If a mother is feeling overwhelmed, under-rested and resentful, I am learning it isn't all that helpful to say, "You shouldn't feel that way," and then proceed to list all of the reasons why her feelings are not valid.
That would be a little bit like telling my three year old, "Anger is bad, stop feeling it right now and stuff it somewhere. Emotions are not to be displayed, discussed or valued - end of discussion. You do not have a valid reason for that feeling, therefore it cannot exist. Even if there is a valid reason, stop it."
There may be a list a mile long why someone should not be expressing a certain emotion. There may be an equally long list of legitimate reasons to feel that feeling. But (and this is a significant "but") not one of those reasons negates the fact that the feeling is real and it needs addressing.
Most often, my logic and intellect are fully aware of the many reasons I should not be feeling a certain way. My daily mantra could become "I should be grateful. I should be thankful. I should be happy". I could repeat this over and over a million times, but if there is a disconnect between my head and my heart - there is a disconnect. I think the only way to connect the two is to let the heart have its way for a while.
What I think is helpful for the mother (and, incidentally, the three year old) is to experience and then release the feeling. Get it out, warts and all. Now, you might assume that I mean the woman should talk to her husband about it, but I'm warning you DO NOT talk to your husband about this! At least not now.
First, I think it is wise for the woman to find ways to release the pressure. Trust me, the worst place to dump the unrefined toxins is on your husband's head! Messy, painful, unproductive.
Write in a journal, exercise while mumbling to yourself, call a girlfriend, meditate, pray or type it out on the keyboard. One thing I like to do is to open a new document, type all willy-nilly and nonsensically just to get the junk out of my head and heart. Then, when asked if I want to save changes, I reply with a firm "no" and I go on my way. That stuff is not something I want to keep around.
If your house is at all like mine, there is little male-tolerance for "wallowing". Me? I like to wallow. I have long ago learned not to involve my husband until I've passed the wallowing stage. I expect a buffalo uses its wallow until the itch is scratched and the bugs have gone away.
For me, wallowing is about feeling the pain, examining the anger, keeping the fear alive and letting emotion breathe and live. If I don't stop at this stage for a while, I can get into the ugly game of stuffing my feelings like a crazy snake into a can. That snake can scare a lot of people when it finally escapes its pressure.
One mistake I hear about in a lot of relationships is that women believe their husband can be their girlfriend. No matter how many times I've tested it, Craig just isn't my girlfriend. I have observed that many women will hear about a friend's problem and commiserate, empathize and listen closely. Many men will hear about the problem and instantly want to fix it.
Playing the "My husband is useless..." game with friends can be dangerous though. There is a very fine line between venting and ranting about issues you are facing and creating a cesspool of poison and disloyalty. That is a line everyone has to find for themselves. There is a way to express your feelings without raking your partner through the muck.
I think being mindful of the language you are using in conversation with someone outside your marriage helps (and inside for that matter). I like to rely on my girlfriends to examine my feelings, but I am clear about some boundaries that protect my personal relationship. I focus on what I need to learn about myself in the situation and try my hardest to take responsibility for my own feelings. Besides, before I share an issue with a friend, I have already done the toxin dumping exercise I talked about above. I do not want my friendships to be landfill sites either. I want them to be places of power and support.
Let's review - I'm suggesting that a woman allow herself to feel what she is feeling, release it all in a way that harms no one and once that happens, I think the next step can be taken.
Am I on track here? Is this the first step when faced with Mommy rage or irritation in yourself or someone you know? Again, I'm on a quest to find the path to a better way. I would love to hear your ideas on what you believe to be the first step for a Mom.