One of the biggest considerations when approaching an animal — be it a deer, a rabid dog, or a rage-cleaning mother — is its attitude. Some animals should not be approached by anyone at any time.
A rage-cleaning mother is a creature that most normal mothers morph into after the first 10 minutes of housecleaning. They are commonly found on weekends and/or just before houseguests arrive.
Approachable rage-cleaning mothers are not common. Most of them are aggressive and unpredictable. They tend to react violently when a person comes near them, especially members of their family who have destroyed the house they’re in the midst of cleaning.
If you do choose to approach one, use these steps. Ideally, she will not harm you if you follow them carefully.
1. Observe from a distance.
There are signs when an animal should not be approached. They may hiss, grunt, or growl. Likewise, a rage-cleaning mother may show specific body language indicating her rage.
Look for hints of agitation, such as a deep “WTF?” wrinkle in the middle of her forehead. If one of her eyes begins twitching, this is a sign that she is quickly escalating past the point of approach.
Retreat immediately if she’s reached the stage of muttering rhetorical questions under her breath, such as, “What do we even have hampers for?” “Will I ever be done with the laundry?” “Seriously, where is that smell coming from?” or “Who. The. Hell. Puts. Garbage. In. The. Sink?”
2. Be aware of environmental factors.
Take extra caution if she has not eaten or is especially tired, as she may be significantly more aggressive. Having her favorite food or drink on hand might not help, but it can’t hurt.
3. Get her attention.
It is imperative that you do not startle or scare her, lest she may become defensive and potentially attack. Move slowly, remain calm, and use a soothing voice.
She will probably be listening to loud music. If she’s listening to the stereo, you’ll need to turn down the speakers so she can hear you. Approach with caution and turn it down slowly. If she’s using earbuds, you’ll have to catch her eye upon your approach. Whatever you do, never pull out either of her earbuds; this will result in a Category 5 storm of epic proportions.
4. Apologize for your existence.
Once you have her attention, begin pleading for forgiveness from a safe distance, perhaps even on your hands and knees, which will make you appear less threatening and significantly less annoying to the rage-cleaning mother.
On second thought, do not get down on your hands and knees, as it will make it harder for you to get away if she decides to attack.
5. Mimic her behavior (i.e., do a chore).
It’s been suggested to mimic wild animals when approaching them. If an animal is feeding, for example, you can pretend to eat the same grass they’re eating. If you appear to be grazing, you are not a threat.
A similar strategy can be adopted when approaching a rage-cleaning mother: Pick up a sponge, a broom, some clothes, or pretty much anything, and you’re likely to have more success in your approach. (It seems worth noting here that if she is eating, you should never go near her food for your own safety.)
Studies have shown that rage-cleaning mothers never attack a person while they’re vacuuming. Doing laundry and dishes are also well-known deterrents. Or you could take out the kitchen garbage, which appears to have overflowed into some game of Jenga.
6. Be extra polite.
Use the word “please” as much as possible. Refrain from smart-mouth comments to reduce the risk of a furious, expletive-filled response. For example, never say, “Why is the floor so sticky?” while she is in the middle of cleaning. (Also, spoiler: It’s probably sticky because of the trash Jenga.)
7. Avoid direct eye contact.
This is very important. Look to one side rather than staring the rage-cleaning mother down. She may consider this to be a sign of domination or some kind of challenge, and it can make her think you want to fight.
Prolonged, direct eye contact may anger her and result in a barrage of accusatory questions, like, “What is so difficult about rinsing off your own dish and putting it in the dishwasher?” “Why does everyone in this house insist on leaving their clothes on the floor?” or “DO ANY OF THE BOYS IN THIS HOUSE KNOW HOW TO AIM?”
8. Back away if necessary.
If the rage-cleaning mother yells at you, or begins talking through clenched teeth, stay calm and slowly back away. Do not run. She could interpret it as an invitation to chase, or worse, an act of aggression. If you use caution as you retreat, you should be able to escape without an incident.
While it’s true that a rage-cleaning mother will be more approachable when following these steps, keep in mind that she’s incredibly temperamental. She is prone to explosive outbursts, and once she realizes you’ve only interrupted so you can ask her where something is or for a ride to to the mall, there’s no telling how she’ll respond.
This post first appeared on Scary Mommy