Aka Myth Busting, Part 5
All jobs and relationships have their strengths and weaknesses, their ups and downs, their joys and trails. Why would motherhood not include these? Jack Kornfield, the renoun spiritual teacher, wrote a whole book about the spiritual journey titled “after the ecstasy the laundry.” And motherhood includes A LOT of laundry! After the profound experience of giving birth, comes the day to day experience of diapers, (diapers, and more diapers), dishes, bottles, laundry, and spending a lot of time playing on the carpet or in the playground. There are moments within these experiences of Beautiful Aha’s, humour, joy. Recently, my son said to me literally: “I don’t like money. Money is for grown ups. But why did you wipe that poo off my leg? I was SAVING it!” That was a priceless moment of humour. And yet there are often other experiences, too. Of ambivalence.
Barbara Almond, MD, author of The Monster Within—The Hidden Side of Motherhood, states that maternal ambivalence is “the crime that dare not speak its name.” She writes:
Ambivalence arises where there is a conflict between the needs of the parents and those of their children. For example, a loving mother, who has nursed her infant happily every few hours during the day, cannot really welcome being woken out of a much needed sleep every few hours all night long. Yet many women feel guilty and depressed at their own resentment, exhaustion and unfriendly thoughts. That resentment seems very understandable—after all, she does feed the baby even if she would rather not at that moment–but it isn’t, to the mothers themselves.
I have met SO MANY mothers, fabulously attentive, empathic, conscientious mothers who admit, years after the fact, how much they struggled with postpartum depression. Why is it so hard to admit? This myth that motherhood “should” be all-encompassingly fulfilling permeates our cultural subconscious. Dr Almond writes:
The need to suppress negative feelings is really more of a burden than parents realize…What kind of a mother resents her children? Every kind—but in different degrees. The problem is not the feeling which is usually temporary, but the fear of speaking about it- and the resulting feelings of self punishment.
Let’s break the silence and allow the full range of feelings, not only for children developing their emotional understanding, but mothers, too. Mothers who have (an appropriate) place to speak what feels to be unspeakable will be freer of depression, of apathy, of anger stuffed inward, more available for their children, and more available for the whole range of motherhood experiences, glowing and not.