When Annie Ridout’s children kick a ball and knock over the cat food, she shouts at them. And then feels full of guilt. Here, Annie discusses everyday motherhood frustrations and why ‘maternal rage’ needs a rebrand…
Don’t kick the ball, I say.
They kick it again, twice.
It knocks over the cat’s food and water bowls.
The dried food starts to fill with moisture and swell.
I told you not to kick the ball, I shout.
I say it again.
(I shout it again).
One kid doesn’t care; the other looks worried.
That is exactly why I told you not to kick the ball, I say. I knew that would happen.
I start clearing it up with kitchen roll, scooping up spongey pieces of cat food and drying the puddle of dirty water.
The bin is full; the bag needs to be taken out. I stuff the wet cat-food kitchen roll in around the edges and leave it overflowing.
When I stand, I see the toddler’s bottom lip curling; he’s going to cry.
Oh. Now I feel terrible.
I go to cuddle him and he cries into my chest.
I pull the older one in for a cuddle too. I kiss his cheek and he wipes it away then giggles.
They get ready to spend the day with their dad.
It’s my first day alone in two weeks.
I co-sleep with the youngest so I haven’t spent more than 10 minutes on my own in 14 whole days.
I’d been so looking forward to having a break.
But now I’m full of guilt.
My plans to write and walk and dream disappear.
Instead, I need to work through the guilt.
I ask myself: is it ok to shout? Does it matter if they ignore me? Why did I get so angry?
But I reject the term ‘maternal rage’. That’s not what this is. This is straight-up rage.
‘Maternal rage’ has notes of hysteria and the kind of madness that only applies to women.
My husband, who is usually calm, experiences occasional bouts of rage too.
But we don’t refer to that as paternal rage, do we? It’s just a guy responding to a frustrating situation.
Mothers are expected to be calm at all times, no matter the situation.
It’s simply not realistic, though.
This isn’t creating any space for the reality of parenting which is that while it can be magical and beautiful, it can also be incredibly frustrating and disappointing.
Like life itself, really.
I don’t anger easily. I’m fairly calm. And I feel content with the balance I have between mothering my three children, doing my paid work and the other elements of my life (friends, hobbies etc).
But I have limits.
However, I probably shouted too loudly at the children about the ball-in-cat-food incident.
No one was hurt, it just meant more work for me.
Once they leave, I meditate to spiritual music, have a cry, shower and make a cafetière of coffee.
I pick up a book about magic.
But I can’t stop thinking about my children.
I want them to come home.
I send a WhatsApp message to my husband: Please tell the children I’m sorry I shouted. And that I love them.