so pressures to get this parenting thing right. I am often tired, drained and feel alone. My 3 year old is a highly sensitive and emotional child. My 11month old wants to get walking and needs my attention too. Aside from the kids we have other struggles that we are dealing with and I don’t seem to relate to my family as far as the choices we are making for our family. I am feeling god today that my feelings are okay and you all understand!

  4. I had the book out from the library, so I read it quickstyle when you started the series. I thought that I would find this chapter very difficult, but when I came to it, I found the authors so compassionate and the information so lovingly presented, that I felt nurtured reading it. I am grateful for the inclusion of a very important topic that is largely ignored in our obsessive parenting culture.

  5. I am not reading this book yet, but have it on hold with the library. However, this issue of anger and discipline is one I’ve been struggling with, and struggling deeply, for the last while.

    My daughter is 4, and she resists every single boundary I try to place. For a long time I tried my best not to place any boundaries because it was so hard to deal with her behaviour afterwards. But now I’m trying again to firmly and lovingly place boundaries around her to keep her safe and to keep me from losing my cool.

    But it is so hard.

    Just now she spat at me because I took back the notebook I was in the middle of using which she had grabbed when I went to get a pen. Is this one of the times I should have just “let it go”? I find I have such a hard time knowing, and either giving in or coming down hard.

    I don’t punish or bribe, but I feel like my tool box is a little empty these days. I try to use humour, to “Collect” her and work on our relationship but sometimes I am just too tired.

    I’ve been working hard on our rhythm, and I also just recently weaned her (for all but falling asleep). I’m planning on homeschooling her for kindergarten, but when I have a week of days like this, I feel my heart failing.

    I guess my biggest question is, how do we set boundaries and enforce them without punishment? Because once we set a boundary, if it is challenged, what is our recourse? I know that my inability to answer this is what is making me so angry. I try not to control, but then, setting boundaries is a form of control, isn’t it? Have I got this all wrong???

    • Hi Colleen!
      I want you to go back and throw “authority” into the search engine and see what blog posts come up on this blog. You must be willing to take control and take authority, but to use the power that comes with this authority in a very calm way. In the case of the notebook..what was she to be doing whilst you were doing that? Did she need a piece of paper? Was she hungry or thirsty? That is the prevention key. When she took the notebook and you asked for it back, what did she do? “You may return my notebook. H ere is your piece of paper to draw.” If she spit on you, “uh oh, I think your mouth forgot what it was doing.” (taking her by the hand and leading her into the bathroom at the same time you are saying this). “You may spit in here.” I am sure other parents would have different ways of approaching this, but that is one way I think. And then for restitution to do something nicer with her mouth, how about working outside where she could blow bubbles/

      Four is a challenging age, I have many, many , many posts on here about the four year old – definitely go back and read those! They will help!
      Think of help with guiding toward boundaries as just that: guiding them and helping them meet the boundary, showing them what they can do, and reminding them what they cannot do.
      You can do this! But four needs that shift of you rising up and really leading the way. What physical work is she involved in in your home? What does she see you do that takes more than a push of a button – and how does she assist in that? How much time in nature does she get? Those are truly the things that will help transform.

      Take what resonates with you, you are the absolute expert on your little girl!
      Many blessings,

  6. Thank you so much for your detailed response. I have been mulling and reading for several days–you have such wonderful insights and words and materials.

    When I wrote, we had had a really awful week, but I finally realized that my girl was EXTREMELY anxious/excited about her Nana coming for a visit. I also realized this has occurred leading up to Christmas, her birthday, etc. By the third day of the visit, she had calmed right down back to her normal mostly sweet self. What a relief to make such a connection.

    Otherwise, we are working on all that you suggest, reading your back posts and checking out the books you recommend. Thank you so much for this blog and for your personal responses!!!!!

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