Ambivalence in Maternity: What You Should Know

09 December, 2020
Maternity comes with its ups and downs, and it's necessary to accept them and normalize ambivalence.

Becoming a mother is an extraordinary experience. The love you feel for your child is infinite. You would do anything for their well-being. But this bond, as well as other bonds, also has less enjoyable emotions. Ambivalence in maternity is completely normal.

Idealizing mother-child relationship is, many times, harmful. Due to social requirements, women have to deal with exhaustion, frustration, and the need for freedom they don’t know how to manage. You might ask yourself: How can I feel this way about my child?” Then you feel guilty.

The myth of being a perfect mother

Since you’re a little girl, you constantly hear that maternity will be the top of your life. You’ll feel completely happy once you become a mother. And then you’ll know what real love means. Society has an idealized and distorted idea of this bond. They sell the image of a selfless mother whose only purpose is to always be available for her children.

ambivalence in maternity

So, when a woman becomes a mother, consciously or unconsciously, she hopes to reach these standards. It’s true that love is immense and you give up a lot of things. But it also demands that every sacrifice is done with a smile on your face and without any doubts.

As days go by, the mother of a newborn starts feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and alone. The burden of responsibilities upon her shoulders, the lack of sleep and support, and the uncertainty of not knowing if she’s doing everything right all start affecting her. But these negative feelings aren’t discussed in the manual of being a good mother.

Nobody talks about the anguish and desperation after continuous hours of your baby’s crying. There’s no place to express the fear, anger or frustration mothers experience. No one tells you that, sometimes, you wish to run away and feel free again. Especially, they don’t tell you that this is completely normal.

Ambivalence in maternity

Every bond we establish with other people has contradictory emotions at different levels. There aren’t relationships of pure love. Even with our family, friends or partner we experience feelings of love and hate: we love some of their qualities and some others bother us. Nobody forces us to feel a perfect devotion for other people. But this doesn’t happen when it comes to maternity.

The closer and more intimate our bond is with a person, the more intense are the ambivalent emotions. There’s no doubt that the mother-child relationship is one of the strongest bonds there is. For this reason, it’s common that these contradictory emotions appear.

In no other relationship do we engage with the same vehemence. No other relationship requires such an effort from us. But negative emotions aren’t allowed in maternity. This leads to feel guilty, confused, inadequate, and even mean.

ambivalence in maternity

Normalizing feelings of ambivalence

It’s time to normalize ambivalence in maternity and allow ourselves to discover, feel, and manage emotions freely. It’s normal being exhausted, overwhelmed, lost or sad sometimes. It’s also normal to want someone else to take care of your child for a bit, so you can have some of your independence back.

You’re not forced to dedicate yourself completely to maternity or smile all the time. It’s not healthy or realistic. You’re a human being facing an especially tough and demanding challenge, both physically and emotionally. Allow yourself to feel this duality.

Listen to your ambivalent emotions without guilt. Feeling tired or overwhelmed doesn’t mean that you’re going to mistreat or neglect your child. And of course, these emotions don’t erase the love you feel for your child.

The best thing you can do for yourself, for your child and the bond between you both, is to accept yourself with your ups and downs. Admitting the aspects of maternity that you don’t like is also part of the process. Accepting these negative emotions will make you feel free of guilt that shouldn’t belong to you.