Motherhood and Mixed Feelings
Text by Menna Keyes
Editor’s note: This article is from our Archive; The BCT Newsletter, “Parenting”, first published this piece in March 2020. We have condensed and edited this piece for the BCT blog.
I love my children very much. But there are times when I think about running away.
As much as I can’t live without them, there are occasions when I feel that I can’t live with them.
I’m not alone; Psychotherapist Rozsika Parker explored these complex and contradictory feelings.
Indeed, she wrote her book, “Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence“, out of her own experience as a mother. Rozsika suggested that ‘the coexistence of love and hate can stimulate and sharpen a mother’s awareness of what is happening between her and her child’. Hence, despite making us feel very uncomfortable, the challenging emotions are often there for an excellent reason.
Complicated feelings can help make sense of our inner turmoil and our children’s.
I once considered myself a bad mother because of my mixed feelings towards my children and motherhood: I believed that if I wasn’t happy all of the time, there must be something wrong with me. Consequently, I felt guilty and thought I wasn’t cut out for motherhood when I felt bored and frustrated. I daydreamed about my life before my children and wondered how I would get it back.
But then I realised that very few days are only good or only bad when one is a parent. Usually, it is a mixture of the two. My pursuit of “only happiness” was a fallacy, and it is thus customary for me to experience more than one emotion.
It is the same with my children. For instance, my daughter loves to go to school but often tells me how much she misses me when she is there. Together, my daughter and I honestly acknowledged that one of our feelings is just as important as the other. Hence, there is no right or wrong way to feel.
Alongside confusing emotions, we also tend to have unrealistic expectations of what it feels like to be a parent.
The gap between our expectations and reality is often huge, and we are at risk of setting ourselves up to feel like a failure. We have come a long way since Rozsika Parker wrote her book in 1995 – being open and honest about how difficult parenthood can be. However, social media may have caused us to take a few steps back by widening the gap between expectations and reality.
Embracing our vulnerability and admitting that we are struggling as a parent can feel like a weakness –
Regardless, the very opposite is true.
Indeed, it takes tremendous strength and courage to acknowledge that we are not finding it as easy as we thought. Accordingly, we need more honest conversations. They would help remove the stigma and guilt that surrounds negative emotions.
Additionally, sharing our feelings with other parents can help us recognise when we might need more support, such as talking to a professional about our not-so-positive thoughts or feelings. Ambivalence is a natural part of being human, and it is not something we should ignore, deny or suppress. Feeling wrong about a particular experience does not make us a “bad” person. And loving our children doesn’t change the fact that sometimes being a parent is challenging and not much fun.
When we feel conflicted by our emotions, we can ask ourselves, “what do I need right now to make this easier for me?”
I now know that when I get the urge to run away, the reality is that I need a break but not a permanent one.
The BCT is incredibly grateful to Menna Keyes for her support. Menna Keyes is a certified KG Hypno.