Losing my maternal instincts

Before I left for my trip, there was a night where I felt Rage towards my children. It was the first time in years that I was physical towards them. It was the first time ever that I was rough with Animal. I hadn’t felt or acted this way for years–since my oldest were 3 and 4, and I was a single mom working full time and trying to survive on nothing. There is never an excuse. There wasn’t then, and there isn’t now. That night, a few weeks back, gave me a moment of Clarity. I walked out my front door, after having thrown something at my eldest and confining my little one to his crib. I sat on the porch and I sobbed. I called my husband and confessed my crimes, looking for support or sympathy….something besides what I received–which was more anger and harsh words. Through my tears I asked him if I was becoming a child abuser. Did an abuser know they were abusing? Did they question their actions? Was I spinning out of control? Was I going to hurt my children again? Was this Rage going to escalate?

The vacation couldn’t have come at a better time. When I arrived at the airport, there was surprisingly, no tears. When I tried to nurse my baby before my flight, he wriggled free, uninterested. The lump in my throat that I expected to form was nonexistent. I felt nothing. I said my goodbyes and then I forgot.

During my trip I slept and thought and relaxed and had fun and exhausted myself and laughed.

There were a few times when my best friend’s daughter was cuddly and sweet and I briefly missed my own baby. But those times were fleeting. To be perfectly honest, I really only missed my dog.

I didn’t want to go home. I couldn’t bear to leave my best friend again. Always leaving, always separating. I felt I would miss her more than I missed my own children. I told her it wasn’t fair and again, there were tears. I considered missing my flight. I thought about what would happen if I never came back. I weighed my options, and the guilt pressed down on me until I was suffocated with it.

When I arrived home, my older boys were all smiles. They gave me homeade Valentines and kissed me, but mostly they just wanted the gifts I had bought for them on my trip. My husband briefly embraced me. The house was clean. The children had been fed regular, wholesome meals. They had not only survived without me. They had done better.

And my baby, my sweet little graham-cracker-smelling baby, just stared at me. There were no smiles, no babbling, no chubby little arms to reach for me. He sat there and stared, and then looked away with disinterest. I picked him up and held him, kissing his cheeks and smelling the folds of his neck. He pushed away. His eyes scanned the room and he whined, holding out his arms for Daddy. Later, after things had settled, I held him again and offered my breast after 8 long days without. He turned his head, squirming away, begging to be let free. Throughout the evening I kept offering with always the same reaction.

I went to bed early and cried some more, the pillow wet with my tears. My husband came in for some comfort. I told him I felt as if I had lost every last shred of maternal instinct. Maybe I never had any to begin with.

I don’t know what this is. If it’s PMS or if it’s a hormonal fluctuation due to weaning, or brief situational depression. Or if it’s worse. I don’t know what to do with the feelings and picking them apart like this only brings guilt. All I know is that I feel like a fraud. A mother only pretending to be.

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6 Responses to “Losing my maternal instincts”


  1. 1 ladyareto February 19, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    I love you honey! You’re not a fraud. I think you’re amazing. And I’m sure it’s a little different, but you know when I go away and come back home, Xena doesn’t want anything much to do with me a lot of times (if it’s for a long time). I think little ones have short memory and attention spans and when you go away and come back they’ve been so distracted with everything else going on, it’s like “who are you?” Anyway, I love you. It sounds like a change, not a loss of your maternal instincts. But I can sympathize.

    Love ya

  2. 2 ladyareto February 19, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Let’s talk on the phone soon.

    And I got your reply on myspace – we should chat in person. Yay:)

  3. 3 O February 19, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    You’re the most normal, loving, caring, good mother, good friend I know. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way, but it will pass, and if it doesn’t there is always the next vacation… I hope you find the inner peace I know you have.

    Love love love love love love love love – O

  4. 4 Top Gifts February 20, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Everybody goes through stuff like that, but it’s worth it

  5. 5 antropologa February 20, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Yes, children can be frustrating, and sometimes we let it show. It’s okay. Maternal instinct doesn’t mean being super-nice all the time. You may be interested in Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s book MOTHER NATURE
    A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection. I read it in college. Here’s something about it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/01/23/reviews/000123.23magurrt.html

    Anyway, if you were an abuser (I say this as a former social worker) you would not be feeling guilty about how you acted and what that says about you. You would be blaming your children for “causing” you to act that way.

    It’s a tribute to your friendship and your ability to still be a young person who has fun that you weren’t totally delighted to leave and be a mommy and wife again. It’s not a sign that you aren’t good at motherhood.

    I’m sorry you were sad! Also, everyone I’ve talked to said that weaning totally fucks you up. So heads-up on that.

  6. 6 Louisa February 21, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Girl. Yup. Re-entry is a bitch.
    Bug hugs from this quarter.
    XX L


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