Becoming a mother was my destiny. For as long as I can recall, I have known that I would be a mother. There was no scenario I imagined for my life that didn’t involve me being a mom. It was even written in the stars. I am a Cancer, the consummate mother.
That is why it was so surprising to me when I became a mother and I didn’t really like it.
The Dark Time
From the moment I knew that I was carrying my daughter inside of me, I loved her fiercely. The connection was raw, almost pulsating. After she was born that love loomed over me like an iron cloud, ever present and foreboding.
There was nowhere to go and nothing to do but just be still and available, ever vigilant to her needs.
She was an “easy” baby, in the sense that she slept and didn’t have colic. But she was still a baby with a lot of needs to be met. She was so cute and so tiny and I loved her so much…but I didn’t really like her. I was exhausted and over-worked, trying to keep my marriage together, finish college, and parent a newborn while working full-time at a bar.
The first three months were so difficult that I barely remember them. My friend, who is a parent of twins, refers to the first three months of parenthood as “The Dark Time” and I find her description rather apt. Surely, I had undiagnosed post-partum issues. I didn’t even know how to experience and name my feelings at the time.
My daughter was born Thanksgiving on the precipice of an incredibly snowy and blistering cold winter in Denver. One day, during the very wee hours of the morning, I was attempting (unsuccessfully as usual) to breastfeed my tiny infant while sitting on the edge of our bed.
I was so tired. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. She was struggling to latch. The snow was swirling in the frigid air with wretched cruelty. I felt so worn down. And then the thought came…
“I can just go. I’ll just drop her on the floor and walk away. Yeah. I’ll just walk. I go out the front door and walk away.”
Something stirred inside of me and snapped me back. I woke up my husband and handed him our daughter and promptly removed myself to the basement, shaken by my thoughts.
How could I love her so much and yet dislike my parenting experience equally as much?
It seemed wrong. Was I even fit to be a parent? There are so many people that seem to be just head over heels in love with their parenting experience, especially the part that involves babies. I couldn’t relate.
The Good News
As I have had the better part of a decade to reflect on the early months (okay…years) of parenting and the overwhelm it can bring, I have consciously chosen to share this story often. In that moment, when The Thought occurred, I felt so numb and alone. What I realize now is that the experience of loving one’s child while also not necessarily liking them very much is incredibly common.
The experience of loving one’s child while also not liking them is incredibly common.
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A taut line woven of frustration and joy binds all parents to one another. It is the most horribly magical thing a person can do, become a parent.
The good news is that, with every week of parenting, I grew to like my daughter more and more. By the time she was one, I actually really liked spending my time with her and now that she is an elementary schooler, I can’t get enough of her!
I love her in a way that levitates me instead of weighing me down. Do I still like her all of the time? Hell no. She is the master at pissing me off. But that is just because she is so much like me and that little mirror is painful to look into. She is my greatest teacher.
I’ve told this story many times to many parents and the reactions are always interesting. They either seem to be genuinely horrified or genuinely relieved to hear that other people have had those types of thoughts. A few of my friends have confessed to me that they judged me rather harshly when I told them about The Thought but they came to understand completely when they became parents themselves.
I tell the story because it is an important one to tell. Postpartum hormonal imbalances can wreak havoc on one’s thoughts. On top of that, our children are people and that means that they aren’t always likable. Most of the people I love I don’t like some of the time, my daughter included.
What to Do Now
So you don’t like your kid or don’t necessarily love being a parent? That’s okay. Everyone has different experiences in their relationships. Just keep loving your children and showing up with your whole self. Breathe deeply and be present.
Also, give yourself a break. A lot of parents I know make their experience miserable by doing too much and crushing themselves with expectations. Do things that are just for you and have nothing to do with your family obligations. If you have a spouse or partner, keep connecting with them physically and emotionally as much as you can. Happy partnerships make happy families.
Finally, give your children independence and take some weight off of yourself. Give your baby thirty minutes of alone time (while still awake) in a safe room twice a day from the time they are a few months old and then keep this up until they go to school. Teaching your children how to be good at being alone with themselves is not only a critical life skill, it also helps you keep your sanity and maybe listen to a podcast or read a book once in a while too!
And you, new mama reading this article while hanging by a thread. This message is for you: Thank you for making the world a better place by conscientiously raising your little human.
You clicked on this article because you are a mother made of love and you want to do your best. Give yourself the grace you deserve and know that your child is probably going to turn out to be an awesome adult and along the way you will make a lifetime of breathtaking memories. Hang in there, your mama tribe is with you.
What was your early parenting experience like? Share with us in the comments below!
RB Fast is a Montessori mom, author, speaker, and leadership coach. She is a frequent presenter at education conferences across the US. You can connect with her at www.beelineconsulting.net or on FB & Twitter.
Image courtesy of Micah Hallahan.