Is the silencing of mama anger a feminist issue?

I have been thinking much the past few days about mama anger…after my post at the weekend. My dear girls are down with chicken pox, part of me is feeling bad about being angry, part of me is relieved that there was a reason for the hellish nature of last week.

Part of me is glad to have shared- I feel an ethical duty not just to show the sunshine on this blog, I certainly do not want to hold myself up as someone who has “got it all figured out” – far from it… the reality of life in my world is not always shiny, not at all…

I am glad I touched a chord with many…

I worry that some think I am perhaps a danger to my children or setting a bad example of acted out anger…The comment that that worried me most was the last… I had been expecting it…

I have just discovered a seminal feminist text on mothering: Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich. I didn’t know that there was such a thing, nor did any of my feminist friends, so perhaps you didn’t either. One of my major issues with feminism was the lack of acknowledgement of mothering (as I explained here and here). And so I wanted to share an extended extract from it with you on the topic of mothers’ anger:

Opening with a quote she takes from a 19th Century manual for mothers, written, yes, by a man:
“can a mother expect to govern a child when she cannot govern herself?… She must learn to control herself, to subdue her own passions; she must set her children an example of meekness and equanimity… Let a mother feel grieved, and manifest her grief when her child does wrong; let her, with calmness and reflection use the discipline which the case requires; but never let her manifest irritated feeling, or give utterance to angry expression.”  

She goes on to detail Marmee’s instructions to the hot-tempered Jo in Little Women: 

” I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo; but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years.”

“Mother love” Rich concludes ” is supposed to be continuous, unconditional. Love and anger cannot coexist. female anger threatens the institution of motherhood.”

Seems like not much has changed…

I definitely think when we, when I, scream at my kids, it is more than just screaming at their behaviour. It is screaming at the frustration which motherhood and children bring. The seemingly closed off world and opportunities which the children brought with them, which I didn’t fully understand or anticipate. No one can understand the totality of the mother lode until she is up to her eyeballs with no way out: the lack of support, the drudgery which no one can, or will, take from your shoulders.This is the institution of motherhood as our society has built it: isolated, moralised, judged, the mother expected to be almost everything to her charges. I scream at the walls of Jericho, willing them to tumble down.