Cartoon by Alissa Zorn of angry mom shouting at two scared kids. Background is a red to orange gradient

Resenting Your Child? What to Do When Being Mom Makes You Feel Mean

Do you ever feel stuck in a cycle of anger and resentment towards your child?  Sometimes, I swear it's like a cloud descends on me, and all I want to do is hide in a closet. If that's where you are, be gentle on yourself. Some days we simply don't have the energy to do anything except hold on and try not to have a tantrum ourselves.

Over time though, I know it's crucial to work to get out of that resentful place, because otherwise, everything my kids do – even totally normal, healthy kid things, makes me more and more grumpy, and I start to feel mean.

Signs You Resent Your Child:

  • You find yourself constantly on edge – ready to snap.
  • You're taking everything more personally – as if your child is doing things to you rather than just being a child.
  • You desperately want a break. You might be exhausted all the time and yet also have a hard time relaxing.
  • It feels hopeless, like you'll never be able to calm the chaos

This doesn't mean you're a terrible mom! You love your child like crazy, and you're probably doing more than one person can reasonably manage on less sleep, too. It may mean that you've got some simmering anger about not getting the support you need.

Resentment means it's time for self-care and community care.

From experience, I know the main thing it means when I notice feelings of resentment is I need to take care of myself – find a sitter and have a break, get to bed early, eat better, have a cup of tea. Find some ways to Self-care isn't easy when you're taking care of kids, though!

One reason it's so hard to do self-care, especially when you're kids are little, is that it's too much for one person. We need community. Many of us don't have much community and have learned to be overly independent. That's a topic for another post, but I'll leave you with this – it's good to ask for help from your community. It is not wrong, or bad, or you failing.

Asking For Help Does Not Mean You're a Failure

We are social creatures and healthiest when we have multiple interdependent relationships. It might feel awkward to ask for help, like you don't deserve help if you're already struggling, but nothing could be further from the truth. You are worthy and deserving of help.

  • If you have a spouse or co-parent, are there ways they can contribute more?
  • Do you have a friend you can reach out to? You might be surprised how much it helps to be able to talk about your struggles and find out you're not alone.
  • If you're a stay-at-home mom, is there a mom's group, a community center, a library activity hour – any place you could go to meet other people, or at least be around other people to remind yourself that there is life outside the walls of your home? This may also help you build community if you don't have many connections.

Community and self-care aside, it can be hard to shake that angry feeling. So, I wanted to know what insight other moms could give me on the topic. I love what these wise mamas said when I asked on the Bounceback Parenting Facebook page. I asked them:

“Do you have any tips for letting go of anger towards your child? When you notice yourself feeling resentful and mean, how do you get out of that emotional place?”

10 Moms' Tips for Letting Go of Anger and Resentment

  • Magnificent Me (blog) Tell someone who won't judge you for it. Just getting it out helps.

  • Emma – I had trauma in my childhood so stressful situations trigger my fight/flight response, very primitive part of the brain that just reacts. My counselor says cuing into my senses tracks my brain back to the cognitive thinking brain pathway so that I can use all the wonderful techniques I have been learning but can't access in “protect” mode.

    So you stop, identify 3 things you can see, identify 3 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear… Then 2 things you can see, feel, hear… Then 1 thing you can see, feel, hear… Then repeat if necessary which I have never had to. Good luck!

  • Cassie – My son is a very touchy feely kind of kid so it works for him. Sometimes, if it isn't too serious or to diffuse the situation before it escalates, I will just look at him with a silly expression and say, “You're killing me, kid.” That usually makes him laugh and gives him a minute to think about what he's doing and where I'm coming from. It helps that I play dead if he keeps it up. Like Emma, I grew up with some pretty severe trauma. Taking control over my own response helps me to regain my composure and to remember that my experiences will not be my child's.

  • Chantelle – I try to remember what I would look like to them, a big scary angry person who isn't show ANY love at all and that pretty much nips it in the bud. I don't wants my kids to have that visual. I just want them to know the faces of love and tenderness. If I can't show those to them, it's time for a break. OR another thing I might do is to something crazy to get their attention. Usually something physical, like flapping my arms or jumping up and down, something like that. It's gets their attention and then we laugh at my craziness. Yes, unusual but it works, changes direction and changes tone.

  • Aleacia – It helps me to remember how old my kids are. 4 and 2 is such a short time on this earth, it makes me realize that sometimes I just expect too much from them.

  • Christy– besides taking deep breaths, I talk quietly and calmly. I try to reason out what I see – “I see you decided to hit your friend. I know if someone hit me I would be sad and hurt. What do you think your friend is feeling? . . . Why did you hurt her? . . . What could you do instead?” oh, and “How can we fix this?”

  • Cassie – I don't usually find myself becoming mean or spiteful, but when I find myself at the edge of my patience and I know I am either going to lose it and cry or raise my voice I will ask my now 8 year old son to come sit in my lap and I will give him a big deep hug and tell him some of the things I love about him. Now that he's older sometimes he will share things he loves with me. After we've both calmed down I will usually tell him that I was feeling frustrated for whatever reason and ask him to help me fix it.

  • Sarah Y. – I try to remember that photo of the crying toddler with the caption, “My toddler isn't giving me a hard time. He is HAVING a hard time.” That helps. I've also come to realize that when he is being a total wart, it's usually because a) he's had no undivided attention or b) he's hungry or tired. That usually keeps me from leaving him on the curb or hunting for the nearest band of gypsies.

  • Sarah H. – I know it will get harder as he gets older, but when I catch myself losing it with my toddler, I know I need some time off. I'm a 24/7 mom – SAHM with a hyper-attached, poor sleeper. Sometimes I just have to step away – leave him with Daddy or grandparents or trusted friends – and have a few hours away with people or activities that energize me.

I guarantee you're not the only mom who feels mean sometimes, or wished she could just hide in a closet. Wishing you a path forward that has you feeling more peace soon.