Throwback Episode – The So-Called Crime of Maternal Ambivalence

Let’s begin by defining maternal ambivalence: “Ambivalence arises where there is a conflict between the needs of the parents and those of their children” (from Psychology Today). Some call it the ‘crime that dare not speak its name.’ No doubt if you speak an ill word against your feelings for your children, you’ll end up feeling guilty or shamed by others. But is it really a crime to be a normal human being? Lara and Jenn tackle this tough topic on today’s episode.

Many people have relationship ambivalence, but few people talk about it.

You aren’t supposed to dislike your kids or wish they weren’t around. They are the shining light in your life, and the world should revolve around them. Right? Right? At least, that’s what society tells us. But what is the nitty-gritty truth about motherhood? Do we somehow transcend our real feelings and become god-like in our ability to never think a negative thought? Of course not. Jenn and Lara share their own stories of how they’ve struggled with guilt and negativity and sometimes, anger, as new mothers.

Are these feelings normal?

In fact, yes. They are. They’ve been medically documented and are considered common. You aren’t a terrible person or a heartless mother. But the real danger lies in when you try to suppress those feelings, when you bury them and let them fester as ‘mommy guilt.’ There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to help relieve yourself of the guilt, but Jenn found that accepting the way she felt as normal helped. She also recognized that she might need a little more alone time and some boundaries.

You don’t have to fall in love at first sight.

Your friends who have children have probably told you how much they love being a mother, how they loved their baby while it was still in the womb. Or maybe, they’re just afraid to say the truth. It’s such a huge change in a woman’s life to become a mother, and so much of it is figuring out who you are again. This can create resentment but don’t worry. True love grows. You won’t always like your children, but you will always love them.

You don’t have to be in love 100% of the time.

Try to think of one thing you love 100% of the time. Hard to do, isn’t it? Your job, your marriage, your home… whatever. It’s the same with being a mother, though you might find that the swing from high to low can be much greater. One minute, they’re the most beautiful thing alive, and the next minute, a little tyrant whose water cup being empty is the end of the world. The feelings are far more complicated than you might have ever experienced.

What to do when YOU feel maternal ambivalence.

Reach out. It can be as simple as Googling other mothers’ experiences and real talk. Add things into your life that combine the best of what you love. You can join a community (like ours!) and talk about it. But if your feelings are extreme and frequent, like you might harm yourself or your baby, then a licensed psychiatrist can help you. Don’t let the shame keep you from getting the support you need and deserve. It’s not easy being a mother and you don’t have to do it alone!

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