There's a blissfully funny new show about being parents from some of the sickest comedians on the planet (Maya Rudolph from Bridesmaids and SNL; Will Arnett from the legendary Arrested Development plus Christina Applegate) and I'm totally hooked.
This episode is pure poetry—
I hope I can, without spoilers, encourage you to watch it to the end when there is a genius scene with two moms taking out their pent-up aggression and hostility not on each other (as they have been), their husbands or their kids, but on an inanimate object that truly deserves it.
Anger is the feeling we're not supposed to allow ourselves to feel as parents. The big one. There is just no acceptable model or image we hold of a mother or father getting angry. But feelings are our bodies' way of processing everything—and anger is a feeling.
Of course, anger can sometimes go along with violence or abuse—but being angry is something that cannot be avoided. We must not mistake the feeling of anger with the act of hurting or attacking someone else.
If we think about some of the everyday situations we find ourselves in as parents: sleep-deprived at the end of a long day of work: trying to cook a healthy meal, help cranky kids with homework, give younger children some much-needed attention, pick up the mess in the house, check-in with a partner, think about doctor's appointments, field trip permission slips and volunteering time (just to name a few). Work stress, lack of self-care and space to think or rest or exercise. And a pervasive sense that other parents are juggling better than you—everyone else makes it look easy. Of course when children whine or fight or when your spouse cannot listen to you or pitch in anger can be sparked.
And for ordinary parents, learning to accept and cope with our anger and frustration (not repress it or explode) is one of the biggest gifts we can give our kids. To show them how to deal honestly with what's inside of all of us.
Giving yourself a time-out, running, screaming into a pillow, writing down what you feel, venting to a friend, or just coming clean, "I'm so angry right now!" without blaming or acting out, shows children that they are not bad or damaged if they feel angry. It says we are safe together, because there is room enough to bear this hard feeling, and to allow it to exist so we can move through it.
And the truth is that repression does not work. So if you pretend it's not there or deny anger it will return in a way that will cause hurt and pain. The best course is to find a kind way of bearing it, and allowing it to change naturally, as a storm breaks and the sun shines again. This is not easy to do, but the Up All Night scene shows us how—not so much in the actual kicking of the stroller, but in the absurd genius of the mother-writers who imagined that scene. Watch it and maybe you can imagine yourself kicking the stroller the next time you feel frustrated as a way to find the humor in this meaningful chaos.