A recent blog post at Babble is causing a lot of stir, as the author admits that she loves her 20 month old son more than her three year old daughter. (There is now a bolded clarification at the bottom of the Babble post as well as a "follow up" post that were not there when I wrote my reaction.) The author writes about a difficult birth experience and then postpartum sickness that interfered with bonding with her daughter, while with her son she felt an immediate and passionate bond of love as soon as he was placed in her arms after his birth. As far as this goes, this not uncommon and there is nothing really wrong with this, yet this mother seems to have taken this "I love him more" to a new level. She writes, "I think it wouldn’t be so bad if I lost my daughter, as long as I never had to lose my son," while then admitting her feelings of guilt over feeling this. Having dark or horrible thoughts, while definitely a problematic warning sign, isn't a sign of a "bad mother" either, as long as one gets help for those thoughts (if needed) and works against them. However, the author does not seem to recognize that love isn't dependent only at bonding at birth, that it isn't an issue of unchangeable feelings, but is indeed something that can be worked on.
It is normal to get along better with one child than another, due to clashes of personality or similar issues. Some kids are just a lot more difficult than others, while some kids you may share an instant bond. Sometimes it is the kid that is just like you that is tough to deal with, while for other parents it may be the kid who is nothing at all like you. Sometimes it really is the circumstances in their infancy that affect bonding, a sickness in mother or child, or postpartum depression, or difficult life circumstances that pull your attention away from the baby. However, the ease of positive feelings isn't about how much you love the child, and you can increase your positive feelings for any of your children through working on changing your thinking and by actively engaging in bonding experiences with your child. It isn't always easy, but as a parent you owe it to your child. Each child deserves love and affection from his parents.
The author of this article on Babble, however, doesn't seem to recognize that her feelings can and will change, either through the active changing of her thoughts and actions (CBT, anyone?) or simply through the passage of time as her children change and grow, enter more and less difficult developmental phases, become more independent. Sadly, this mom doesn't seem to think that she CAN learn to love her daughter for herself, even if it will take work to build those feelings of love. The author writes, "I secretly hope that this new baby is a girl. I want to start over with a little girl now that I’m healthy and an experienced parent." While she writes that she hopes that learning to love a girl will help her learn to love her older daughter, she still seems to view the bond with her older daughter as outside her control, and loving feeling as something that just happens. She messed things up with her first daughter, maybe she can make it work with a second. Sadly, unless she actively works on things with her older, adding another baby is likely only to add another child who is "loved more" than her first. I hope that after this blog post, she truly does look for some a good therapist, who is willing to challenge her rather than promote that all feelings are good, valid and unchangeable. Love is more about a decision than about feelings,but the feelings will follow the thoughts and actions.