Attachment disruptions can lead to resentment—here’s why you shouldn’t push it away

Motherly Collective

I get attached easily. To people, ideas, objects—even books and TV shows. There’s a certain comfort and predictability that accompanies attachment, but that comes with a big risk. The thing you’re attaching to needs to be static if you’re going to avoid disappointment (spoiler alert:it never is). One agonizing lesson my transition to motherhood has shown me is that attachment needs flexibility, otherwise you open yourself up to a very specific type of disappointment: resentment. 

As a psychologist who works from an attachment perspective, I know that forming strong attachments is vital. We want to feel safe in the world around us. Attaching to people fulfills needs, helps us feel connected and creates social ties that sustain us. The thing about motherhood I’ve noticed, however, is that it tends to bring out all of the difficulties associated with attachment disruptions, or issues related to how we create bonds with others, often dating back to problems that occurred in how we ourselves were parented. While having secure attachments sets us up for healthy relationships and a strong sense of self, those with attachment disruptions, myself included, often find themselves plagued with negative feelings, especially during life transitions where they change, other people change and foundations tend to shift.

The only thing we can be certain about in this life is that it will change. We change. Attachments change. Ideas shift, people change their minds. I certainly did after welcoming my son in the summer of 2022, and the difficulties related to early attachment disruptions became amplified. Everything felt bigger, higher stakes. And while most things felt huge (feelings, disappointments, worries), I started to feel small. Everything else was more important than I was. My needs came last. And confusion accompanied this—isn’t it normal for me to come last? I’m a mom now, after all. Everyone said motherhood would mean sacrifice. Should I feel this angry about my sacrifices? Should I sacrifice more? How happy should I be anyway? If I’m unhappy, does that make me a bad mom? But what followed those feelings of confusion was a feeling that often occurs in those who haven’t fully resolved issues in their own attachments, both past and present—resentment.

After the joy of having my son, I gradually became aware of the more negative feelings tugging at the corners of my mind. Resentment was blooming in me, but it was being expressed in all sorts of ways to mask an emotion that I deemed impermissible for a mother to feel and that I was too fearful to express. Namely in tearfulness, righteous anger or distancing myself emotionally. It took many months of therapy and self-reflection to name what I was feeling resentful of. Some were easier than others to identify: weekly babysitting from grandparents that was promised but never happened, a blossoming career before having a baby that never fully resumed afterward, the fact that my husband talked to adults all day at work but my only adult interactions were with him after an exhausting day of childcare. Others were harder and more painful to bring to my awareness as they pushed pointedly on the wounds relating to my own history of insecure attachment: how being a mother activated pain from my own childhood, the sense of failure I feel when I struggle to help my child with his emotions, parenting philosophies that differ from my husband and cause conflict in our relationship. While some resentments felt easier to validate, others felt more challenging—and still do.

So how do I handle these feelings, this overwhelming sense of resentment? When I ask myself how I would treat a patient, I come up with a list of ideas that I always struggle to implement for myself: set boundaries, explore ways to be flexible, allow myself to feel what I feel, don’t be so judgmental of myself and make connections between past and present experiences. But in those gut-wrenching moments where all my psychology training fails, I try to remind myself to allow for some grace. Believe me, this is hard. I don’t always internalize it, and sometimes it feels like a losing battle. But I also need to remind myself that this job isn’t easy. Motherhood tests us in ways you absolutely cannot prepare for. I sometimes feel angry about why no one told me it would be this way. Those thoughts feed my resentment.

But then I tell myself this is a valid way to feel. I know I’m not alone in these feelings, and despite this waxing and waning of emotion, my son is the most amazing gift of all. My attachment to him, and his to me, is secure. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, to the moms that feel their resentment growing to the point of explosion: don’t fight it, don’t push it away. You feel these feelings for a reason. They are telling you something. You deserve to take the time to figure out what that is.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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