'We're all so depleted. We're mentally exhausted from the constant risk calculation and from trying to do our jobs and parent at the same time.'
While the pandemic made life harder for pretty much everyone on this planet, the past couple of years has been an entirely new kind of waking nightmare for those with children. In fact, parenting during a global health crisis has been so exhausting that a group of Massachusetts mothers has now gathered twice in the middle of a high school football field to simply... scream. Their first primal scream session—held in March 2021 and attended by around one dozen moms—was such a success that the second scream session, which took place on January 13 this year, saw nearly double the number of moms gather to scream for around 20 minutes.
"There are days you just want to scream and it's not healthy to do it with your kids or your spouse," Lauren Thompson, a married mother of two and small business owner in Boston who attended both scream sessions, told Good Morning America. "Having a space to go do it, it took a weight off my chest to just get out and feel like you’re in a safe space." Tess O'Brien, another mom who attended both scream sessions, added: "We're all so depleted. We're mentally exhausted from the constant risk calculation and from trying to do our jobs and parent at the same time. We're emotionally exhausted because we're not filling our own cups and we're trying to care for these little humans who are navigating this world with masks on all the time."
"The scream was this hilarious opportunity to let go," the mother-of-two said. "It was a moment of release and escape in this crazy, constant survival mode that we've been in for two years." The now-popular scream sessions are the brainchild of Sarah Harmon, a Boston-based yoga teacher, licensed mental health therapist and mom of 3 and 5-year-old daughters. The 39-year-old was several months away from launching the School of MOM—a mindfulness website for mothers—when the pandemic struck, landing a heavy blow on moms. Recognizing the need for immediate help, Harmon sped up the launch of the program and made it virtual.
Through her sessions with tired moms, and from what she herself experienced as a mom, Harmon noticed a lot of talk about anger. This anger, she said, was just the "tip of the iceberg" emotion that has bigger emotions like rage, anxiety, fear, resentment, loneliness and guilt underneath. It was while coaching fellow moms on recognizing anger as a healthy emotion and finding ways to regulate it, that the idea of scream sessions was born. "I was talking a lot about that, and kind of casually in sessions saying, 'Ah, we just all need to get together to a field and scream it out,'" recalled Harmon. "And my clients and in group calls and moms at school and other women were like, 'Yeah, let's do it.'"
The first gathering was so cathartic that the group vowed to hold a scream weekly. However, since the pandemic situation in the U.S. seemed to improve soon after, they never held another session—until the pandemic entered a third year and the omicron variant wreaked havoc in the U.S. "Ultimately these past three weeks have been just as hard if not harder than 2020 because of just all the closures and kids being home and parents not being able to work again," Harmon said. "It's just a feeling of defeatedness and a lot of other emotions, with, again, a very common one of anger."
The gathering on January 13, Harmon explained, unfolded in five parts. First, there was a "normal" scream, followed by a round of swearing, a "free-for-all" scream, a scream in honor of the mothers who were too busy to attend and, finally, an encouragement to just scream as loudly as possible. "It was a release and you laugh afterwards," said O'Brien. "Nothing is simple anymore and we have to be able to hold two opposite truths at the same time. You can be really exhausted and tired of parenting and also love your kids an incredible amount, at the same time. Moms have been hit hard during this pandemic, but also a lot of dads are experiencing much of the same and taking on a solid share of the load. We chose to have kids, but we certainly didn’t choose to do so under these extreme circumstances."
Harmon revealed that she has received an overwhelming response to the gathering from other mothers since news of the gathering spread. "One mom said it so well, that it just felt good to feel out of control for a second," she said. "A scream feels very primal and uncalculated, and we've been so calculated. Everything has 19 steps, like just a decision to go to the grocery store, so to have a time off from that overthinking is huge. My aunt happened to see [an article] and told me, 'I'm so proud of you. I wish I had this as a young mom. My safe space was my car where I could go and scream. That was a conversation my aunt and I would never have had had this not been out in the world."