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Is It Normal to Not Want to Be Around Your Child Sometimes? What This Feeling Means, and What You Can Do About It
Being a parent is hard. And no one, truthfully speaking, is in love with being a parent 100% of the time. Almost every parent I’ve worked with, at one point or another, has shared with me their feelings about times when they have not wanted to be near their kids.
Feelings like shame, embarrassment, self-worth also get wrapped up in there. These feelings typically all stem to the fear about not being a good enough parent.
Sound familiar? If so, then I’m here to tell you - it’s normal. Between our kids calling for us every 5 minutes, not going to bed on time, seemingly crying all the time, it’s no wonder we want a break. Especially, if we haven’t had our own time to tend to our own needs.
The problem is not in having such feelings but in when we try to push it away. Pushing our feelings away can cause it to build up, which can make us dread being around our children. It may also lead to us lashing out verbally or physically on our kids– especially if that’s what you witnessed your own parents do when growing up. In my household growing up, it was the chancleta or la correa that did the lashing out. :)
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Today, I’m going to talk about why this happens, and what you can do about it.
Why don’t I want to be near my child?
Feeling fed up with being around your kid(s) can mean many things. But it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent.
Whether they admit it or not, every parent has had moments when they just don’t want to be a parent anymore. For some, these moments are brief and fleeting. For others, they can last for a lot longer. Either way, it’s normal to feel this way.
Not wanting to be around your child is usually a sign that you’re overwhelmed. Parental burnout, sometimes called depleted mother syndrome, is what happens when a parent (of any gender) has run out of resources. They feel like they just don’t have anything left to give. They’re exhausted.
Not wanting to be around your child could also be due to anxiety. It’s so hard to know if you’re doing parenting “right.” We often worry about details like “are they meeting their developmental milestones?, to “are they getting too much electronic time?”
Our parenting world today is so inundated with advice/recommendations from others about what our kids should be doing. So, forgive yourself if you want a break from trying to "follow" all the recommendations on how to raise a “good” human being.
Not wanting to be around your child can also be due to something as simple as being extra-exhausted, hungry or not wanting to be bossed around. Let’s face it, children can be bossy and sassy when they are defiant. And for some of us, it can be a trigger.
Again, not wanting to be around your kids sometimes is normal and does not mean that there is something wrong with you.
There is a point, however, when you may want to reach out for help - like if you’re feeling like this for more days than not. Or, if you find yourself changing into someone you are not. At this point, you should reach out for support.
While it could just be a sign for needing to emotionally vent, it could also be a sign of an underlying mental health condition, like depression. Having depression doesn’t make you a bad parent, either – but it does mean that you need mental health treatment to get better.
What to do when you don’t want to be around your kids
Like I talked about last month, no one wants to lose it on their kids. But if you just ignore the fact that you don’t want to be around them, then that irritation and resentment is bound to build up – and you could explode.
Before things get to that point, here are some steps to take.
When you feel yourself getting more and more irritated with your kids, take a moment and ask yourself - What is making me want to get away from my kid(s) in this moment? Am I feeling overwhelmed? Do I just need a moment to myself? Are my kids getting on my last nerve, and I want to get away from them because I'm about to snap? Am I you just exhausted, and want some quiet time?
It can be helpful to get to the root of the feeling. Sometimes, it’s an easy fix.
You can also use a brief pause to take a few mindful breaths in and out. Many mindfulness teachers say that taking just three breaths in and out is enough to bring you back to the present moment. If you’re getting lost in worries, anger, or exhaustion, this could be a way to come back to yourself.
Ask for some space
It doesn’t occur to most parents that they’re allowed to ask for space and time away from their kids. But it’s true – you can! And sometimes, getting some space away from them is the best way to start wanting to be around them again.
Now granted, I know that the first few times you do this, your kid(s) is probably going to kick it into high gear and cling to you. My challenge to you, try it for at least six times. Here are some ways to try it:
If your child is old enough (5+), let them know you need some time. Say something like:
“Right now I’m ______ (tired, angry, frustrated). I love you so much, and that’ll never change. But I need some time to _____ (take a shower, be quiet, to be alone, etc.) This isn’t your fault, and I’m not angry with you. I just need some time to ______, so I calm down. Can you do that for me?”
If you need more than just a short rest, you can also consider spending a bigger chunk of time away - like for the day or if you are blessed with resources, an overnight trip. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even going to a movie by yourself could help.
As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. After some time away from your kid(s), you might feel like you want to be around them again.
Remember to play
We tend to take parenting very seriously. And this is a wonderful thing – parenting is serious! We’re responsible for a young human’s life, after all.
But don’t take it so seriously that you forget to play. If you can find ways to have fun with your children, then you might find it easier to be around them even in stressful times.
Dr. Stuart Brown, a researcher and the founder-president of the National Institute for Play, stresses the importance of play, even for adults. He says that play is a natural human behavior – as natural as sleep – but most of us aren’t getting enough of it, especially in adulthood.
Instead of seeing time with your kids as a time for them to play, try to see it as a time for you to play, too. Get silly. Make funny faces. Laugh. Play made-up games with made-up rules.
You might find that the desire to get away from your kids fades when you’re able to have fun with each other.
Join my virtual parent support group
It can also sometimes be validating to be around and heard by other parents who’ve also been through it or are going through it. In my current virtual parent support group, we focus on:
If you’re interested, give me a call or send me an email.
Thank you for reading. You’ve got this. I’ll see you next month!