Dr. Jekyll and Momma Hyde

Facing the darker side of parenting

Like most women, I changed profoundly when I became a mother. For starters, there emerged within me a person I had never met, a person I liked very much?a loving, caring, nurturing woman who thrived on providing for her little one. I watched her amazed.

But another person emerged who was not nearly as attractive. She was frazzled and angry and impatient. She snapped at her husband, lost her temper quickly and sometimes even resented losing the freedom she'd once had. And I watched her in amazement.

In his classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson begins with the doctor saying, "I stood already committed to the profound duplicity of life, that humankind is not truly one but two. And that these polar twins should be continuously struggling." Who would have guessed this same polarity exists in motherhood?

The apostle Paul describes this internal struggle between the good and the evil in us when he writes, "I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members" (Rom. 7:21-23). Paul would have made a great mother.

Along with the after-effects of childbirth, the intense emotions equated with being a mother and the real tedium of raising children, these conflicting sides of motherhood are among women's best-kept secrets. Social Anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger writes in her book Ourselves as Mothers (Bantam), "The home is supposed to be a haven of love and good feelings. Thus it comes as a great disappointment to many women that it proves not to be so for them; for it is also a place where the ugliest and most destructive emotions are experienced, where there is disturbing interpersonal conflict. She hates what she has become. Happy as a woman may be to have a baby, and although she may enjoy being a mother, she must now pay the price of motherhood?the total and virtual annihilation of self."

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May 25

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