The Darker Side of Parenting

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For many of you this article will be too provocative, too disturbing and simply unpopular. For the faint of hearts, stop reading now.

Beginning with the infamous 2008 indictment of Casey Anthony for the homicide of her beautiful toddler to the recent South Florida tragedies including the parents that brutally beat their three year-old child to death for wetting his pants and the senseless murder of a little girl named Nubia at the hands of her foster parents, I am left with a few lingering, troubling thoughts. Thoughts that once I’m done shaking my head in utter disgust, compel me to do some hardcore soul-searching.

womanHow could they?

Could I?

On occasion, I have found myself enraged, and on the verge of crossing a very fine line—one that would imply a blatant abuse of my parental authority. Perhaps for those folk more good-natured and even-keeled than myself, it never happens or has only happened once in a lifetime. Hooray for them. For me, thankfully, I possess the necessary tools to recognize my unsettled state of mind and at that point, choose to disengage.

I know this topic is uncomfortably intrusive for most parents but, let’s strap on our objective scientific lenses for a moment, shall we? And just for arguments sake, let’s analyze this a little deeper.

Are these parents really monsters all the time?

At any point in their lives, or during an ordinary day, do they act like normal, loving caretakers?

Sociopaths and legally psychotic individuals aside, for that one-time offender that snaps, could it be they simply lacked that last shred of discipline, judgment and moral compass to ultimately avert such atrocious conduct?

And in the end, they went over the edge and couldn’t control their instincts.

Freud knew it. Machiavelli wrote volumes about it, as well as many other psychological giants. There exists a side, a very dark one no less, of the human spirit that could potentially reflect such behavior in any one of us— if pushed to our limit or while suffering under perpetual extreme pressure.

Shame on me for entertaining such ideas, but let’s be realistic. If we refuse to properly identify the source of such immoral behavior, we won’t gain a deeper understanding for what actions must be taken to avoid it.

And avoid falling into the pit of the darker side of the human experience. Because once there, there’s no way out.

Let’s face it. Many parents are overwhelmed, chronically sleep-deprived, depressed and suffering silently. Society judges harshly. Belligerent strangers push our buttons and make us question our values, our temperaments, and cast doubt on how we see ourselves. Kids go through infuriating stages of rebellion that really try at our patience. And such adversarial interactions can hypothetically evoke parts of our character, buried deep within our core, that we unconsciously strive to shield from the world. Parts, we wholeheartedly disown.

I am not a puritan and by no means consider myself a “perfect mother.” However, I am honest enough to take a step back and evaluate my parenting methods to thereby, keep my actions and parental power in check.

Yes, I love my kids enough to painstakingly analyze my own intentions.

Day after day.  Again and again.

That’s how I keep my perspective. And ultimately choose to act with goodness.

Blame it all on that damn psychology degree and years of working in the mental health field.

9 Comments
  1. Tameika Monz says

    This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

  2. carol says

    May want to run a fact check. Casey Anthony has not been convicted. Caylee Anthony was murdered and her mother was indicted in 2008. The trial doesn’t start until May 2011.

    1. Warrior Mom says

      Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I somehow overlooked that.

  3. Lorelie says

    I made a choice to have just one child, and honestly, I have never felt the “dark side” feelings you describe! I wanted this child very much, and can’t imagine life without her. There’s no excuse for murder….ever (except in self defense). What kind of society do you want to live in that excuses murder…for whatever “trendy” phsyco-babble reason you concoct? If any parent ever feels this “deep dark pit of despair” they should temporarily remove themself from their child, so the child is not harmed. There’s really is no “other debate side” about it!

  4. lmmartin says

    This is a wonderful piece. And I speak as one with thirty years in child protection. You are so correct when you say most parents have the “dark side,” but work to suppress it. Many parents were not well parented (just ask any worker in the field) and are ill equipped for the job. The response above from Lorelie is typical of many who refuse to see the truth of the matter. The fact she resorts to such sarcastic phrases like “trendy” psyco babble is even more unfortunate. I understand you are not just speaking of murder, of the extreme cases, but of abuse in general. Lorelie might be surprised to learn that abuse goes on in 1 out of 3 households. I have never seen a case of murder of a child, but I have seen every kind of abuse you can imagine. I have no illusions, but even at the worst, I have had the humanity to try and understand the parent(s) limitations. Nothing is ever black and white.

  5. MR. J says

    Great read, Darah Zeledon. It acted as the midwife to the birth of a fresh paradigm view for me.
    vr,
    mr.j

  6. Jaime Samms says

    This was an interesting post, for sure. You are right. So many people don’t want to admit to that dark side. It’s hard to reconcile that with the image of parenthood we are all sold. We are shown images of how easy it is, and how could it not be when we love our kids so much? But we are human, and sometimes, being human trumps being rational. I don’t think there was any debate going on here, or any condoning. Just a call to look critically and honestly at what we carry inside and realize that we are incapable of perfection. As you said, opening up the discussion and taking away the mystery of our fears and the stigma of ‘bad parenting’ is how we learn how to do it better. It’s how we can help the people who need it, and improve our own skills. Ignoring it certainly doesn’t make it go away.

  7. cheryl says

    No one fails to realize that post partum depression psychosis is very real and can happen to a woman up to three years after child birth. People dont believe that women can kill their children and not know what they are doing. Andrea Yates was the biggest case of post partum depression psychosis. No one knows about it, knows the signs and it happens to many many women and no one care they just think they are monsters instead of getting them help.

  8. MiriamSPia says

    Actually, I know what this lady is talking about. I was raised nonviolently and am grateful that I was but in truth a lot of care and thought went into it and I received specific sets of anger management lessons and so forth to cope with both my own and other people’s anger and reactions.

    Likewise, I am very glad that I am raising my son well but one reason I feel proud about it the way that I do is because of how acutely aware I am of my own emotional flare ups and how much I do very actively practice anger management to protect my only child as well as myself.

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