Guest Post By Tracy G. Cassels
Fathers, do you suffer from living with someone who takes control of every last aspect of parenting? Who tells you that the way you play with your child is wrong? The way you feed your child is wrong? What you feed your child is wrong? How you change a diaper is wrong? Does it feel like you can’t do anything right when it comes to your own child? If this sounds familiar, you have married a MomZilla. You may be confused at first because, after all, she married you and procreated with you, so you must be able to do something right, right? Before you lose all self-esteem when it comes to parenting or consider divorce or something more drastic, I’m here to try and help. First let me say that while I will try to help you understand MomZilla, what I say may not be applicable to all MomZillas. You may have, quite simply, married and had a child with a total bitch. They exist and frankly, I don’t quite know what to do. But hopefully that’s not the case for most of you. And while I plan on helping you understand your MomZilla, by no means do I condone her behaviour, but to work towards change, you have to understand what you’re dealing with or else you’ll never move forward. So let’s get started by fully defining the MomZilla…
MomZilla (n.): A woman who has taken it upon herself to criticize everything anyone else does when it comes to parenting her child. She refuses to listen to any other ideas, often mocking them or screaming them down. When it comes to her child, it’s her way or the highway.
If a MomZilla isn’t just a bitch who has to have her way, what is she?
Much of the time, she’s probably a mom who feels that she’s lost whatever sense of control she had prior to being a mom and is channeling that control into parenting (or she’s never felt she had that control). Regardless of the reason though, she feels that she has to have absolute control over what she perceives to be “her” domain – child rearing (and chances are she’s also as adamant about things around the house but you may not have argued too hard to clean the dishes or wash the floor before). As someone with a M.A. in Clinical Psychology (and who has treated patients), control freaks typically have a deep-seated fear underlying the control. Anorexia isn’t about weight, it’s about control. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder also has its roots in trying to maintain control over ones surroundings over a fear of something terrible happening if the compulsions aren’t followed. So the first thing to realize is that your MomZilla isn’t just a bitch – deep down she’s probably terrified.
But what is she terrified OF?
This is difficult as the fear will be unique to each woman. However, as much as we like to think fears have to pertain to the domain in which a person is acting irrationally, it’s not the case. People with OCD can have compulsions that are seemingly unrelated to the fear at hand and anorexia isn’t about a fear of being fat (though it’s certainly present) but typically a fear of failure or not being good enough in all realms. So while there may be elements of parenting fears involved in MomZilla’s behaviour, it’s not a definite that it has to do with parenting, but it’s a good place to start. In my own experiences watching women and their children, one of the things I’ve noticed most is that women who need to exert that type of control have some fear of being an inadequate parent themselves. This means that they don’t want to witness other ways of parenting (even by dad) because it may just reinforce the idea that they’re “no good”. They fight change and they fight suggestions because they irrationally believe that to accept there may be a better way – or hell, even a different way – is akin to admitting to being a bad parent. Obviously this isn’t the case, but if you believe it to be true, being a MomZilla is almost the only recourse you have. It’s worth noting that in some cases, this behaviour may also be a way to try and protect mom from postnatal depression as feelings of inadequacy and being a bad parent are hallmark symptoms of PND.
Why would she feel this way?
The only thing I have here is a big “I don’t know”. As said above, it may be due to PND, but for many others it’s probably not. Does she generally feel like she’s no good at something? If so, it’s likely that those feelings have extended to parenting, but with the stakes even higher, the response becomes even greater. Is she used to being in charge in all areas of life? If so, there may not be fear of anything as much as just being used to being bossy and having others listen. However, only you can figure it out as the various reasons as to why are as varied as the women themselves.
Great – so she’s either afraid, bossy, or a bitch. Now what?
If she’s a bitch, good luck. I’ve got nothing for you there except to fight for your rights. If she’s bossy, she may just need a reminder that she’s not at work and she’s not in charge – that this is a joint effort here and she has to respect that. If she’s afraid, it’s harder because she’ll probably fight tooth and nail to keep things as they are. After all, facing our fears and changing is one of the hardest things we can do and why therapists remain in business. However, you should start by trying to figure out what exactly the fear is by asking her the next time she tells you what to do what the downfall will be if you do it your way. Simply put, make her come clean about what the exact issue is by asking questions with each answer. So she tells you not to feed the baby the food you have in your hand. You ask, “What could go wrong if baby eats it?” Now, sometimes there may be a legitimate reason that you’ve overlooked and you have to be willing to accept that, but other times, you’ll get an answer you know involves an irrational fear. For example, if you’re offering your baby applesauce and mom worries about allergies (with no reason) or choking. What’s important is that you get to explain EXACTLY what’s bothering her. Once you’ve done that, ask “Okay, say that happens, what would we do then?” Sometimes fears with children are that the worst will automatically happen, when in reality they won’t. For example, we fear that our child will eat something and have a reaction and die. However, if you live close to a hospital, chances are far, far greater that you’ll get your child to a doctor on time and s/he’ll be okay. In fact, first time reactions to things tend to be milder (though not always) as your child won’t have developed the antibodies yet to cause a full-blown allergic reaction. By walking through her worst-case scenario and seeing that it can end up okay, you can help to assuage some of the fear.
If MomZilla doesn’t start to subside as you go through this and instead returns to “Well, you just can’t do it” or something similar, you haven’t hit the real fear. You may need to consider therapy for this one if you can afford it (though if it falls under PND, most places cover such therapy). Of note, you may have to do this several times over before mom starts to loosen her hold on baby. But keep practicing your deep breathing to deal with her behaviour because if she can get through it, you’ll have a much healthier and happier relationship in the long-run and she’ll end up a much better parent too (as will you for being given the opportunity to do things as you like).
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