Ambivalence in Motherhood

The Scene:

Your baby won’t go to sleep and won’t let you sit down; you stand, bouncing your child in your arms from 11 PM until morning (or somewhere in between). You think (do you dare?): if this demon baby doesn’t stop crying (go to sleep, calm down, leave me alone, etc). I will throw him/her out of the window? I can’t take it any more!

Any nods of recognition?

If there are, don’t worry; it only means that you — like so many other mothers — are experiencing the challenging reality of being a new mom.

Ambivalence in Motherhood

Mothers often ask:

How, after wanting a baby so much and loving my child so dearly, can I feel such intense exasperation and . . . dare I say it . . . hate?

My answer to them: Easy!

Who wouldn’t resent someone who takes away so many things that they cherish?

– Their time.

– Their energy.

– Their body.

– Their rested self.

– Their peaceful state of mind.

Yet mothers everywhere are scared of their feelings, thoughts and desires:

– Scared of feeling their resentment.

– Scared of thinking less than loving thoughts towards their child.

– Scared of wanting to be by themselves — to be baby-free.

Acknowledging All Aspects of Yourself:

Let me state for the record that I know that you love your child more than anything (I love mine in the very same way), yet until you are able to allow yourself to feel your ambivalent feelings you will be doing yourself, and your baby, a disservice. Your baby will flourish under the care of a mother who acknowledges who she is and how she feels. A mother who acknowledges her ‘negative’ emotions refrains from communicating them in covert and unintended ways.

The Band-Aid Approach: Ways to Get Through the Here and Now

When your baby is driving you mad try to remember some of these ‘get through the moment’, helpful hints.

* Don’t beat yourself up for feeling what you’re feeling.

* Leave the room and take a break if you feel you are losing your cool.

* Try to avoid the refrigerator.

* Call a friend and vent.

* Enlist your partner for help.

* Bounce your baby to music you love.

* Remind yourself that your baby will soon be out of this phase.

A Deeper Approach: Holding on to Your Self

It is tomorrow and your baby (hopefully!) is asleep or drinking quietly from a bottle or your breast. You’ve gotten through the night, but you know that a repeat occurrence is inevitable: there will be frustrating and sleepless nights during your baby’s first months of life.

Secrets for lasting change:

Sit down in a comfortable chair and go through — bit by bit — the scenario that took place last night. Focus on your experience of what happened rather than on what your baby was going through (i.e., don’t think about why s/he was crying, couldn’t sleep, had colic, etc.).

What were you feeling?

– Angry and hateful.

– Overwhelmed and upset.

– Like you were failing as a mother.

– Resentful and guilty.

– Like something you were doing might be causing the situation.

Acknowledge the truth of your emotions and let yourself experience what you feel; last night things may have been too out of hand for you to deal with what you were going through. Don’t give yourself a hard time for feeling:

– Tired

– Grumpy

– Angry

– Frustrated

– Presently (but, perhaps, not always) miserable with mommy life

Let Yourself:

* Embrace your reactions.

* Be human.

* Accept your feelings.

* Be who you are to be the best mother you can be.

What I ask you to do is, of course, easier said than done; but in order to be a really great mom it is essential for you to be the person that you are. Acknowledging and accepting how you feel will make your baby’s sleepless nights easier, for when you accept yourself in whatever state you happen to be, your ability to cope and endure grows.

What a gift for your child to have a mother who is the REAL and ACTUAL you!

Copyright ©2005, Significant Self, Claudia Heilbrunn

Source by Claudia Heilbrunn

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