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Friday 18 January 2019

Dear Mary: I shout at my daughter even though I really love her to bits

Picture posed
Picture posed

Mary O’Conor

This is about my most important relationship - the relationship I have with my beautiful daughter, my best friend in the whole world. I've been depressed recently and she's at her cheeky years and will not do anything she is told.

I don't know what to do because when she's bold, she's really bold and I've recently found myself losing it and shouting at her. This has happened a few times and I just feel so, so guilty and like a terrible mother. I know I would never physically hurt her but this feels just as bad and it breaks my heart when she cries as a result of me shouting. She's not used to me getting angry as I am usually a very laid-back person. I just love her so much and don't want her to feel unloved.

When my baby is screaming non-stop, I walk out of the room when it gets too much, take five deep breaths and then go back in a much more relaxed mood. But with my eldest if I go out of the room, she will follow me, thinking it's funny.

I try to remain calm and ignore her bold behaviour but it doesn't work. Time-outs don't work either because she thinks it's a game. I find it all so overwhelming.

I'm on my own - I don't have any help, ever - so it's the three of us 24/7. I am not fond of going out drinking so I never do - I'd rather be at home with my kids. I can't take any breathers with her, I can't hold it in, I can't ignore her but I can't keep shouting at her.

Mary replies: One of the most rewarding and at the same time thankless jobs is looking after small children. Rewarding because they are so wonderful and it is a privilege to be part of their development and to watch it. Thankless because at the end of any given day, if you are asked what you did all day there is very little to tell, apart from a litany of feeds, play, tidying up, nappy-changing and all the minutiae that goes into child care.

You are obviously devoted to both your children, and in particular, to your older child. However, this total devotion may be at the root of your problem of feeling overwhelmed to the point of shouting at your daughter.

It cannot be good for anybody to do the same thing all day every day, whether it be working, training for sports, drinking, eating or sleeping.

We need variety in our lives and relaxation as well, so that we are then able to devote ourselves fully to whatever it is that is our main job - in this case, looking after your two children. You mention being depressed but don't give me any reason for this and it may be that your child-centred life is contributing to it. Without details I can only suggest this. But you absolutely need to get out of the house a little to take care of yourself and your own well being.

Just because you are not interested in going drinking doesn't mean you shouldn't go out. There are lots of other things to do - to begin with you should find out if there are any mother and baby groups in your vicinity where you could meet other mums without having to get a baby sitter ( is a good place to start). This could lead to some new friendships where you have a lot in common.

You worry about your daughter feeling unloved because you have shouted at her. It sounds like she is getting lots of love at other times and perhaps what is needed is for you to love and take care of yourself a little more.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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