The Myth of Motherhood: I Like My Children as Much as I love Them
We love our kids! For most of us they are the center of our world – every thought begins and ends with them. Loving our kids is different than liking them. Loving them is something that just ‘is’, its unconditional. But, liking them is something altogether different.
When we like someone its usually because we get something from them that makes us feel good. We hang with our friends because they make us laugh, they listen to our woes and celebrations, they think about us and want the best for us. Does this sound like a parent-child relationship? Nope! Not when they are young anyway. I don’t know many young children who want to listen to their parent’s woes (nor should they – that’s a bit of a boundary), thinks about their parent during the day other than to wonder when they will get picked up at school and if there will be a stop for ice-cream or a Slurpee on the way home. And what young child is celebrating their parent? Even on Mother’s or Father’s Day, the one Hallmark day of the year when moms and dads are recognized, even on this day, kids are not really thinking about their parents in a thoughtful way.
So, what’s to like? Yes, they are cute as can be. Yes, their smiles and laughter bring joy to our day but on the whole, minute to minute throughout the day, they are exhausting and they drain us. For many, the idea of children and parenting is what feels good but the daily grind is less than fulfilling.
I hear all kinds of stories from moms and dads about how they feel about their children. Some parents are emmeshed with their children and they and their child don’t have an identity outside of their role as ‘mom’, ‘dad’ or ‘my mom’s son or daughter’. This always worries me for both the child and the parent. We are supposed to separate from our parent as we develop – it’s a important part of growing up.
Some parents have such very different temperaments than their child and they just don’t ‘fit’ well and it causes great distress for the parent who wonders “am I a good parent to this child? Would my child be better off without me?” This is actually a ‘thing’ that really happens and it’s often the conversation in therapy. You’re child may have a ‘chill’ kind of temperament – the type of child who enjoys books and coloring and you’re temperament is more active – you like physical activity, being on the go, and trying new things. You dreamed of doing certain things with your child and imagined your child would love it. What happens when you realize that your child doesn’t want to go for a bike ride and you don’t want to color? For many parents this is a crisis! It feels like ‘they don’t like me’, or ‘we don’t connect.’ The meaning one finds in these thoughts and feelings is profound in how we see ourselves as a parent. Its hard to like your child if you don’t enjoy doing things together.
Sometimes, kids just get on our nerves! Our needs are so different than theirs. One night when I was tucking my daughter into bed for God-only-knows-how-many-times and as I was trying to control my anger and irritation with her as she clung to me, hugging me, and saying “but I love you so much mommy’ while laughing and giggling (can you picture it?!). I was tired and just wanted to watch a little TV, and then she said “I just want to be with you, always, I never want to be apart from you.” Wow!!! Other than the first few months of dating someone new (and the anxious attachment to my child in the early months of her life), I have not felt that for another person. I realized, sadly, I don’t feel that way about my child. I love her, I enjoy her most of the time, and I really do like being with her a lot, but I also want to get away from her.
That realization hurt. I felt bad about myself as a mom. I wondered, how can I be so loved by this incredible little human being (whom I have wanted since I was 10yo) and want to get away from her at the same time?
I’m not alone. And neither are you. We are parents and we are forever connected to our children. And we are adults and we have adult needs that cannot be met in our relationship with our children and that’s ok. Its not our child’s job to listen to our woes or celebrate our joys. Its not their job to be our friend. Its not their job to think about us except from a child’s perspective. Its not their job to fulfill our needs. That is our job as an adult.
We are obligated to take care of ourselves, to enjoy adult interests and find pleasure in things other than our kids. When we pursue our own interests and do things that make us happy as an adult, we are much more able to enjoy our children as parents. Their fake laughs and pointless jokes and never-ending story telling is much more tolerable, and may even be sweet, when we have given ourselves the gift of time away from our child to do what we enjoy too.
The next time you think “I cant wait to get away from you” or “I’m a terrible parent for not enjoying this more”, remember that you are normal and you will enjoy them more and connect even better when you get your needs met too.
Post below how you plan to get a break from your child this week.