Okay, deep breath!
I am going to try to be measured in my response, to be sympathetic and not judge, figuring I don’t understand because I’m on the outside looking in.
But I’m not exaggerating when I say after reading this article in Redbook Magazine called “Why Don’t I Like My Own Child?” I feel sick to my stomach. Gross.
When you read what ‘Jennifer’ wrote, you’ll understand why the 41-year-old mother of two told her story under an assumed name. Mothers are supposed to love, nurture and protect; it’s how nature ensures survival of the species. And while we know there are differing opinions as to what constitutes a good mother, hearing a woman say she is repelled by her own offspring, flies in the face of every reasonable opinion out there. Here’s how the Today show reported the story after Natalie Morales interviewed the mom in question…
Jennifer’s tale reminded me of another story we debated a few weeks ago, when another mother (who actually did identify herself) admitted that she thought she loved her son more than her daughter. The reaction that time was swift and virulent. But at the of this interview, the editor of Redbook talks about how we should commend Jennifer for being brutally honest about her feelings of failure as a mother. You want brutal honesty? How about a little from Good Enough Mother? “Hey lady, this is not about you!”
In fact there were a number of things that bothered me about this interview but here were the ones I found to be most offensive:
‘JENNIFER’ PLACED EXPECTATIONS ON THE CHILD BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN BORN: No, scratch that, from before she was even CONCIEVED!
Jennifer writes, “Growing up, I had hoped to someday have a daughter, and I had a clear vision of what she would be like: vivacious, spunky, and whip-smart, socially savvy and self-assured. What I got was the polar opposite.” Really? Well boo, frickin’ hoo! Growing up I thought I’d be rich; at the very least I didn’t think life would be as hard as it’s turned out to be. But you don’t see me sittin’ around wringing my hands and asking, “Why me?” I’m playing the hand I was dealt. Kids don’t come with a receipt and a money-back guarantee if they aren’t just as you imagined. Oh and by the way, things are ALWAYS better in our imagination.
‘JENNIFER’ VIEWED HER DAUGHTER’S EVERY MOVE THROUGH A LENS OF FAILURE: Jennifer says, “I thought she would be vivacious and smart and loving and make intense eye contact” She says that Sophie was a poor sleeper, a poor eater and didn’t meet the developmental milestones laid out in the books that she had read.
Okay, really? This is just about the place my head pops off. What if Sophie was shy and needed a little more coaxing? And you mean to tell me Jennifer had already made a decision that her daughter was not smart based on her immature interpersonal skills? She was a baby for God’s sake! Give her a chance to develop those things over time. And speaking of development, while there are milestones to be met, development happens at an individual pace. I did have to laugh out loud when Jennifer told Natalie that it was not too much to expect her baby to eat or sleep. Um, hello? She must not have read many books on newborns. Sheesh.
‘JENNIFER’S’ RELATIONSHIP WITH HER SECOND DAUGHTER: Jennifer tells Natalie that when her second child was born, she finally knew what it was like to have two hearts beat as one. Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Now, against the prism of the perfect second child, she can see what’s so wrong and “off” about the first one. She writes that while her other daughter thrived, Sophie was constantly letting her down. Again, for this mother, it’s all about her. The daughter she is most proud of is the one most like her, strong and robust. It underscores the feeling that Jennifer really wanted her kids to be a shrine to her, a reflection of herself that she could show the world. Jennifer could be proud of her younger daughter; but not so with Sophie who was a source of constant disappointment.
Sophie was ultimately diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency and now that she’s being treated for that, Jennifer says their relationship is better. But do we really think that’s the panacea? It’s my sincere hope that Jennifer learns to loosen up and, like a psychologist told her early on, accept Sophie for the child she is, not the one Jennifer wishes she were. I hope for Sophie’s mental health and well being, her mother is up to that task.
Okay, that’s my take, what about you? How did you feel watching this segment? Can you understand a mother feeling that way about her child? Have you come across similar stories in your own life? Comment away…