Mama Bear Mode: Embracing My Imperfections

I had a recent experience where I found my heart rate escalate, teeth clench, and eyes bulge. My emotions were boiling and ready to blow at any moment. The person on the other side of my intense rage…a 5 year old boy at the Chick-fil-a play ground pointing at my son and calling him “butt-boy.” If you’ve met my 4 year old Keaton, you would remember his vivacious personality, cute bouncing blonde hair, and his bum crack. My sweet boys crack shows At. All. Times. We have tried every possible way to keep it contained (different types of underwear, belts, tucked in shirts, elastic pants, zip pants, etc.) but the kids little bum just wants to be free. I find it to be rather cute, but I must admit, it’s a bit out of control. I know it hangs out 90% of the day, so why was I so enraged when a 5 year old bed-headed boy pointed it out and called him “butt boy?” Those two simple words caused mama bear mode to ignite with a fury. I’m fairly certain I encountered an out of body experience. I’m not quite sure of the exact words that came out of my mouth, but I do know this rather cute little boy felt my wrath.

I’ve felt a similar reaction before, many times in fact, with situations that didn’t necessarily deal with my own children. I remember watching the public stoning of Miley Cyrus after her 2013 VMA performance with Robin Thicke. While I don’t condone her actions, mama bear surfaced when I saw the double standard as Miley was condemned and no mention was made of the 37 year old husband and father grinding her backside. I experienced similar emotions when I watched the reaction to Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman’s post game interview and comments about Michael Crabtree. The term “thug” was used to describe this Stanford graduate and amazing athlete. I couldn’t help but think of his mom in that moment. I had intense mama bear emotion surrounding the reaction he faced from the public, so I can’t imagine what she experienced.

The Urban Dictionary defines Mama Bear Mode as “a mom who can be cuddly and lovable but also has a ferocious side when it is necessary to protect her cubs.” Does that describe you like it describes me? I’ve always looked at my mama bear mode as an ugly personality flaw that I needed to contain. But perhaps it’s a beautiful thing when the ugliness of our selves marks its presence. It means we care deeply. It means we love passionately. It means we feel immensely. I’m learning to embrace my imperfections, and even look for the hidden beauty within the ugliness.

What “mama bear mode” moments have you experienced? We would love to hear your stories.

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  1. Olivia Dudley

    Love this! Xo

  2. Shauna Gauthier
    Shauna Gauthier

    I’ve actually been thinking about your post throughout the week, Sarah, which caused me to ponder further about what trips the wire that sets off my Mama Bear Mode. It seems a common trigger for both of us is the public shaming of an individual…but I also realized that I have a fire that often erupts when someone is being physically harmed by another. Both of these triggers are deeply connected to my own narrative. So once again I find that our response to certain people or situations have the power to grant us further insight into who we are and how our stories have come to shape us.

    1. Sarah Isakson
      Sarah Isakson

      I love that you’ve been pondering this. I have learned so much about my narrative by being intentional around recognizing the emotions I experience during or after an event. It has led me to other questions…Is this mama bear mode a female characteristic, or do men feel it equally? Does it stem from an innate desire to protect? Any thoughts?

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