When new mums get angry

When you’re pregnant, advice is pointed at you from every direction and the phrase ‘things change you know’ is used a lot by people nodding sagely at you.

Something that wasn’t mentioned was that my husband and I would have more rows in those first months after a baby than we’d had in our whole relationship and that at times I would feel an anger towards him that left me rigid and shaking, or quietly seething in a Gollum voice ‘You did this to me’.

The first couple of weeks after both babies were fairly harmonious. Everything was a bit warm and fuzzy, paternity leave meant we were both there and going through this new experience together. Although I can remember calling my mum crying after I had Mabel because Doug was using his paternity leave to build a shed and had been to the gym and I just wanted him to unpack the dishwasher and Stop. Fucking. Hammering. But still, newborns actually sleep quite a lot and we were both there to stare at the babies and think ‘we did that’. Closely followed by ‘now what do we do?’.

The growing tiredness plays a large part in the rows – the exhaustion compounded by fear you might never sleep again mean that there is a heightened sense of irritability and anxiety. The little things that previously hardly registered become not only beacons of stupidity and laziness, but a personal insult. How could he leave his wet towel on the bed? He is purposefully making my life harder. And not replacing the toilet roll when he’s used it all on his big disgusting arse? SELFISH. Then there are the nights; lying next to you snoring whilst you get your boobs out again in the wee small hours. A text from my friend shortly after she’d had a baby simply said ‘I want to hit my husband in the face with a spade’. It made me feel glad I wasn’t the only one.

There is one almighty row that sticks out. It was December and there were a lot of Christmas drinks to be had, and as I was at home with a three month and a two year old, I wasn’t partaking in any of them. There may have been some bitterness at that fact, even though in reality I didn’t want to squeeze in to my glad rags and stay up beyond 9pm. He missed bath-time and stumbled through the door pretty drunk. I lost it. I screamed, I pushed him, I gave considerable thought to smashing up the kitchen a bit, but even in my rage I knew there was little point as I’d have to clear it up, which made me even angrier. I left the house, rang my friend to scream about my shitty husband and my final act of rebellion was to buy 10 Marlboro Lights and smoke them on the street corner. Then the battery on my phone died and I realised I’d forgotten my keys so I had to tap quietly on the front door so as not to wake the kids and hope my husband would let me in. For the love of god, I couldn’t even get storming out right.

I suppose what got to me was that Doug could go out and have impromptu fun. He wasn’t being unreasonable, he was at his work Christmas drinks. But at the time it felt like there was nothing to stop him – probably least of all the thought of coming home to a miserable and shout-y wife – whereas I couldn’t. It sounds a bit ridiculous as I didn’t actually want to go out, but the resentment that suddenly my life felt insignificant and secondary to his was quite overwhelming. Again, ridiculous when you stop to marvel at what a bloody awesome (and mental) experience having a baby is, and I felt guilty for not feeling appreciative of that at the time. It was also unsettling to feel so needy – in a practical sense, I needed him there if I wanted to get up and go anywhere – but also wanting a constant reassurance. We don’t want to be needy. We’ve spent our lives showing we can do everything that men can do, and now we’re suddenly strapped to the settee holding a baby and eating a pack of biscuits for lunch, feeling unconfident and a bit small and lost.

Hormones have a lot to answer for too. They are very real – look at what your body has just done. I’m no doctor, but of course there are all sorts of chemicals and what-not going on.

You just made a person in your own body and are producing food for it AND on less sleep than you’ve ever had in your life. If that’s not recipe for some irrational behaviour, I don’t know what is. There are some very real feelings of loathing caused by things said or done that in hindsight don’t warrant it. The way he breathes comes in to that category. Unless you’re usually an angry person, those feelings of hate for someone that you love are terrifying.

A lot of men may not realise that these moments of irritability (or anger) don’t make us feel good about ourselves. I don’t think any woman likes being a nag. It creeps up on us, usually because we’re tired and, well, sometimes because he’s being a bit of a twat. We don’t turn on them, narrow-eyed, face all twisted with clipped and venomous words, and feel a sense of pride in ourselves. It wasn’t lost on me that there were moments where Doug probably disliked me every bit as much as I detested him. Even though in my head I felt he shouldn’t feel like that because I was trying my best and not being that unreasonable…I could see that at times I’d wiped the life from his eyes as well as my own. Remember the funny, vivacious, confident, sassy woman you met? Yep, we prefer her too. This shell of her you see before you – the deep set tired eyes, aging skin, and a down-turned mouth with the capacity to ruin even the most lovely day out because something doesn’t run to time, who says things like ‘I don’t know why we bother doing anything’? She’s not a lot of fun for anyone.

So what’s a man to do?

Be Kind  found on danielleburkleo.com

Be kind to her. I appreciate it may be hard when she’s whispering angrily at you with the Gollum voice, but cut her some slack. You are in this too and for all the bodily fluids she’s parted with and wild emotions that have taken over her brain to create that beautiful baby, this is your penance. It doesn’t make you a doormat. It makes you a rock solid partner able to show empathy when your missus is possibly a bit fucked and incapable of giving the same back. If you rise to every bitter word, it will never end. Despite the exhaustion, she will come at you with every stupid thing you’ve ever done. Our spirits may be broken, but our memories will always remain intact.

My husband says now that once he realised he wasn’t dealing with a logical, ‘normal’ version of his wife when I was firing bitter comments at him, he could handle it. Whilst this still makes me want to stab him in the eye a bit, I know he’s right. At some point she will recognise that you were kind when she was not, and she’ll love you a little bit more for it. Just don’t call a new mum irrational, weird or mental at the time. Quietly be aware of it, she will come out the other side and realise it, and then we can all breathe a big sigh of relief that things are a little more harmonious.

And pick up your pants and replace the toilet roll. Every little helps.

Were me and a couple of my more neurotic friends alone in feeling like this? I’m very interested to hear from you, dear reader…

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52 thoughts on “When new mums get angry

  1. Firenze says:

    Reading this brought tears of recognition to my eyes, I can so connect with all of this and feel both so gleeful and powerful in my anger because it feels I have a right to be angry yet so scared and sorrowful at the same time. Everything feels so overwhelming and bigger than me yet I love my daughter so much and would never even contemplate her not being in the world. At the moment I do feel very cool towards my husband (totally feel like a nag but haven’t thrown anything) though I know in his own way he’s trying but reading your blog let me know that I am not alone.

  2. Alicia says:

    Omg how am I fouR in yes bloody 4 and only just realising this??? He says I have post natal probs but I feel fine well apart wanting to smash his face in with a spade that is

  3. Joanna says:

    I relate to this blog so much. Reading it helped me to feel that I’m not the only one and I’m not going mad. I have a five week old baby and I am 41. Before having her I was used to doing what I liked when I liked. I feel that this has not changed for my partner and he can more or less jump in the car and pop of and do what he likes without a care in the world. I feel like I’m strapped to the couch endlessly breast feeding. I feel quite hateful towards him then guilty for my thoughts because they are irrational . The bit about feeding at night whilst he’s snoring next to you made me laugh because that’s just how I feel. Thanks for making me see the funny side .

    • Steph says:

      Oh Joanna – those first weeks are tough and it can feel really lonely, which is bizarre when you know that a large chunk of the population will go or has been through it. At least if you know other people feel the same hopefully you won’t spend precious energy on feeling guilty. Try to get sleep – at any and every opportunity – as it definitely helps. And it will all get easier – that is a promise. x

  4. Sophie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, I related to pretty much all of it! I made the mistake of asking my hubby to take his paternity leave once my mom and his mom wasn’t going to be around at about two months so he took a week holiday post baby and then another week a few months later and that was it – the second week never materialised and by that point I was so sleep deprived and exhausted and I was so angry at him sleeping that every night I used to think about going downstairs to the kitchen and getting the hammer and smashing his head in!! It’s great to see that I wasn’t alone!! Needless to say that after our first child I am not convinced that I want another!!??

    • Steph says:

      I’d love to reassure you that I was less angry second time around…hmm…BUT speaking about it (and writing this) definitely helped as I now know loads of women feel the same! And am much less angry now they’re a bit older. Most of the time. Thank you for commenting x

  5. Lisa says:

    So so funny and so so true!

    I threw a vase. It was mine and I took a few seconds to work out which one I was going to throw (at the ground in lieu for a handy and annoying head). I chose one that didn’t work with the decor then stormed out. To his mother’s house. She gave me a cuppa and tucked me in bed (she’d had 4 kids too so probably understood the wild-eyed desperado look).

    I rang up though to talk to the kids and told them I’d had a tantrum and done something silly (broken the vase) and I was giving myself a time out.

    Then when I came back it was still there! Argh. Had to clean it up – point taken. That’s when I realised next time I’d throw crazy words instead. Much cleaner.

    I found it was the stuff that I couldn’t explain, the emotional experience stuff that made me get my resentment on. The burden of responsibility is a heavy mantle to wear.

    • Steph says:

      I can’t believe it was still there – argh! Thanks so much for the comment and story. This post has had the biggest reaction so clearly we’re not alone. Also good to be able to show Doug comments like yours and say ‘You see? We’re all a bit angry for a while’. x

  6. Ems says:

    Oh how this article rings true, love it!! Particularly the ‘I want to hit my husband in the face with a spade’ – mine thought it would be a good idea just now whilst I was doing the evening feed and having quiet time with the baby to come into the room and blow a vuvuzela, I normally would have laughed at this but burst into tears, i mean, seriously!!

  7. Laura says:

    Really really true. Love the bit about storming out and getting it wrong. I did something similar, when criticised for parking badly (it was, in retrospect a fair comment) – I left the car in the middle of the car park, cars backing up behind us and stormed off. Without my handbag, keys or phone. So I had to walk back meekly when I was sure that all other affected drivers had left the area and rejoin the family. The deep, deep shame.

  8. Holly says:

    So, so true. I almost stabbed Ed when he pointed out the table I had just brought back from ikea was actually bigger than our kitchen. Had I had a knife to hand, I almost certainly would have! Still, three kids on, I’m yet to inflict actual bodily harm. Fantastic blog, Steph, had me weeping at the kitchen table , and that was before I’d even cracked into the wine!

    • Steph says:

      Sorry! Maybe get him to have a read…? I’d like to say I was much less bonkers the second time… Best of British for the coming weeks! x

  9. Carin says:

    Oh my goodness… yes! It’s scary how your personality changes and you become this snarling version of yourself that scares the life out of you. I remember apologising like a crazy person, yet was completely unable to stop myself.

  10. Mummy Says says:

    Yes, yes, yes. My youngest is nearly nine months and I’m still in this place. Would love to find the old me again. In the meantime I need to read this to my husband. Brilliant post xx

  11. suzanne3childrenandit says:

    My goodness how true this is. Yet again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I was like a different person after babies – no sense of humour, neurotic and behaving like the fun police. What happens to us?! I know my husband tried is hardest but most days that wasn’t good enough. My advice to men? Just try to keep your head above water, this too shall pass 🙂

  12. Liss says:

    Thank you for this honest post. It really highlights that when we have children we focus so much on getting things right for the baby. Nobody warns us about what it will do to our relationships. Mine felt rock solid until I had children and then we really struggled to get through all the raging and bitterness that comes afterwards – from the tiredness, unpredictability , not always knowing how to handle things. The reality was much harder than we ever anticipated, which is not to say that there weren’t tender, wonderful moments too. There is some belief that rage is what happens when we are unable to process and make sense of what is going on for us, this makes perfect sense for me, as becoming a mother is so overwhelming. I also feel that dads sometimes get a bad rap – ok they are not perfect and can forget to change the toilet rolls – but I think many of them feel a lot of pressure too to provide and be strong. Basically I think it extremely difficult time for both mum and dad, no wonder there is so much anger and resentment.

  13. Klaus Berndsen says:

    Thank you ever so much for this article.

    I am one of those husbands that leave empty toilet rolls. Well actually not really, that is one of the things I am rather good about. But beyond that it gets terribly scarce…

    My wife basically has to tell me everything, because I was a little bit spoilt by my mum (it’s the cute face you know 😉 ). But I would like to think, that once I got told about a chore I am at least ok at executing it with some regularity.

    Unfortunately I recently (well two years ago now) changed the line of work to sth I feel is rather demanding and so I come home quite exhausted and a little bit on edge regularly anyway.

    And even though I realize, that compared to making a baby (especially for my wife, as she had some issues on top of a “normal” pregnancy) that is not too much to have to handle. And even realizing, when I am “in the quiet of my office” or on my way back from work, that all the perceived viciousness is based on things I actually got wrong and then got fired up by hormones, once I get through the door and get the first air of hatred, I fall back into my usual patterns of reacting like I do not want to react, i.e. by jumping on any and all discussions and trying to convince her of me being in the right.
    But to stop moaning and focus on what I wanted to say when I started writing a comment: Thank you very much for daring to share this. I am sure that there is a lot of little, new families that get every bit right and live in peace and harmony and nothing but peace and harmony, but it is a great reassurance to hear that other couples struggle too. Because even though one knows this to be true in theory, theory is not what one is dealing with in pregnancy (or after I hear).

    Please keep up the great work!

    • Steph says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write this Klaus – and for your honesty too. It’s so true that we have moments of clarity and thoughtful plans to be kind, and then the emotions take over for men and for women. Personally, I find it reassuring that many of us feel the same – it’s a steep learning curve!

  14. Berry says:

    I’m sorry but I find it quite upsetting that so many women are putting their anger down to hormones and tiredness rather than noting how outrageously the men are behaving. It is actually extremely selfish to do things like not changing the toilet roll when your partner has to go to the toilet balancing a crying baby at 4 a.m., for example. And it is outrageous to come home drunk when you have an exhausted partner and small baby to look after. I am very shocked that anyone could think it in any way acceptable to spend paternity leave messing about rather than helping look after the baby and doing the housework and cooking and shopping – absolutely disgusting, in fact. I don’t see how it is funny to force someone who is physically exhausted and probably in pain and ill and working a 20 hour day for you to do extra work because you are too stupid and selfish to do it yourself. It is a form of neglect if not abuse and a horrifying glimpse of how utterly unsuitable a father he will be.

    • Jess Helicopter says:

      Um, I think this maybe a little harsh and actually quite personal. I’m guessing you don’t know Doug? I think that perhaps you may also be projecting some personal grievances here but whatever the reason for your post, it’s uncalled for and inappropriate and you’ve clearly missed the point entirely. This post is not about Doug at all, but how new mum’s have a range of emotions with anger being a very valid one.

    • Beabea says:

      I actually agree with Berry here. I don’t think the comment made was to attack Doug, but rather she was pointing out that some men need to stop going out so much and flaunting their greater physical freedom in those early postpartum days. Sometimes women’s rage comes from a valid place- desiring equity and parity of responsibility – and not just hormones.

  15. David says:

    My wife sent me this article and from what I made out of it Doug seems like someone I could probably have a laugh and a good time with.


  16. @katgrant30 says:

    This is a great post, and one that spells out so clearly what happens to us all postpartum! Men can take all the paternity leave they can, but sadly they won’t ever get to feel that same hormonal charge… Combined with sleep deprivation it’s a heady mix.

    I did some tips for dads, on the Secret Fathers blog, around PND, but I guess they are just as relevant to all cases, not just new mums with mental health issues…

  17. Verily Victoria Vocalises says:

    I have just read this post to Ross – who obviously wasn’t there when Grace was born – and he thought, just as I did that this is a very honest account of what ACTUALLY happens. Hopefully, one day he will have to be kind to me for this very reason! Your blog is going to go a very long way. Your writing is superb. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  18. oana79 says:

    I can SO relate to this, especially the going out bit! We just had a baby, three months ago and hubby managed to go out several times and I seethe with rage every time he does…And mine never replaces the toilet roll either :-). #PoCoLo

  19. Steph @ Pretty Unexpected says:

    This was such a great read. It’s frightening to think that I might have this ahead of me in a mere 10 weeks from now. Does it sounds silly to say that in light of reading this, I’m going to try my absolute best to not do the Gollum voice and all the rest of it? Probably wishful thinking – but I am definitely going to try…

    • Steph says:

      Not silly! If you are aware of it I’m sure you’ll be better prepared than most of us, and if you do find yourself feeling these things, at least you’ll know you’re not alone! 10 weeks – exciting! x

  20. Natalie says:

    Oh how true..and in the early newborn days the ‘who is more tired’ conversation can turn from some light banter/general chat to full blown rage usually ending with
    ‘it’s not a competition’
    ‘Well if it is I would bloody well win’ hmph…*swivels on heel and turns to probably flop tit out

  21. Stef says:

    So very funny and so very true! I’m pleased I’m now out the other end but did bring back some awful memories!! At least u can look back and laugh!

  22. Lorna Hayward says:

    Again. Thankyou. For writing everything that I felt, and feel and for making me feel less mental. Absolutely brilliantly written. My husband is reading it sat next to me now (was ordered) and is laughing out loud. I think this is a good thing!!

  23. Nancy Phillips says:

    Ha! So true. My husband came in at 2.30am and went to say hello to our six month old, hence woke her up. I’d just got her down as she was up all night teething. I then dealt within him hiccuping, snoring etc over my side of the bed. Whilst getting up another three times. Tonight, he’s back from work, straight to the sofa asking what’s for dinner. Our daughter will not go down tonight, so kindly I asked him after an hour and a half to take over. Nope, he’s hungover, so massive row developed. Saying we both detest each other. Great way to start a weekend. All I want is some sleep!

  24. Emma says:

    Another brilliant blog! I still feel angry and resentful sometimes, especially when I have been up 4/5 times in the night (he hasn’t even noticed) and up at the crack of dawn a lot. I blame sleep deprivation for a lot, a good night’s sleep and a lie and I feel like a different woman! Thanks for sharing again xx

  25. Rachel says:

    I can remember steam coming out of my ears in the mornings when my hubby would wake up in the morning and say ‘did she sleep through last night?’ I’d been up every 2 hours…..

  26. Eleanor says:

    You speak oh so much truth. My son’s 3 and I can still quite happy staple my husbands bollocks to a table when he seeks a medal for tidying the kitchen (if his own mess I might add). I hope it ends and we give up point scoring. In the meantime I can rest a little easier that it’s normal and others are going through similar. Thank you!

  27. Alicia says:

    I’m guessing I’m not alone in mouthing twat face whilst sticking up the middle finger behind his back then! But your right as u always are you do come out the other side although I will never stop doing that just cus it can make me feel better, but I can now look back at that time a realise how much shite the man had to put up with. I can be horrid when I put my mind to it but he never got angry just frustrated at the person I was being which was not me. Now coming up to number twos second birthday I am truly appreciating him, us, myself and what we have achieved and it feels blooming great x

  28. Naomi Beeson says:

    Pure genius lady. It’s a hormonal minefield post birth and let’s face it sometimes they deserve to get a bit blown up. Why the jobs, why the jobs! Just step away from the fucking lawnmower. And if he had gone to B&Q one more time I would have hunted him down – at least there would have been plenty of spades around.

  29. Amy Ransom says:

    Ahh to rise above the comments when we are knackered. Yes that is what we want. But it takes a strong man to do so. It isn’t helped by the fact that men think child-rearing is so blooming natural which apparently often means we don’t necessarily deserve any special allowances. My friends and I often say we can cope with doing all that we do if ‘they’ can just forego the comments.

    So yes, be kind to us. We deserve it.

    And failing that, expect us to want to hit you in the face with a spade.

    Ps our household battle is the bin. Who changes it. It’s a rather fun game. . Basically you take turns to see who can fit just one more grapefruit, teabag or nappy in. If you win your turn you pass Go, collect £200 and don’t have to take the bin out.


  30. Karin says:

    I remember thinking I didn’t like the way my husband breathed at night…the reality was I was awake, he wasn’t and I just didn’t like him! A good night sleep on my part fixed that. I also find I start a lot of conversations with “I’m not nagging you but….” The reality is I am nagging him because he’s pissed me off..again.. However, after 3 kids I now take a step back and look at all the stuff he DOES do which actually is an awful lot. Sometimes I have to appreciate that if I can’t always see all the good stuff he does, maybe he can’t always see the pants left on the bathroom floor..

  31. Merlinda (@pixiedusk) says:

    I think that my husband took a lot of beating when I gave birth. yes hormones probably and tiredness. I am so jealous too of the girls around me cuz they have perfect tummy. I am glad that I marry a kind soul who can take all these & still have a happy outlook. #pocolo

  32. Elisa says:

    Ha ha – spot on again Steph! Am cracking up at the spade in the face comment… I had similar feelings myself whilst breastfeeding at 5am today. Hilarious… though not so much at the time!

  33. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) says:

    Great post, we’ve all been there! The lack of sleep and general exhaustion combined with all those hormones flying around turn you into an absolute loony – NOT that you are rationally able to admit it at the time, at the time you are of course 100% in the right about everything. Oh those joyful days eh. great reading 🙂 xx #pocolo

  34. lisa gardiner says:

    Another fab post Steph, totally agree!!! Another line that seems to crop up is “i know you work hard darling but it IS easier going to work
    ….” i love reading your posts, laughing out loud first thing in the morning (after not much sleep!) is a lovely way to start this Friday morning!! Much love xxx

  35. Jess says:

    This should be given out to all men to read,it could help explain a lot!I think people underestimate the effects that tiredness has on a body and also the enormous changes women go through when pregnant,not easy,is it.Beautifully written post 🙂