On a cold night on a desolate field in Charlestown last week, 20 moms gathered to treat themselves to one of the only pleasures still left — a long, deep, primal scream.
Word of the scream had spread in local mothers’ groups and online, and at the appointed time the moms started arriving. They were fleeing footed pajamas and bedtime stories, and, in the case of one mom, a 6-year-old who was so unhappy her mother was leaving that she herself started to scream (albeit not as part of a Facebook group).
“She said we hadn’t spent enough time together,” said the mom, Emily Silver, who is the co-owner of a nursing agency and also has a 4-year-old and an infant at home.
“I shut the door,” she said, “and ran.”
With their cute pom pom hats and big smiles, the moms looked cheerful. But as hard as it is to be anyone right now, with Omicron picking off day cares and playdates and sanity, it’s especially hard to be the parent of a small child, particularly one who is too young to get vaccinated.
As the headline on a popular story in the online publication Romper put it: “Omicron Means Parents Are Doing It All Again, Except This Time Dead Inside.”
Last Thursday night was an attempt to fight back. Against a world that keeps bars open but closes schools; against people who refuse to understand the stress of trying to keep an unvaccinated toddler safe; against bosses who don’t get it.
In the chill shadow of Charlestown High School, with the illuminated Bunker Hill Monument glowing in the distance, the scream’s organizer, Sarah Harmon — a licensed mental health counselor, yoga teacher, and founder of the School of Mom, an online community and resource for mothers — gathered the women, and the mood grew intimate.
“Some of you might not know each other,” she said, ”but the reality is we are all connected as moms on this journey of motherhood.”
The motherhood murmured.
“Many of you have probably heard me talk about the anger iceberg,” she said. “Anger is just the tip, and underneath anger is . . . I would love for you guys to shout it out . . .”
The moms were briefly shy, so Harmon called out alone: “It’s like sadness!” she said. “Resentment!” “Isolation!” “Loneliness!”
Soon the appeal of openly shouting forbidden feelings overwhelmed decorum.
“Anxiety!” one mom yelled. “Guilt!” said another. “Frustration!” “Bitterness!” “Resentment!”
The group would do three screams, Harmon said, or maybe four. A primal scream. A profanity scream. And a free-for-all scream. ( “I hate my husband,” someone yelled as a suggestion, and the group was not unreceptive.)
Empowered by community and the delicious feeling of rightful rage, the moms strode as one through the darkness to the football field’s center.
It felt private and vast and emotionally safe, and even though it was the pandemic that had pitched the women into the January night, for this one moment, even the plague felt far away.
They arranged themselves in a circle, took a deep breath, as instructed, and then let it rip.
And then another time to see who could scream the longest (just because it felt so good). And then one more for all the moms who were not there — and who probably needed it most.
Angela Kristiansen was one of the missing. Well, sort of. Home caring for her husband and daughter with COVID, she FaceTimed in, and as her little daughter resisted bedtime in the next room, Kristiansen gazed longingly out the window toward the field, smothered her face with a pillow, and let loose a long, cathartic howl.
Thursday night’s scream was the group’s second annual, and maybe the birth of a modern revolution.
An Arlington group screamed on Monday night. (It was open to all, but it was only the moms who showed up. Enough said.) Belmont and Duxbury moms have reportedly signaled interest. On Instagram, a Charlestown-inspired scream was being planned — about 1,500 miles away.
“Calling all New Orleans Moms with rage and nowhere to put it (which should account for approximately 100% of us)!” the post read. “It won’t fix any of our big picture problems, and it might not be heard by the masses, but some of our most important supports will be listening: each other.”
Back on the field, the night’s business was finished, but the moms lingered, not wanting what now counts as a girls night out to end.
“It felt freeing,” said Alison Merritt, the mother of two boys, 2 and 6.
“Being a mom, you always have to be in charge of other people,” she added, “so to do something that’s just for you — and is out of control — felt really amazing.”
Her sister-in-law, Kim Keating, the mother of 7-month-old twins, has been battling anxiety and loneliness, and as she screamed, she also cried.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “I could use a scream every month.”