Okay, yes, inflammatory title. But I read something last night that made my stomach knot up into a ball
Contrary to public perception, research shows that the most likely physical abuser of a young child will be that child’s mother, not a male in the household, although the mother’s plight often is complicated by her relationship with a cohabiting male. Abusive mothers frequently are isolated, and lack the parental and extended family or peer support that is necessary to maintain their self-esteem and to buffer the stress of raising children. Without this support, they often seek care and comfort from their children, treating these children as if they were older than they really are. When children fail to provide this support, the mother can become impatient, angry, and sometimes abusive, even when the child is only a crying infant. Others find any social stimulation from their babies (whether smiling or crying) to be much more irritating than normal mothers do. Their abuse in turn adds to their anxiety and feelings of helplessness. If the woman is a second-generation or later generation out-of-wedlock mother, or if she is a teenager, she is less likely to know what the appropriate expectations of a young child should be.
I SO do not want to believe that.
Something in me wants to cling to the romantic notion that a mother would NEVER hurt her children.
Another part of me wants to argue that the bulk of the abuse they’re talking about–over-reactive spanking, shoving, maybe slapping–is not the same as a drunk father throwing punches. That it’s not mothers sending their children to emergency rooms. Usually.
Part of me wants to say that the numbers are skewed, because it’s the mothers who are WITH the children all the time, while the fathers are who-knows-where.
As if any of that justifies anything.
I SO do not want to believe those statistics. And yet, I have heard this story so, so many times. The exhausted, abandoned woman who finally cracks under the stress of her life, and lashes out at her children. And then the guilt, the shame, the horror they feel over their actions.
This is the side of abuse we REALLY don’t like to talk about.
But we need to. Because it happens. A lot.
Take care of yourself, ladies. Your children need you. Don’t think you can be a martyr without taking your kids down with you.
Here’s the part of the post where I want to give women a website to check out, or a number to call, if they feel they are being stretched beyond their limits, and are in danger of snapping. But, um, what would that be? If you feel you are in immediate danger of hurting your children, you can bring them to the emergency room, or a crisis nursery if you have one in your area, but I am well aware that that does nothing to ease the systemic problems these moms are facing.
My questions for you:
How can we better support moms in difficult situations, especially moms who are in an abusive relationship or lack a strong support system?
What should women do/who should they contact if they feel the urge to hurt their children? Bearing in mind that many of these women don’t have massive financial resources at their fingertips?
Could somebody please prove this research wrong? (Please?)