The Angry Mom

by Abby on March 16, 2012

I heard her voice before I saw her face. “Michaela! Get over here!”

Again: “Michaela! NOW!”

It was just after 10 a.m. on an icy winter morning. TJ Maxx had just opened, and there were only a handful of shoppers there. I had braved the slick, slushy roads to drive to an outlet mall 40 min. away from home. By myself. For as long as I felt like it. Because I needed a break. I didn’t ask my husband if that was OK. I didn’t line up any activities or meals for the kids. I just took off. I was planning to be gone a LONG time. Because I needed a break.

“Michaela! Stop that! Get over here! MICHAELA!!”

The woman sounded angry. I saw the source of her anger streak past in a flowery dress and pink winter coat, braids bobbing. I guessed she was about 4. Her older brother, maybe 6 or 7, trailed after her, trying to get her to come back.

“Michaela! Come ON. I need to try this stuff on.”

I was a few doors down in the dressing room. Trying on things I really didn’t need. An itchy sweater, a trendy shirt I’d only wear once. It was impossible not to overhear the woman. She didn’t seem to care, anyway. “Get that out of your mouth! What is WRONG with you? That’s nasty! Put that down. Michaela, I swear to God…”

Then came the muffled sounds of a scuffle. A slap. A wail. Then, after a few minutes, the little girl was off again, shrieking and running around and misbehaving.

I began to feel sick to my stomach. I couldn’t concentrate on the clothes, couldn’t block out the woman’s angry shouts. But more than the yelling and the hitting, what really bothered me was… the realization that this woman was not that different from me.

It had been a long week. I was tired of the early mornings, the late nights, the kids’ constant fighting, the endless messes. No one listens, no one appreciates, everyone blames and complains and demands and expects. He hit me! I had it first! You never let me…! He always…! No fair!

I had lost my temper. Lots. I had screamed and yelled and stomped and threatened. You sit down this minute! Don’t you EVER do that again! What is WRONG with you?

Before I had kids myself, I would have thought this woman was a terrible mom. Someone who didn’t deserve to have kids. I would’ve thought talking to your children like that, never mind hitting them, was unconscionable, unforgiveable. Now, I am much less judgmental. The other morning my 3yo threw a tantrum because he didn’t like the shirt I’d picked out for him. He pulled open his drawer and wrenched the whole thing out of the dresser onto my foot. The tantrum (over a SHIRT), the broken furniture, the physical pain of the heavy, sharp drawer falling on my bare foot…it took all my strength to walk out of the room before I did something I’d regret.

So I wasn’t feeling all that high and mighty compared to this woman at TJ Maxx. What if she was a single mom? What if she had no one else to watch her kids and didn’t have the money to hire a sitter? What if she needed something to wear to an important event or interview and needed her kids to just behave for one freaking hour so she could find an outfit, like that’s so much to ask after all I do for them?!

I wanted to go over to her and offer to read her kids a book in the children’s section until she was done shopping. I wanted to tell her kids, “It’s OK. Your mommy’s just frustrated and tired and taking it out on you. She still loves you.” But I didn’t. I didn’t do anything. I just thanked God that I knew myself well enough to take a break when I needed to, and that I could. Because every mom needs a break sometimes.

Reader's Digest, March 2012 issueREAD O’ THE DAY: I had already written this post when I got the March 2012 issue of Reader’s Digest featuring the winners of the 150-word life story contest. One of them was Karen Dahl’s “Angry Mother.” You can read it here on RD’s Facebook page.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello March 16, 2012 at 7:49 am

A very honest assessment of why we should not be so quick to make judgements. Life is hard, circumstances are different for everyone and we just don’t know the whole story. I have been guilty of being quick to judge and have to mentally smack myself when I do so.
I am glad that you have a situation where you can take a break and be by yourself and for yourself for a little while. It really makes a positive difference.

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Kathleen Basi March 16, 2012 at 8:44 am

I used to get really angry with moms in the grocery store when they yelled at kids who really weren’t doing anything wrong. These days, I try not to take my kids b/c the splitting of concentration does bad things for my mommy patience. But I had to take them last week, and I was hard-pressed to keep my cool while Julianna ran off repeatedly, and refused to come back.

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Sarah March 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

I applaud you for taking a break when you needed to, and I think every single parent out there can relate to losing their cool when they know they shouldn’t. This parenting thing, it isn’t easy. Not even close. I read this article recently which I thought you might relate to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-gebhart-uhl/mom-judgments_b_1319775.html

Thank you for being awesome, and for being real. I may be raising girls instead of boys, but your blog posts so often reflect my own experiences.

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Lou Mello March 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm

WOW! That link was really good, she nailed it.

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jetts31 March 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

This is why I have perfected a look and a low growl in stores, malls, etc. as to not draw attention to myself but to completely intimidate my kids.
This is also why my wife and I make it a point to let each other out on a pass every once in a while. So we can get out, to the store, to the driving range, or just to take a nap in peace and quiet.

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Nadine Feldman March 16, 2012 at 10:30 am

I didn’t have little kids, but I came into parenting late, getting two high school seniors when I married their dad. It wasn’t easy, even then. When I took over, there was a lot of work and healing to be done, and plenty of people had their negative opinions about the job I was doing — especially when it involved setting boundaries and not letting them do whatever they pleased. It was a painful, hurtful time, and I was often overwhelmed. A lot of people buy into the myth of the wicked stepmother, apparently!

They are 23 now and out in the world as functioning young adults, and we are proud of them. I guarantee that any overwhelmed mom (or stepmom) is going to get my sympathy and support!

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Abby March 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Wow, teenage stepkids — a whole other set of challenges, for sure.

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stephanie March 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I’m a stepmom myself- the most thankless job ever- so difficult at times. I’ve been looking for good blogs that deal with stepparenting- do you recommend any?

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April L Turner March 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only mom with these problems and it’s good to know I am not alone. It’s time for a mommy break. Love your posts, keep them coming and have a fabulous day!!

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Abby March 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm

You guys are awesome. Truly. This was one of those posts I sat on for awhile before publishing, but now I know I shouldn’t have worried so much. So glad others can relate.

Thanks for that link, Sarah. I feel like I could have written that myself!

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Marina March 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm

This is one of my favorite posts I’ve ever read on your blog. It felt like reading a page out of a novel…I got sucked in like Michaela was a character. I was left wondering what happened next. I especially liked it because I was just at TJ Maxx myself with my 15 month old crawling out of the door in the fitting room…it was so hard to keep my cool. I was thinking exactly what you said…I do so much for you, can’t you give me just 5 minutes?

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stephanie March 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

You hit the nail on the head (again!!), Abby!! Thank God we are blessed with husbands who do take the kids when we need a break- not everyone is so lucky.

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Abby March 18, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thanks, Marina & Stephanie. 🙂

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