Very few mothers breathe these words out loud and even fewer would admit to entertaining these thoughts on more than one occasion —I just don’t like my child.
It goes against all the syrupy mommy-goodness we’ve been taught. We’re reminded on each Pinterest-perfect mom-blog exactly how to do things perfectly, dress your kids like angels, create homemade toys out of burlap and sparklers and a thousand printables shout in beautiful colors how to love your child to the moon and back but where are the moms who admit the truth in the trenches…
I don’t like my child today.
I don’t think it’s a terrible thought to have. Not for long, anyway. I think it’s quite normal. After all, I loved my own mother but there were days I didn’t like her. I love my husband but there have been days I have NOT liked him, either.
Studies say 13% of all new mothers suffer from Postpartum depression. It’s a real thing. I ache for the women who don’t yet know this is what they have and feel terrible about these thoughts—torture for a mommy.
But, what about moms who don’t suffer from this? What about the moms who get to the end of their day and think, I don’t like this child…or this teenager of mine.
Why can’t we say that about our kids? I mean really admit to our husband or our best girlfriend—or even pray these words to God and ask for help? Why is being painfully honest taboo?
Before you go and tell your five year old or fifteen year old you can’t stand him or her today, I’d reel those words back in. Our family is notoriously honest, painfully so…which gives us liberty to tell one another these types of things. Your family may be a bit more sensitive. While I never shared with my toddlers or grammar school kids, “YOU, I don’t like today.” By the time my four were teenagers they heard me say on more than one occasion, “I love you with all my heart but I can’t stand you right now.”
When you’ve lost that loving feeling for your child.
I was speaking at a conference in Florida when a mom pulled me aside. She struggled to put into words what she wanted me to know…a few seconds passed before she could put her thoughts into full sentences.
“I’m a new stepmom. My stepdaughter is in grammar school….”
“Awww, how sweet. “ I smiled.
She gently grabbed my arm, “You don’t understand. She tells me she loves me all the time and I say the words back…but I don’t love her. To be brutally honest, I don’t like her very much, either.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know what to do.” I pray I can love her like my own but each day I wrestle with the same feelings.”
I pulled this mom in for a big hug. “I’m so sorry. What you’re going through is so painful. But, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s not just stepparents who struggle with not liking their stepchild, biological parents go through the same thing sometimes.”
I shared a verse in the Bible that has always helped me remember the example of love God gave each one of us while we were still sinners.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son. John 3:16
I smiled and asked, “Do you love your husband?”
“Yes, of course.”
“God loved the world and GAVE. You love your husband and my guess is you work at thinking of ways to give back to him, so continue to give and to sacrifice for his little girl. In time, your heart will catch up to your actions.”
When a mother dislikes her children there’s usually a good reason; they won’t stop arguing, she’s tired, they aren’t listening, she’s tired, they’re talking back or disrespectful…she’s tired. Mom, there’s a million reasons why you can feel this way. It’s okay not to be that “perfect” mom who loves perfectly. Those women only exist on perfect blogs and Pinterest boards.
If you’re struggling with liking one or more of your children today don’t feel like a failure. Maybe you need a little break or a long nap and a reminder that God loves you, too. Or, maybe, you just need to remember that it’s okay to not like the offspring you’ve sprung for a little while. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human.
Joanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids and Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. She’s been a guest on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and CBN. Joanne and her husband, Paul, recently moved their family from California to Tennessee and happily traded soy milk and arugula for sweet tea and biscuits. Joanne joins her mom-friends over coffee every Saturday morning, sign up and grab your favorite cup—she’d love to have you!