Motherhood is a tricky business. You’re supposed to love your kids absolutely no matter what – and I do, I truly do. But sometimes they do things that make me blind with frustration like backtalk or throwing wet towels on the floor. These things are to be expected and as a mum, I challenge myself to rise above the frustration and flip these situations into teachable moments. But there is one thing that literally hurts my brain and makes me want to punch a wall and that is the sound of one of my three kids who gulps when he drinks and slurps and smacks his lips when he eats. Yes, I have a noisy eater on my hands.
Just writing those words is giving me waves of nausea. Noisy eater.
It’s called misophonia and the memes are real; some people are highly sensitive to specific sounds that trigger a flash of anger or disgust when they hear it. For me, it’s hearing my dog drink water or when my child eats.
I know, it sounds crazy. And yes, I know, it makes me sound like an awful mum. But here’s the thing, this condition, which is a well-documented disorder in the brain is quite real. It’s called misophonia and it affects 15% of American adults or 1 in 6.5. It appears to affect females more than males and signs of misophonia often begin to reveal themselves in kids as young as 9.
As a result of this bizarre disorder, I can’t have a silent house anymore. And while some may laugh at that because let’s be real; when is a house ever silent when kids are around? During snack and mealtimes, I have to make sure there is music or the TV on in the background to help drown out the sound of listening to my child drink or eat.
He knows this bothers me and that has given him a sense of power. At six years old, he fully understands that if he’s mad at me enough that he can hurt my brain my intentionally making these sounds near me. And he does. Kids are supposed to push boundaries and test limits but this particular limit goes just slightly beyond the line of acceptable and is dangerously close to cruel.
We’ve had family talks about compassion and empathy. We’ve talked about not hitting or name-calling – or eating too close to mum. But kids can’t be expected to always understand the nuances of their actions. For my son, watching me squirm and wince and sometimes even flee the room in a panic can be kind of fun. Look what I can make mum do! Our current family challenge is getting him to understand that using someone else’s weakness against them is a form of bullying. Would he do this to his friends? We ask him. Would you do this to your teacher? We say. And his answer is always, no, of course not.
As a mother, I feel a sense of shame that my child does something that literally makes me feel sick to my stomach and angry enough to want to punch or kick or run away. The jokes about misophonia may be funny, and I do appreciate the absurdity of the condition but I also feel a little bit like a failure of a mother because of it.
We recently discovered that our oldest child has begun to develop similar expressions of this disorder. He cannot listen to specific sounds without becoming highly agitated. He’s not alone, though. Two of his cousins have also developed misophonia and together they laugh and make jokes about how weird this auditory disorder is. And while I am glad that they can bond over this weirdness, my heart breaks just a little bit because living with misophonia can sometimes feel like a truly unfair burden.
As for my kid who gulps and slurps, he’s learning to be more respectful about his ability to drive me bonkers. And I am learning strategies to cope enough with the god awful sounds so that I may enjoy meal time with my whole family without having to run to the next room when my kid reaches for his glass of milk.
More Mum Confessions:
- I Hate When My Family Asks Me What I’m Making For Dinner
- Why I Don’t Eat Dinner With My Kids
- I’m the Mum Who Doesn’t Cook, And That’s Ok