Have you ever heard of “mom rage”? Perhaps you didn’t know that was a thing. Mom rage is author Minna Dubin’s (Mom Rage: The Everyday Crisis of Modern Motherhood) phrase to capture the experience of uncontrollable anger that comes over moms struggling to care for their little ones. Judging by the attention given to Dubin’s new book in the latest issue of the New Yorker, the concept seems to resonate with many mothers. In fact, reviewer Merve Emre claims that “mom rage” is being used widely by “parents, psychologists, educators, wellness coaches, bloggers, podcasters, and television personalities” to “map the explosive emotional terrain of motherhood.”
The phrase has been defined as “the uncontrollable anger mothers can experience that leads to verbal and/or physical explosions.” It results from “lack of self-care,” “little support,” and a “raging pandemic.”
I’ve never been a mom, but I am a dad to five teenagers. At one time my five teenagers were five toddlers. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced mom rage, but the dad variety has manifested in my life more times than I care to count. It’s fascinating that Dubin’s concept of mom rage is being treated as a new phenomenon in the history of our species. Human beings have raged since human beings have existed. There are all kinds of varieties of rage: mom rage, dad rage, toddler rage, employee rage, road rage, umpire rage . . . you get the point.
But that’s exactly Dubin’s point. She’s claiming that mom rage is something new, something modern. In fact, Dubin argues that mom rage is not the fault of mothers. Instead, she asks, “What if the conclusion I, and the moms who were writing to me, had come to—that each of us must be ‘the worst mother in the world’—was untrue? What if we were normal mothers reacting to unjust circumstances? What if mom rage were a widespread, culturally-created phenomenon, and not just a personal problem?”
Reviewer Emre accurately assesses what’s being asked of us: “If we, the readers, could accept the reality of ‘mom rage’ as a phenomenon that originated somewhere outside of, or beyond, the individual’s control, then they, the writers, the mothers who yelled and threatened and handled their children roughly, could be freed from their self-doubt and remorse.”
What we have here, in other words, is a secular attempt to atone for sin. Someone must be blamed for what we have done. If we can just find the scapegoat—an unjust society, male patriarchy, or capitalism—then we can set moms free. If we can find someone else to blame, we don’t have to face the guilt of our own shortcomings. Problematically, this kind of scapegoating can only produce psychological atonement. There’s no way to make unjust society actually pay for what it’s done to these innocent mothers.
But a second problem emerges. If the cause of mom rage is unjust society, then the solution must be societal change. Dubin’s secular religion offers no mechanism for personal change. Moms are going to keep on raging as long as the world stays messed up. How long before society finally cleans itself up so that moms can treat their children better? Good luck with that.
What if I told you I know a way for your shortcomings and failures to be really, objectively atoned for and for you to find power to really change? What if I told you that you can have genuine peace and experience genuine transformation? Those deep feelings of guilt don’t have to prevail in your life. You don’t have to keep raging against your children.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus, the only innocent human being, paid for the sins of the world and made atonement for the sins of all who believe in him. He is our scapegoat. He died so that we might be set free. He died so that we might live the way we’re supposed to—rage free.
However, to take advantage of what Jesus has done, we must admit that the problem isn’t out there. It’s you and me. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so your murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). We rage because we are enslaved to our own selfish desires, and we see our children as obstacles in the way of getting what we want. Only Jesus can set us free. Only Jesus can change our hearts. Lord, help us.