There’s something inside me, something I can’t seem to get rid of, despite my attempts. It’s a monster. It’s anger. As a child, I had quite the temper. I hurt others, both physically and emotionally. I’ve often wondered why my parents didn’t put me in therapy. After all, I’ve worked with kids who have similar anger problems.

During my teenage years, I was able to learn to reduce my anger levels. I went out for sports. I kept myself too busy and too exhausted to be angry. In college, I had the anger under control…or so I thought.

Then came marriage and parenthood. I love my children and would die for them. But sometimes – daily it seems – I lose my temper.

You know the funny memes about asking ever-so-nicely for your kid to do something and they ignore you until several “askings” later, when you’re no longer asking but frustrated and yelling at them? And then they have the gall to say “Why do you always yell at me?” We laugh at those jokes. Because it’s true. We’ve been there.

But the memes don’t address the consequences, the aftermath of the yelling. The fear in their expressions and the cringing away. The covering of their ears and shutting their eyes so they don’t have to see or hear the monster in front of them.

The memes don’t speak to the guilt, hurt, regret, sadness, and other feelings that I, as a mother, feel when I become the monster.

Becoming a monster is truly a painful transformation. It doesn’t take a full moon – anything from spilled milk to a sibling fight can initiate the transformation. It varies and I never know when it will hit. For me, I hear it start in my voice. My tone changes and my sentences become louder and more clipped. Then I feel it in the chest and between my shoulder blades. It feels like my ribcage is tightening and I can no longer breathe deeply. My heart begins to race. From there, it moves to my arms and legs. My muscles constrict and energy pulses through me. I feel it in my face…the tightening of the muscles, especially at the eyebrows and mouth.

Then I roar. My children hide. And I immediately regret my actions/words but I continue to “go with it” because I’m so angry and need to “teach them a lesson.”

However, the only lesson they are learning is how to avoid the monster. They lie. They hide. They make excuses. They blame each other. And then they (usually) repeat the behavior which initially angered me.

They repeat the behavior because I didn’t teach them how to change it. They also repeat my monstrous behaviors.

It’s time to change. When my chest constricts, I NEED to take deep breaths, even if it feels like I can’t. I need to exercise to utilize energy in a positive way. I need to sleep. Exhaustion doesn’t work to keep anger at bay when you’re a parent. I need to do yoga, or meditate, or pray more – something to calm my mind because the mind and body are not two separate entities.

There are other things that can be controlled which will reduce stress levels. Plan ahead. Lay clothes out. Give yourself and your kids extra time. Make lots of food and have some leftovers for that night where you just don’t want to cook. Spend quality time with the kids. Go outside. Say “no” when you need to say it. There are so many ways to control parts of a chaotic life. You can’t control it all, and accepting that fact will also reduce your stress. Know your limits but don’t limit your potential or your kids’.

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.