The Other Crime that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Barbara Almond photoBarbara Almond, psychotherapist and author of The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood, writes about the common, but little-discussed issue of maternal ambivalence in her most recent blog post for Psychology Today. Read it below:


This blog is about the dilemmas of modern parenting and the painful emotions that ensue from attempts to do it perfectly. As human culture has developed and changed over the milennia, so too has human parenting. But the passion to raise children “correctly” has reached an apex over the past 30 years or so that burdens contemporary parents to a disturbing degree. These demands engender ambivalence, that mixture of loving and hating feelings that characterizes all important relationships.

Ambivalence arises where there is a conflict between the needs of the parents and those of their children. For example, a loving mother, who has nursed her infant happily every few hours during the day, cannot really welcome being woken out of a much needed sleep every few hours all night long. Yet many women feel guilty and depressed at their own resentment, exhaustion and unfriendly thoughts. That resentment seems very understandable—after all, she does feed the baby even if she would rather not at that moment–but it isn’t, to the mothers themselves. An acquaintance confessed to me that her mother’s group once took up the subject of their resentment towards their children and then felt so guilty, they could never go back to it again.

Maternal ambivalence is “the crime that dare not speak its name” in the 21st century (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde who referred to homosexuality as the crime that dare not speak its name in the 19th century.) Everyone feels it, but has trouble talking about it, and those who do speak up raise feelings of alarm in those who are pushing these feelings out of consciousness.

It seems so puzzling–ambivalence is a normal human phenomenon. What you love, you can also lose. Those you love can leave you, reject you, and disappoint you. How can anyone always be loving? The need to suppress negative feelings is really more of a burden than parents realize.

Read the full post at Psychology Today.

One thought on “The Other Crime that Dare Not Speak Its Name

  1. Definately right Barbara.
    But why is that? If you look at the so called people to follow “the stars” (all the famous ppl – everybody is following their steps and does what they do. Genesis of the problem is all the information that is flooding us.

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