Monday, 13 August 2012

The lows, the highs, the dark, the light, the hate and ultimately the love

In this blog I want to find the balance- too often it is easy to simply focus on the joys and idealism of being a parent alongside advice on how to be best meeting your little ones needs so I wanted to acknowledge that parenting is not all giggles and sunny days. There are times when we simply feel pushed to our limits and might even feel resentful, angry and maybe a little hatefully towards our little ones and find ourselves falling short of meeting our little ones’ needs in the way all the books say we should.

I think it can be easy to feel that having these emotions and not being in control somehow means we are not the ‘perfect’ mum but striving to be the perfect mum is not realistic or healthy.  In fact I think there is more value in being imperfect, or to refer to the well-used phrase of Donald Winnicott, an English paediatrician and psychoanalyst, to be a ‘good enough mum’.  I think that it is important that we do sometimes fail our children as this is part of their growing up and initiation into life.

I am reminded of watching the film Shadowlands where they liken the pain that comes with the joy of love to that of the shadows that are created by sunshine- dark is part and parcel of light. Parenting can be magical and the love we feel for our kids is often more than we can imagine but as I’ve said we can also have equally intense feeling of anger, frustration or even hate, albeit briefly. Winnicott is also famous for his 18 ‘reasons why mum hates baby’. If we wanted to avoid there being these intense feelings, or the shadows, then there would be no sunshine, no light, no love- it would just be grey- would we really want such a bland, mute existence? What we can do is enjoy the light but remember to respect the shadows and sometimes shine a torch into the shadows to acknowledge what is there.

I think the trick is to take ownership of these powerful feelings that can be triggered, especially when we are tired and pushed to our limits and taken time out to understand what it is triggering them rather than simply blindly acting them out, which is when they become dangerous and destructive. It is of benefit to all to stop to listen to what we are trying to tell ourselves and learn, making changes where necessary and growing in ourselves. We can also extend this learning process to include our little ones, by starting to teach our children about these emotions, demonstrating to them how best to manage them and bringing into the equation this other side of life. Also if it is them pushing our boundaries we can communicate to them what is and is not acceptable and what the consequences can be of their actions on another. We are ultimately preparing them so they can survive and partake in the dance of life and what better way to learn then with us in the safety of a loving, intimate relationship. 

What I want to remember is that even though my daughter is the most precious thing to me and many moments throughout the day my heart swells with love, there are also times when she does push me to my absolute limits and rather than acting out in these moments I need to accept and acknowledge that I will feel angry/resentful/hurt, and that is okay- what is important is how I deal with the situation. The really intimacy of my relationship with my daughter comes in accepting the whole package- the lows, the highs, the dark, the light, the hate and ultimately the love.

Below some of Winnicott’s reasons a mum hates baby:
’After an awful morning with him she goes out, and he smiles at a stranger, who says: Isn’t he sweet?’
‘He is ruthless, treats her as scum, an unpaid servant, a slave.’
‘He tries to hurt her, periodically bites her, all in love’
‘He is suspicious, refuses her good food, and makes her doubt herself, but eats well with his aunt’