Motherhood is an amazing and beautiful thing, but it isn’t always full of sunshine and roses. In fact, being a new mother is a very challenging experience and can cause unexpected negative feelings that don’t match the overall feeling of love a mother has for her child.
Maternal ambivalence may cause feelings of shame and guilt, but reject those feelings. If you feel maternal ambivalence at times, realize that you are not alone and you are not a bad mom. But there are some things you can do to cope with your conflicting feelings and prevent them from causing a wedge in your relationship with your little one.
What Is Maternal Ambivalence?
When a mother feels highly conflicting emotions dealing with their child, it can bring up intense feelings of confusion and guilt. But the truth is, maternal ambivalence affects every mother at some point. It’s possible for a mother to feel love, frustration, anger, and affection for her child all at the same time!
Maternal ambivalence can encompass a lot of emotions, including indifference, frustration and intense anger. Often these feelings are fleeting, but they may also continue off and on over the space of weeks or even months.
Causes of Ambivalence
There are a variety of potential causes for maternal ambivalence. They include:
- Living in a culture that pushes the false idea of “perfect” mothers and “ideal” motherhood
- Excessive stress
- Lack of sleep
- A poor relationship with your own mother
- Traumatic interruptions in the development of the mother-child bond (such as family problems, illness, or physical separations from each other)
- Changes in hormones that cause mood swings
- Lack of support from family and friends
- Having a child with health problems, colic, or trouble sleeping
These are all potential reasons you might feel ambivalent toward your child. If you feel this way, reject the propensity to feel guilty and shameful. Instead, focus on the things you can do to change your outlook and foster a more loving relationship with your child (while realizing that some degree of frustration and anger is inevitable throughout motherhood).
How To Find Support
If you’re struggling with maternal ambivalence, you don’t have to suffer alone. There are resources available to help you cope. Some suggestions include:
- Talking with a mental health practitioner
- Confiding in a trusted friend or family member
- Working to develop a stable bond with your baby (this can begin in pregnancy and continue after the baby is born)
- Getting treatment for mental health conditions, such as postpartum depression and hormone imbalances
- Reading books on maternal ambivalence and how to get through it
If your negative feelings toward your child ever escalate to levels that could be dangerous for either of you, please talk to a mental health professional immediately. There is an entire community of professionals and other mothers who have been through what you’re going through and know how to lend the support you need. You should also remember that your periods of maternal ambivalence will not last forever. Learning coping mechanisms to help you get through them is highly recommended.
Maternal ambivalence happens to every mom at some point. The degree of negative emotions may vary from time to time and from mom to mom, but you are certainly in good company. If you’re struggling, talk to other mothers who have been through what you’re going through and have advice for helping you cope. You may also want to hire a babysitter to come over on a regular basis so you can sleep, shop, or do something to rejuvenate your mental health.
If you need more help getting a fussy baby to sleep at night, try gripe water, such as Wellements Organic Nighttime Gripe Water. It may soothe your little one’s tummy so he or she can get sleep (which means you’ll be able to get sleep as well!)