Where The Wild Things Are
Even moms get scared sometimes and often in pretty surprising ways. The other day I heard a funny story about a mom who confessed how in the middle of the night, she woke up to find an actual monster in her bed. She described how freaked out she was because this ‘thing’ glowed in the dark, made noises and moved. She talked about how her fear grew into a threatening need to extradite the creepy-crawly out of her bed. So with one toe (and in her own defense), she kicked it off her bed…but once she turned on the lights… she suddenly realized (to her horror) that the ‘monster’ was actually her two-year-old toddler, who had unknowlingly crawled into her bed …wearing glow-in-the-dark monster pajamas! She was shocked. Her child was shocked. And the only thing she could do to manage her guilt was to spill it online to her nearest and not-so-dearest. Watching it, I wondered what mind-games those breathing moster-jarmies played on this mother’s mind. It reminded me that something about ‘being a mother’ is scary. And that this ‘something’ is not a thing we like to talk about much.
Sure there is the reality-based stuff to be concerned about: Like strangers in grocery stores and worries about bullying. But then there is the other stuff: The monsters and wild things that live deep inside us and come out to play when we least expect it. Like the monster that peaks out when that mom works a little bit longer instead of going home to hang out with her kids. Is that guilt she feels the nagging necessity to work, or is it because, she actually had a choice to come home early and she chose not to. Are her disturbing feelings her own scary monsters? It may be because being a mom is activating her on all sorts of levels. That she has mixed feelings about having needy humans to go home to. And the only way she can manage those conflicting ‘wild’ feelings is to unconsciously find a reality-based reason to avoid them. Raphael-Leff talks about how moms have wild things (fears and worries) buried in them. These are triggered when confronted by our kids, who physically and emotionally embody a vulnerability that moms don’t let themselves think about. It has been suggested that Post Natal Depression is a sleeping ‘wild thing’ woken up by the birth of a baby that is now a living-breathing-glow-in-the-dark reminder of what is lying beneath. Buried deep in the mind and drenched in personal experience. While we love and adore them, its important to understand that our children are also a reminder of our own younger susceptible selves. The parts of us that are still somewhere actually afraid of being enough, needing too much or missing something vital. These wild feelings are too scary to think about so they hide under the proverbial bed only to come out when we least expect it.
Thinking about that mom’s story, it doesn’t surprise me that her ‘monster incident’ happened when she was half asleep. Because that’s when defenses are down and we let ourselves feel things we wouldn’t dare know about in the day. I hope mom’s know that there there are some parental-fears that are not only normal, but necessary. At the end of the day, I wish more parent’s understood that they don’t need to defend against their own monsters alone in the middle of the night. Because when the lights go on, they get to wake up and realise, all is not as it seems.
- Fraiberg, Adelson & Shapiro, 2003, Parent-Infant Psychodynamics, “Ghosts in the nursery: a psychoanalytic approach to the problems of impaired infant-mother relationships”, Handler-Smith, pp. 54.
- Raphael-Leff, J, 2003, Parent-Infant Psychodynamics, “Where The Wild Thinkgs Are.”, Handler-Smith, pp. 54.