Ooooh, my favorite topic to get on my soapbox about is the negative feelings we mamas all have but that we're not supposed
to feel. Ready?
I would like to know who decided we aren't supposed to feel resentment (or any other negative feelings for that matter). I haven't talked to a lot of moms about negative feelings, mainly because I don't feel close enough to many moms to do so. But when I have talked to my closest friends about negative feelings, they too have said they feel resentment. I feel resentment. Not every day, but it's there-though these days I feel it less and less often. Yes, especially when it comes to my challenging child. It's not comfortable. I resent that very few things are easy when it comes to this child-I've resented that a long time. I resent that every morning involves some sort of struggle over socks or pants or food or getting out of bed. I resent getting next to no sleep every night for the past 6 years. I resent that now that my oldest is in school she needs me on Saturdays, so the kids don't go to my mom's for the day which means I don't get a break-ever. I don't blame my children for these things, I understand my children's needs and quirks, but I resent these things.
Do I really resent my child
? I don't think so, not really. I used to always think the resentment I feel is toward my child-but nowadays I understand that my resentment comes from other things and I sometimes direct it toward my child (kwim?). I resent the fact that I expected parenting to be easy-based on all the myths the books and media and people around me and the pediatrician perpetuate-and it has not ever been easy. I resent the cultural myth of Sleeping Through The Night. I resent encountering everywhere I turn the idea that I must be doing something wrong because this is so hard-I was too lenient or too strict or too inconsistent or, or, or...I resent doing this alone every day, especially when I'm so tired I can barely see straight. I resent being the only one who can get the kids to sleep at night and it takes almost an hour to do it-at the very time of day I most need a break (dh tries, bless him, but the kids won't do it). I resent being the one who takes on the lion's share of the parenting and housework with little help (again, dh does a lot when he's home, but he works long hours) even though I chose this path knowing it would be this way and I wouldn't do it any other way (and really, wouldn't it still mostly fall on my if I were working outside the home? It does for all the working moms I know). I resent the fact that we live in a society with no real support for mothers, and not much more respect. I resent the fact that in our society mothers are so often blamed for their kids behavior or choices or health, as if we have total control over our kids. I resent that when I need to talk about my feelings I get "well, you chose
to be a stay at home mom" or "You chose
to have three kids"-as if the fact that I chose it means that I don't get to find it challenging and I don't need support. I resent the attitude I encounter that I'm doing something wrong by trying to respect my children and their needs and to work with them rather than just "lay down the law" or "let 'em cry" or "ignore them, don't reinforce that crying". Then I resent the other (and often next) comment, which is usually something about my being too harsh because I am speaking firmly to my child about an important issue. I deepy, deeply, viciously resent the idea that mothers shouldn't feel resentful or angry or frustrated or bored or any number of other improper negative feelings.
I think this cultural ideal of mothers having no negative feelings and being totally responsible for the children is a means of oppression. Who started it and when, I don't know (does anyone?), but it persists and we are all complicit in its perpetuation at some point. This persistent cultural ideal keeps women "in line" and it keeps us busy judging ourselves and each other instead of being a strong force within the culture. What would happen if we could just be human and that were good enough, and we could believe in ourselves and support and help one another without all this angst? What kind of force could we be?
Want a good read? Try Ourselves as Mothers
by Sheila Kitzinger (I think?). It's great on the newness of the western mother-at-home-alone-with-children model of mothering (how different it is from the mothering experience throughout history and in other parts of the world) and the real feelings mothers feel. Also, The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood
-this one's pretty good too.
Okay, spent too long on my soapbox. People, even mothers, aren't supposed
to feel or not feel anything. Feelings are feelings. Period. It's good to talk about them and understand them, so they don't build up inside and come out at your children in inappropriate or hurtful ways. But the feelings themselves, they're not wrong. They may be a sign that something isn't right or you have unmet needs, but the feelings themselves aren't wrong. Feelings happen.
ETA that I'm really not as angry as I probably sounded in this post.
I'm a happy mama who is finally (at least for now) feeling at peace with most things. Resentment is not a daily occurence. And though I've talked a lot in this thread about my problems yelling at my kids, it's been a long time since I yelled. I'm a much calmer, much more gentle mama than I used to be. I'm in the zone right now, and it feels good. Part of getting to this place was facing the negative feelings (instead of feeling ashamed of them and stuffing them away) so that I could grow, and that is why this is such a soapbox issue for me.