Paradox of parenthood


As I sit writing this blog I’m exactly 2 weeks away from welcoming my second baby into the world.  I’m struck by the powerful but contradictory emotions that I’m feeling.

Just like my first child, this baby is a very much wanted addition to our family.  After struggling to give our son a sibling over the last four years, during this I time I suffered multiple miscarriages, it feels even more of a blessing.  We didn’t think our dream to have another child would come true, despite trying to keep our hope and faith alive.  So I feel genuinely blessed and excited to be having another baby.

Yet, at the same time, I’m sitting with feelings of apprehension and fear.  I’m not sure if it’s the thought of a planned cesarean birth… operation I really didn’t want to have after the difficulties I experienced recovering from an emergency cesarean with my first child. 

Or maybe it’s the knowledge of how tough those first few weeks are with a newborn.  Perhaps it’s the apprehension of juggling a newborn with a very lively 5 year old.  Maybe it’s the fear of getting postpartum depletion again.

Whatever the reason for these feelings, it’s got me thinking about the paradox of parenthood.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes a paradox as:

“a situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics”

I’m not sure about you, but I find the contradictory nature of parenthood a little bit crazy:

  • How can I feel so happy to be having another baby and yet feel scared at the same time?
  • How can I love my child with every cell of my body and yet feel like I want to run away to a desert island at any opportunity?
  • How can I dream of my child sleeping through the night but as soon as they sleep for more than 4 hours in a row I’m fervently watching their chest to make sure it’s rising and falling and they’re alive!
  • How can I want my child to be full of confidence in the world and yet shout ‘be careful’ at them every 5 minutes?
  • How can I constantly crave me-time but as soon as I get it I miss them like crazy?
  • How can I never have a moment alone but sometimes feel lonelier than before I became a mum?
  • How can I feel guilty for my son being an only child and, then when I’m blessed to give him a sibling, feel guilty that he’s no longer going to get my full attention?
  • How can being a mum be the best and worst job I’ve ever had?

There are many more paradoxes of parenthood and I’d love to hear yours.

By nature us humans like to find absolutes, we don’t like uncertainty or ambiguity.  We are conditioned to think that there is a right and wrong. That things are black or white.  This creates a problem when things contradict each other.  How can I be caring and also selfish?  

I was lucky enough to train in Gestalt psychology several years ago in my training as an executive coach.  Gestalt is all about helping people feel complete and whole. During the training we studied the theory of polarities.  In life there will always be a series of polar opposites – whether you call them paradoxes, contradictions, opposites, conflicts.   We all have the potential to be both kind and unkind.  To be happy and sad.  To be caring and selfish.  But often we are taught to judge some qualities as bad or unacceptable.  

As a result we may not acknowledge them, or if we do, we might feel guilty or ashamed to have them within us. To have a healthy self-concept we need to be aware of, and accept, the whole range of these qualities.  When we do we can be whole.  And this leads to wholehearted living.

As Brené Brown brilliantly says:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

So if, like me, you find the paradox of parenthood a little crazy, know that’s ok.  You can both love your children with all your heart and want to run away from them to a quiet desert island…….in the same moment.  So if you find yourself judging yourself for having these mixed feelings, I want you to know that it doesn’t make you a bad mother.  On the contrary, it makes you normal and healthy.


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