I just read a very....ummm....hearty debate on the Essential Baby Website about a mum who has admitted that she resents having children and hates being a mother. (www.essentialbaby.com.au )
I applaud this mum for speaking out about how she feels, because there are probably many mums out there who feel the same, or at least most mums have felt times during motherhood where they felt resentment and hatred for this very demanding role. I know I have felt this way at times, especially when the kids were younger.
It takes a lot of courage to speak out about how you really feel about something and too many mums are under this misconception that you must portray an image of enjoying motherhood and loving every aspect of it, in order to live upto this perfect mum facade. Sadly, because of this facade, too many mums suffer in silence and don't get any help for fear of being judged harshly and feeling like a failure.
The reality is that this motherhood gig is full of demands and takes a lot of time, commitment and self-sacrifice to pull it off and often we are in conflict with this reality and continue to have endless conversations with ourselves about how we wish it was different and how much we hate it.
Unfortunately, although this is how we might be feeling, if we want to feel better about the situation, we must stop these conversations and change the way we view the situation. Unless she adopts her children out or runs away like she sometimes wants to, changing the way she thinks about motherhood is the ONLY way this mum can change how she feels about it. The only way!
All stress come from a conflict between belief and reality. The reality is that kids are demanding, at whatever age and there are obligations that we must fill as their parents. I remember asking my girlfriend (who had older children) if it got easier. Her response was it just becomes hard in different ways
If we continue to deny this reality, then it will cause us stress. The more we converse with ourselves about how bad it is, the worse we will feel. The more we put our attention on how much we hate and resent a situation the more the brain will continue to find more evidence to support these thoughts and the worse you will feel. It is a spiral effect and it sends us into depression, and sometimes even suicide to continue to think like this.
THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT SOMETHING IS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
But it's all well and good for me to say this to you, but how do I change how I think about it, you ask. Well that is the skill that needs to be learnt. It is exactly the reason why I wrote The Happy Mum Handbook and why I am so passionate about helping others to feel differently about this demanding role. You need to understand how you have come to think this way, how the brain works, how to identify specific thoughts that cause stress, and more importantly see many different ways and examples of how to retrain your mind to see situations differently.
I can totally relate to most of what this mum is saying and I can honestly say that by changing how I viewed my new life as a mum, I have gone onto accept the different challenges that come to me and feel (most of the time, lol) like a happy mum.
We create our view of life as a child between the ages of 0 and 7 and mostly this view of life is carried through for the rest of our lives, unless we have done the work to change it, or had experiences that have taught us to look at life differently. Chances are that looking at what she doesn't like about life and seeing the glass as half empty is a normal mindset for this mum, however because of the huge change in life, this tendency to think this way has been hugely magnified.
This can be quite common. Stress causing beliefs often lay dormant in us until situations arise that trigger them, we become in conflict with reality and this is where stress, depression and anxiety are created, all because of incorrect thinking set up in childhood.
It is our thinking that needs to be addressed, not the situations. The reality for this mum is that she has children and she can't change that (irregardless of how much she would like to). The only way that she can deal with this is to find the value in it and start to see the good parts of it and send her mind in that direction instead. When she starts to find just one or two great things about being a mum and continues to redirect her mind back to those great things every time she starts to contemplate what is bad about being a mum, eventually she will teach her mind to search for the 'hidden good in the bad'.
There is another aspect to this picture that needs to be addressed as well - what effect does it have on kids when a mum resents and hates motherhood on a regular basis.
If you are feeling resentful about your role of being a mum (and I'm talking more often than not, not simply getting frustrated occassionally) and you continue to have conversations in your mind about how you wish it was different (conflict with reality) and how much you hate what is happening, then your reactions send a message to your kids.
Regardless of whether you are verbally speaking this resentment and hatred to your kids or whether you are just silently seething under your breath or in your mind, you are still sending a message out to your kids through body language, visible emotions and your reactions and there is a strong chance that they may be interpreting your behaviour as meaning something about them. They may be feeling like they are not good enough to gain your approval, or that they are a pain and not worth time being spent on them, or a whole host of perceptions that they form from your reactions and your unhappiness.
At the best of times, kids can often get incorrect perceptions on life from their experiences and they sometimes don't often know how to interpret emotions - either their own or someone elses. It is a continual process to stay aware of our child's language and the way they are perceiving life to help them understand true self-worth and the reality of life's ups and downs. (Another reason why I wrote The Happy Mum Handbook. If mums understand these healthy concepts on life and self-worth, guess what they teach their kids?)
Talking about the impact our emotions have on our kids is not to make this mum (or anyone else feeling this way), like a bad mother and like they are a failure, but simply to give you even more motivation to change the way you view motherhood and become aligned with the reality that you have children and can't turn back time. Regardless of whether we resent motherhood or not, I'm sure that most of us still love our kids and none of us want our children growing up feeling like they are not good enough, because we all know how shitty we feel ourselves when we don't feel good enough to the world.
I only highlight this connection between how we feel and how our kids interpret how we feel and react, because sometimes we can feel so consumed in our own overwhelm, that we simply aren't able to see this link until it is pointed out.
Well, this has been a very long blog, I know and well done to those who have stuck with it. It is a topic that is very close to my heart and one that I am very passionate about. My heart goes out to this mum who feels this way and my only hope is that she is reading this post right now so that she gets a copy of this book and learns how she can change her mindset.
To all the other mothers out there feeling the same, know that you are not alone and that there is help for you to change the way you feel about your life.