This father scares me; am I the only one?

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Perusing the morning papers, I came across this piece in The New York Times, The Sound (of the Crying Baby) and the Fury (of the Exhausted Parent), written by a man who is a psychiatry resident at Yale. I thought it was going to be about having more compassion for young, new parents who become overwhelmed and lash out at a crying baby. Not exactly.

It is about Dr. Rama himself and his profound anger at his baby daughter.

I don’t think I knew what real anger was until our daughter arrived.

Considering that infants and toddlers scream despite having been fed, changed, walked around, bounced, hugged and kissed, I am amazed by how rarely parents talk about just how furious our young ones can make us. I think about it frequently — during the day. At night, I am too consumed by that anger…

Those angry thoughts flood my mind when her cry suddenly cuts through the quiet of our all-too-short nights. The English translation of that cry is, “Tomorrow your 12-hour workday will be a groggy-eyed waking nightmare.” As her cry shifts into a throaty scream, I have sensed a slowly growing animus bloom inside me. I have felt my lungs fill with air in preparation to yell back at her. To make her feel as terrible as I do.

I understand what it is to spend hours at night trying to soothe a screaming infant, knowing that tomorrow will be a full workday. Nonetheless, I find the depth of this father’s anger to be frightening.

My fear is heightened into alarm by this:

Instead, again perhaps surprisingly, I keep my focus on me.

Before I step into my daughter’s room in the middle of the night during a maddening crying jag, I remind myself that I come first. I love myself first. I realize that these statements are anathema in a world that screams, “Your child comes first!” However, if I can’t love myself in spite of my constant sense that I am failing her, then I can’t really love her either…

I hear my internal alarm bells wringing because a grown man is experiencing extreme anger toward a helpless baby and personalizing that anger in a way that could be dangerous. It feels to me that this father may be perilously close to losing control since he has already lost perspective.

There are only 7 comments on the piece so far, and all have been supportive, praising the father for acknowledging the frustration of many parents. I understand just how frustrating a crying newborn can be, but this doctor’s fury scares me.

Am I the only one?

  • Lost

    I think he has PPD. Sleep deprivation can do that sort of thing. Writing as a person who has PPD in remission.

  • Teleute

    He points out that the anger is directed towards himself rather than the baby because he feels as if he’s failing her by being unable to console her:

    Perhaps surprisingly, I believe that this anger is directed much less at our daughter than at myself. In these 4 a.m. confrontations I experience feelings of aggression in direct proportion to my perception of personal failure at the most important job of my life. In those moments I feel as if my love is not enough or that if I were stronger or smarter, she would not be crying.

  • bakatenko

    i don’t see anything unnatural in being pissed off if something’s waking you up every 2 hours for no good reason. the egoistic phase my ass. if a kid needs to cry for no reason, let it do it, it’ll get tired eventually. why does it need to be soothed each time? is that even natural? i cant imagine people from any century before the 20th century caring so much. what exactly would be wrong to close the door to the kid’s room and sleep on another floor with earplugs in? there are enough technical marvels that would grant you silence and the possibility of sleep. if crying is not to signal pee, poo, hunger or thirst, just leave the kid alone geezus.

    • Guest

      Depends on the age of the baby/child. With my first, I was of the same assumption as you – change nappy, feed, or cuddle.

      Since then I have learned (and applied) for my second: burp/wind, cuddle, feed, smell test, burp/wind, hold upright, cuddle. Babies and children do cry for a reason though they may not have the vocabulary to explain their physical or psychological pain.

      Before the nuclear family, there was an extended family or friends to do the spells of caregiving. Or if rich enough, then you could afford house help or nannies.

      • bakatenko

        thanks! you’re very much right about the shrinking of the family size. one of the (great many) interesting topics to observe in sociology.
        i’m still too young (as in immature) for all that i guess. also, the perspectives change greatly depending on the situation (or so i’m told by friends whose situations have changed and who have experienced an according perspective shift). probably i shouldn’t be thinking/worrying about it now, and even more so talking about it. not like i’ve any knowledge about this anyway 🙂 all i hear comes from other people, and while this gives me some image, it’s biased and one sided, and also a whole lot abstract. no way i can imagine that from my current standpoint 🙂

  • Eyerollin

    I’m also troubled by a lot of people making excuses for this man, his stress, his purported psychiatric condition – when it seems apparent from his own words here that he doesn’t see anything wrong with his reaction. The article is self-justification, self-congratulation even. It does not sound remotely like a cry for help.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      That’s the thing. He talks about how lucky his child is to have him as a parent. That’s not a cry for help, it’s self-congratulation.

    • moto_librarian

      I finally read the whole article a couple of days ago, and yeah, I’m disturbed by it. Do my children frustrate me? Absolutely! Did I ever feel overwhelmed by the inconsolable crying? You bet! But I never felt angry at my children in this way. I never thought, “wow, you are so lucky to have parents that love you, to be born in privilege.” EVERY child should have the benefit of loving parents and a stable home. The fact that many children still have to live in suboptimal situations is THE great failing of humanity, IMO. I have cried with my children at times in frustration at my inability to comfort them, but I have never wanted to “make them feel as badly as they make me feel.”

      I will also add that if he is having this much anger during the newborn period, this does not bode well for the future. Toddlers and young kids can make you outright angry, particularly when they talk back. If he can’t deal with his anger now, there are bigger problems ahead.

  • Eyerollin

    I feel rage when I read the many articles that are published every day blaming women for being single mothers. Why? Because I left a man like this.

    We had a son together who was extremely fussy and would go through long spells of crying. He reacted badly on a regular basis and I found myself trying to calm the baby not just for his own sake but to keep my volatile husband from losing his head.

    I tried many times to make excuses for him, but the breaking point pretty much came when I was returning home from an errand. From out on the sidewalk, somewhere, I heard a distant screaming. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from – strange.

    When I arrived in our apartment, I realized it was my husband, screaming at our toddler, who was huddled into a corner in his crib frantically nursing his bottle. As soon as he saw me he jumped up and began screaming for me in fright. My husband continued screaming at him in rage, something about “ever since you left!” – seeming to be some complaint that he had been screaming or crying a lot. I had to take the baby and leave the house. I didn’t have anything else with me. I just took him and walked around the block. I didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t hitting him – but in my head I felt like maybe that should be rephrased “he wasn’t hitting him yet”. When we both were as calm as we could be I went back to the house and I told him I better never see him acting like this again, and he agreed, but I really didn’t believe him. We broke up a few months later. He threatened us, denied fathering his kid (he did), then vanished and has never been caught or paid a penny of child support.

    So yeah. Alarm bells.

  • maria

    It’s simple: he is not ready to be a father, or maybe he is not “parent material”.

    I don’t understand why some women have kids with this type of men…

  • Anka

    I have PPD and a nine-week old who had some crying/sleep/feeding issues, though not full-blown colic, and my husband and I are on our own in a new-to-us country where we don’t have the kind of support network who could come over and relieve us in any way. I appreciated his article, and understood “love yourself” to mean “remember that a crying baby does not make you a failure as a parent.” I also have the kind of personality-disordered parents who really WOULD–and did–react with “how could you do this to me? Don’t you know how lucky you are to have us as your parents! After all we’ve done for you!” to any normal individuation (or reaction to their abuse) on my part. (There’s a reason why we’re not living in my hometown, or even in my country.)They had all the feelings of fury but never followed them to their obvious conclusion or took responsibility for them like this guy. In my experience, personality-disordered and/or abusive people never do that. Having had intimate knowledge of such personalities (I think my parents are probably undiagnosed, high-functioning NPD and NPD/BPD), I REALLY don’t think this guy is one of them. He ultimately acknowledges that it’s him, not his baby. He sounds to me like he has enough awareness and introspection not to do to his baby what my parents did to me. Also, he sounds, for lack of a better description, like a typical new mother struggling with feelings of inadequacy exacerbated by extreme sleep deprivation. I don’t know him, of course, but he doesn’t set off the NPD red flags for me, or the abusive ones.

    • Spiderpigmom

      (wow Anka, we have very similar life circumstances)

      I think people would probably react with less hostility if the writer had been a mother instead of a father. Because people would be thinking in terms of PPD, hormonal swings, difficulty adapting to a new role etc, instead of thinking in terms of “asshole parent”.

      I had moderate PPD after my son was born, and he was a horrible, horrible sleeper for most of his first two years, making me chronically sleep deprived the whole time. I can relate to the kind of feelings expressed by this father; I’ve experienced something quite close in a couple of occasions, and it makes me feel like less of a monster to have someone express something similar. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically shameful in feeling what he feels, provided you don’t act on it of course; but if he had acted on it (would it be only by expressing anger in the presence of his daughter) he’d be writing something different like “I’ve been yelling at my daughter” or even “my daughter is so unbearable I had to yell at her”.

      I also completely understand why he says “you come first”. In airplanes, they tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping your child secure his. If you are not taking proper care of yourself in order to be able to function, you won’t be able to take proper care of your child.

      So, I guess I’ll come off as batshit insane but I completely understand where this father is coming from.

  • Katie

    The article was removed. Does anyone have the full text?

    • CitrusMom

      Was it removed or just hacked? FTR I was CitrusMom and I think the first person to comment and say “too bad about your sleep”. I also think the thing is totally disjointed because he has a 2-year-old, so he is enraged if she just wakes up crying a bit? Like 2-year-olds do? Part of my comment was that is a far cry from inconsolable crying like colic.

  • Molly

    That is the most terrifying article I have read. I wonder what this child’s mother was thinking after reading it? My husband doesn’t do night wakings since I breastfeed and its easier for me. But if he did and He had written this, I’d want to get myself and my helpless child out of the house ASAP! What he’s writing to me warrants social services!

  • Guest

    I am totally, 100% with you. I think he is scary. I NEVER felt that way, and believe me, I am no saint. I’m not in denial. I was frustrated, tired, yes, yes, yes, but angry about a helpless infant waking in the night? No. “Consumed by anger”? “Make her feel as terrible as I do?” Sorry, but that never, ever crossed my mind and I hope he gets some help very soon. If I were married to this person I would be OTD pronto if he refused to.

  • if he is going to focus on taking care of himself then he would probably set the baby down and cool off, right? That is how I read it anyway. I sure hope so.

  • Ointment

    Yes. I am certain it’s just you. I didn’t read it that way. It’s been too long, you have forgotten newborns have a way of driving grown men and women to the brink of madness and Desperation! He is just being a normal, helpless, sleep deprived new father.

    • Lizzie Dee

      As far as I am concerned, if it is bad enough, you don’t EVER forget! I used to refer to my second as “the world’s easiest baby” – mainly by comparison with my first – and I can’t remember a whole lot in detail – just a vague recollection that eating, sleeping etc were not much of a problem. My first, however – there were meltdowns that can still make me shudder when recalled. When we left the hospital, eventually, I had no clue as to just what I was in for, but I do remember being told, carefully, that she might be “emotionally labile”. They certainly got that bit right. Yes, I was often desperate – but not, often, angry – and never at her. Like someone else mentioned, I did from time to time admire her spirit – just wished she had a better way of expressing it. The feeling of helplessness could be overwhelming during a screaming marathon, but didn’t linger.

  • AmyP

    It’s a little paternalistic, but it might be good to include some quizzing in the discharge procedures to ask new parents what their strategy is for nighttime, what they will do if the baby doesn’t sleep, to name several strategies for if the baby won’t stop crying and if they themselves are feeling stressed and angry, what they will do in case of feeding problems, and to make sure they have a phone number to call in case of crisis, etc.

    A lot of these problems are very foreseeable, and I think parents should be forewarned and forearmed. (And no, just handing out written materials is not going to do the job.)

    • Elizabeth A

      Our hospital showed us how to swaddle, gave us the basic Harvey Karp rundown on an index card, and encouraged us to call if need be. It wasn’t perfect, and it concerns me greatly that there’s been something of an anti-swaddling backlash lately. Swaddling doesn’t work for every baby, but when it works, it’s a lifesaver for those parents.

      • rh1985

        I bought one of those easy swaddle things. if baby loves it, yay! if she hates it, it won’t take much effort to try it out and see if it works.

      • KarenJJ

        We got the same from the hospital prior to going home after the birth. If we had breastfeeding issues we could go in and speak with the midwives/nurses. Our state also supplies a maternal and children’s health nurse for a home visit. And there are also infant sleep clinics like Ngala or Tresillian (although these can be hard to get into).

        Where it is really difficult is if someone has mental health problems and need to get into a residential hospital ASAP because they are not coping with a baby. My MIL did the ring around one morning with me watching my nephews and nieces trying to find a place for a relative. It was impossible to get in quickly where both mother and baby could be cared for. At best we could get a two week wait for a private clinic, but two weeks was a long way to go when a mother isn’t coping with a baby.

      • Older Mom

        Sorry, but Harvey Karp seemed a bit off his rocker to me. First, this stuff didn’t work for my fussy child. More importantly, he was so darn critical of moms. First, he basically says throughout the whole book: if it’s not working, it’s because YOU are not doing it right. Second, he says that mom needs to be so responsive to the kid’s crying that she needs to run out of the bathroom with her PANTS DOWN to tend to the crying. God forbid you should take an extra 10 seconds to pull up your pants and zip them up.

        But seriously, if this stuff works for you, great. But he is promoting the dangerous idea that this works for ALL kids. Extreme colic, sleep disorders, underlying medical issues, feeding issues…all of it can leave you with a baby who doesn’t respond to the “5 S’s”. And then you have not only a sleep deprived mess of a parent, you also are told it’s all your fault.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      We talk about these issues during Dad’s Boot Camp.

    • thepragmatist

      Our hospital hands out a video that us new moms joked was good for turning up very very loudly to drown out the sound of the screaming baby. 🙂 In all seriousness, it explained what colic is, why it’s normal, and basically summarized, “Don’t shake or kill your baby, please just call a friend.” LOL. I can imagine it has a purpose but I didn’t use it as I was too busy jiggling said screaming baby while singing every single song I knew at a very loud volume until he would pass out for two minutes and the cycle would start again. I don’t know about this Dad, because I don’t remember feeling angry before heading into what we called “the witching hours” but rather getting myself some tea, getting grounded and figuring out how I was going to deal over the next four or five hours. My son had a rough time for a couple of months. I recall getting angry enough to leave the room a few times and going to stand on the deck and calling a girlfriend to express how very angry I was at spending an hour or more in a dark room with an over-tired screaming baby who just would not sleep. Not ONCE was I angry at him because I just didn’t consider that it was his fault that he was going through that particular developmental stage.

      But those times were not often and I had no illusions heading into it that I would have an easy baby, since I wasn’t an easy baby, and no one in my family has easy babies: we all have pretty intense kids. I was an intense kid, my kid is an intense kid: we get along quite well. Perhaps Mr. Psych Student’s temperament just doesn’t mesh well with his child’s, I don’t know. I always took my son’s fierceness as a sign of a good character. Ha. Even now when he’s face down on the floor of the grocer’s refusing to leave because HE wanted to chose the pasta sauce, I am always impressed with his tenacity of spirit. I’ve been asked many times if I needed “parenting support” but he is who he is. I think accepting our kids as people goes a long way. I do limits, consistency, and discipline, but my child is still who he is: he was tenacious in utero, always moving, and in the outside world, he is persistent, stubborn and very bright. So what? I hate how society views these traits negatively as one day my stubborn toddler will be using that stubbornness to good aims if he’s handled right. The last thing I’d want is a docile child, really. I’ve been shamed by others in public for his outbursts but I can understand how frustrating it is for him to be stuck between a non-verbal stage and on the cusp of being able to have more self-control and speak in full sentences, and no doubt he must feel very very frustrated an awful lot of the time, just like I imagine he was feeling quite overwhelmed as a newborn. My philosophy of empathy and limits have never changed. Not his fault. How could it be?

      I do feel this Dad is a bit out to lunch. Sure, love yourself. Love yourself enough to do some SELF-CARE and grounding! What about taking the time to go have a cup of tea, ground yourself, remind yourself that you are okay and you are the adult, and that you can ALWAYS just walk away if you have to. And beyond that, that it is not your child’s fault. He does need some help, I think, to differentiate. The rage he feels might be normal for people to feel. I felt rage (especially breastfeeding) but the resentment is additional to the anger and shouldn’t be directed at a little baby!

  • Ob in OZ

    This article makes me question what it takes to be published. I think his feelings are not new (anger, frustration exhaustion), but the words he chooses to express himself are just wrong. When I read it I think this guy needs help, but I am betting either he is either struggling to find the right words to express himself, which would end up making him sound like most parents, and then who would bother reading it. Or he has chosen words that get him published and get a response.
    I am eager to see if this gets any likes or comments. If not I will go extreme in order to make myself famous…on the internet…on an obscure blog…for which I occassionally comment…
    Don’t you want your Doctors to be reading journal articles instead of blogs about articles aboyt psychiatric residents who need psychiatric help? I swear, this is the only blog I read.

    • Certified Hamster Midwife

      > This article makes me question what it takes to be published.

      In the New York Times? Status. He’s an Ivy League psychiatry resident. Bonus points for not being a WASP or Jewish. Diversity!

      • yentavegan

        Gulp. You had the cojones to say what I was sheepishly thinking.

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          I’m sure many people posting here on the site could get published on this particular blog were they willing to so so under their own names brush also might be able to guest post under a pseudonym. There’s no pay, of course.

  • gtrmomma

    I feel bad for this father. I think he needs some additional help/support and to know that yeah babies cry sometimes for no good reason. Maybe his main problem is he can’t find the way to fix it. Men are fixers. My own husband seems to be focused on fixing our baby’s reason for crying/not sleeping at night. I told him this morning that sometimes they just cry and you just have to do your best not to take it personally and if you have tried everything sometimes you just have to walk away for a little bit and know they are going to turn out just fine. BTW, I take more issue with the comments from the guy in Bellingham Washington (John?) Just below the article than I do with the doctor. Someone on here needs to set his ass straight!!

  • Lisa from NY

    Dr. Rama should specialize in anger management.

  • Guest

    I haven’t read the entire piece, but can identify with that level of anger. I had a very, very hard time after my first was born. I had an unexpected cesarean, a baby who cried all day long and into the night most days, zero support from friends or family, had a raging case of PPD that spiraled into PP psychosis, and a spouse who traveled constantly. And when he wasn’t traveling, he really didnt know how to support me. I would call my husband, my mom, and my friends at 3 in the morning sobbing and asking what was wrong with me and my baby and how to fix it.

    I was *so* angry, and much of it was targeted at myself and my child. My PPD and PP psychosis manifested itself in rage. Lots and lots of rage. And with the sleep deprivation, it is so, so diffucult to see through that haze. i am not talking about ordinary, run of the mill sleep deprivation with a newborn stuff. i am takng about the kind where you are so overstimulated and exhausted, that you cant even relax enough after baby/ child is asleep to fall asleep yourself. To be honest, we are both lucky to have lived through his infancy. So my first instinct with someone like this is to empathize, not judge. I hope he is seeking help like I did and isn’t trying to white knuckle it through.

    I have had two other children since my first, and those experiences were so different and felt very ‘normal’ in comparison. Part of it is also experience and expectations, of course, but there can be a *huge* difference from one child to the next. It sounds like this guy might be doing the same thing I did and may be ‘asking’ for help. If that is indeed the case, he needs a wake up call, support, and suggestions for coping skills, not judgement and criticism. Those things only make situations like this worse.

    • Lizzie Dee

      .But no-one is saying that it isn’t possible to feel anger, or that sleep deprivation/constantly crying baby isn’t very hard to deal with. What is being criticised or judged – if those are the right words – is the way he is presenting it. The question is: is this scary, in the sense that it doesn’t appear to be a cry for help, but a normalising or justification for an anger that MAY have the potential to slip out of control.

      You were asking for help and didn’t get it – maybe because people shrug off the anger and frustration as something that ISN’T scary, and PPD goes ignored.

      • Guest

        But I am sure if someone had asked me in the first 6 months or so, I *would* have and probably did blame my child. After all, in my PPD affected brain, he was to blame for my pain, depression, sleep deprivation, etc. It isn’t talk about much, but in the worst cases of PPD and PP psychosis, people *do* assign blame to their children. I was so angry and terrified of my baby that there would be nights where I would get to the door of where he was sleeping and just not be able to go in. I would visualize/ hallucinate that he had morphed into a monster/ alien and that he wanted to kill me. The urge to hurt him on those nights was strong. Of course, I did not share this type of information at the time. But I did tell people that it was the baby’s fault that I was so miserable. I justified my thoughts, feelings, and behavior with similar language that the author is using. Now, of course, I see how that was not the case at all, but through the haze of the mental illness and inexperience it sounded completely reasonable.

        • Guest

          I just think it would have driven me over the edge if people had told me that I was a monster, should not be allowed to have a child, etc, etc, etc. I did eventually seek treatment and was shown love and empathy and that made all the difference. The author totally could just have unrealistic expectations of parenthood or things could just be the perfect storm for rage like my situation. I don’t know, but I do know that encouraging people to seek help in a positive and loving way is more effective in most situations.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I am somewhat puzzled by these comments that refer to PPD. Are you suggesting that the father is suffering from a mental illness?

          • auntbea

            I would assume that many people are suggesting he is, yes. Depression in men often manifests as anger, whereas it might manifest as weepiness or anxiety in women.

          • Guest

            Yes, some men do experience PP mood disorders or struggle with depression that is a result of having trouble adjusting to parenthood. I am not qualified to make such a diagnosis, but it is worth considering that possibility not just for this particular person, but other men too. PP mood disorders can go under or undiagnosed and I would imagine this is more common in men than people realize. All I am suggesting is that instead of just having a knee jerk reaction that people like this are abusive jerks (or whatever) that maybe looking at underlying causes is worthwhile. Again, I don’t know the specifics of this particular case, but in situations where it might be an issue of lack of support resources, education, coping techniques, etc, its worth asking those questions.

            I am not exactly a poster child for who should have a PP mood disorder. I am married, have a masters degree, had a planned and wanted child, have good financial resources, considered myself at least somewhat educated on PPD, have a decently supportive family, and yet, my PPD went undiagnosed and unrecognized for a good 6 months. It could be that the people around this person think he *should* be able to recognize when his anger has crossed the line and that is why it has gone unaddressed (I am assuming). I think it is an unrealistic expectation for someone to always be able to diagnose or recognize symptoms in themselves no matter how educated they are.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Yes, “some men” experience PPD. But I am wondering what that has to do with this thread, and the article by this guy. Does he actually refer to or imply that he has a mental illness?

          • Guest

            I am hypothesising that his rage could be a symptom of undiagnosed PPD and that he would not necessarily be qualified or able to diagnose himself. Maybe making his (a bit scattered and incomplete) feelings public is a “cry for help.”Again, I am not qualified to do that and do not know the full story. It doesn’t really matter since it is just a hypothesis, but if this indeed the case, I hope someone close to him suggests he get evaluated and get help.

            I don’t know why you are asking these questions over and over since I am not the first one to bring up this possibility.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Yes, if he has PPD, I hope he gets help. But what evidence is there for that?

            “A non-ill person wouldn’t feel that way”? Or is there actually something else?

          • Guest

            No, a non ill person can feel that way too obviously. But it would depend on the predominance of those feelings. Every day, then yes, PPD seems like a possibility since I don’t think that feeling rage and anger at your child/ and or blaming them for your feelings most of the time falls into the health range. I am *also* not qualified to diagnose other mental illnesses or disorders, but do have experience with PPD. What this guy is saying sounds eerily familiar, so it seemed worth while to speak up and share my experience. It’s not talked about very often, so I thought someone might find the info useful even if it doesn’t apply to this specific person.

          • auntbea

            Usually something crosses the line from regular emotion to mental illness when it begins to seriously interfere with one’s functioning. Seems like it might be doing that if he is thinking it about so often.

          • Guest

            And I am also using this as an opportunity for a little PSA on what some people experience as far as PPD and PP psychosis goes. Some people don’t realize that anger and rage can be serious symptoms that something is very, very wrong. Even among care providers (my OB included) waved away my symptoms and concerns. It should be talked about more and in a more candid manner, especially in regards to men.

          • Guest

            And anger and rage are some of the less sympathetic and more shame inducing symptoms so people are less likely to seek treatment. Sadness, crying, not being able to get dressed all illicit a much more sympathetic response and so people are more likely to seek treatment. I would like for the stigma to be lessened around this issue so people seek treatment and are then less likely to hurt themselves or their children.

          • Lizzie Dee

            I think my point would be that anger directed at a small child IS shame inducing. On the odd occasions when my daughter’s irrational behaviours do provoke to the point of anger, I regard that as my failure, not hers, and also a very unproductive way of dealing with it. What bothers me about this account is it reads like justifying the anger by blaming and rationalising it rather than figuring out ways to defuse it. Maybe the stuff about loving himself first is a badly expressed way of saying that he realises he needs to deal with his own emotions, I don’t know.

            Is it really such a taboo to say that a crying or difficult child can provoke negative feelings? I would have thought it was fairly common knowledge, and denying it is more of problem. Much like expecting birth to be blissful.

          • Lizzie Dee

            I don’t think having trouble adjusting to parenthood or having negative feelings when sleep deprived makes you an abusive jerk, not at all. And yes, depression or even just sleep deprivation can seriously skew your thinking, and yes, it can be difficult to know when you need help, so maybe this fellah should be given the benefit of the doubt.

            But there are still some odd notes in his musings. Maybe it got edited down, or he was too tired to be coherent. Maybe expecting his daughter to appreciate her good fortune was meant as an example of how irrational his thinking had become – but it doesn’t read that way. Do you think loving himself more is really the answer he needs?

    • thepragmatist

      I think normalizing his experience is the problem. I remember wanting to throw the baby across the room while nursing because I had D-MER. It was with GREAT RELIEF that I found out many other mothers I knew had experienced this kind of weird response to nursing and that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of revulsion, disgust, and anger at let-down. The focus was not on excusing the feelings or normalizing, the focus was on fixing it. I learned how to cope. I learned a little tiny bit of coffee before nursing could help the dip in dopamine that caused the feelings. I learned to reach out. And I supplemented so nursing ALWAYS felt like a choice. I guess I don’t see any solutions in this article. What you experienced is normal within the context of severe PP mental illness. I don’t judge because I have Bipolar and PTSD. So it’s not judgment, it’s the lack of solution and normalizing what seems like accepting something that is potentially dangerous.

  • jenny

    It sounds like he’s trying to describe the experience of being triggered by a child’s crying. Instead of staying in the moment, he personalizes the crying. What he writes about is familiar to me. My childhood was not full of love and safety, and sometimes I have emotional responses to my kid’s behavior that are really not about my kid.

    But I’ve learned that having and experiencing my feelings won’t harm my kid. What I do with my feelings is what makes the difference. Feeling anger is a sign that I might need to step back and take a breather, or call someone for help, etc. I have sometimes noticed myself thinking, “She shouldn’t be doing that, why doesn’t she appreciate what I am doing”…etc. I follow that thought all the way to the end, where I sometimes find what I am really afraid of is being (physically) hurt. Then I can remind myself, “I am a grown up, I am safe, no one is hurting me.” And then my feeling of rage just melts away and I can meet my daughter’s needs the way that she deserves.

    It sounds like he responds to the crying by reminding himself, “I am safe, I am loved.” The first part of his article sounds like he is exposing the irrational thoughts about crying he has to the light of day. If he doesn’t recognize they are irrational, then yes, that is scary. But, because he works to meet his own need to feel safe and loved in the presence of a crying child, he doesn’t scare me. That says to me that he knows the problem is really his perception and that it’s not her responsibility to stop crying to save his feelings. He needed some topic sentences to make this clear, I think.

    I do think he should try to get more sleep, too. Loving yourself starts with eating enough and sleeping enough!

    • Anka

      I had an abusive upbringing and have a new baby and that was exactly how I understood the article! Thanks!

  • Denise Denning

    The article feels incomplete, like it’s using a personal anecdote as an introduction to a longer article parsing parental feelings of inadequacy. But then it just ends.

    I agree with Dr. Amy that this dr’s anger is disturbing, but it reads like he didn’t fully elucidate his thoughts on the matter.

    • Box of Salt

      “The article feels incomplete” I agree. I also found myself wondering whom he thinks his target audience is.

      • auntbea

        I assumed he was writing it to his (hypothetical) patients who come in feeling guilty about feeling anger toward their babies.

  • yentavegan

    Reading an essay like this one makes it really hard to suppress my “judgy” breastfeeding mother snap answer. You know what? I raised 5 perfectly normal sometimes cranky, intermittently inconsolable infants. Sticking my breast into a wailing babes mouth always always always worked unless the baby was sick. I never never never sent my husband into the lair of a crying infant/toddler. That is a recipe for disaster. Fathers lack the mothering hormone and can not suffer the colic crying of an infant especially when sleep deprived. I know this comment is not PC, but sometimes I call them like I see them.

    • Fathers lack the mothering hormone

      I suspect many fathers pretend to lack the mothering hormone when it suits them.

      • PJ

        Can someone explain the “mothering hormone” to me? Who discovered it and when?

        • wookie130

          I am not familiar with this either.

          But honestly, I would have gladly sent my husband in the “lair” of a crying baby…and I often did. And I was happy to have a stand-in for myself when Hannah needed rocking, walking, bouncing, what have you. I am thrilled to have a spouse who was willing to share the evening shift when it came to our child. Yeah, when I look at it this way, it took my tatas right out of the picture, when I had my short nursing stint in the beginning.

          Men can and do take care of babies, and I’d venture to guess that there are many out there that do a far better job than many women do. Shocking, I know.

          In terms of the author of this article…I will admit that his anger is a bit unsettling. I was a bit disturbed by it, in all truthfulness. Perhaps I’m being unfair in saying that, but yes, I found it scary.

        • Clarissa Darling

          PJ, I predict that my experience will be like yours and that my husband will actually be more patient and calm around the baby. He has demonstrated throughout our marriage that he is much better at handling stressful situations. IDK about hormones but, the only thing my mine have ever done for me is make me break out and make me MORE prone to getting upset. If there is a special hormone that makes you calm during mothering I hope it also cures acne because it’s really annoying when you grow up and skin doesn’t realize it!

    • guest

      Lucky you. I tried and tried sticking my breast into my wailing baby’s mouth with no luck; I saw three lactation consultants who couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t latch correctly. He was not thriving, which meant there was more wailing. Finally we were both happier, healthier and more rested when I switched to bottles at three months old. And my husband did just as many nighttime bottles as I did, so we both had to deal with a wakeful baby sometimes but also both got a chance to rest sometimes. There was less wailing all around.

    • FormerPhysicist

      If breast is the only way you comfort infants, or allow them to be comforted – of course Dad can’t comfort them.

      My experience is pretty opposite yours.

    • Meerkat

      O-o! Now you’ve gone and done it, you instigator, you! Prepare to be eaten alive! 🙂

    • Isramommy

      I nursed my firstborn for over a year and am still nursing my second, and I really take issue with your comment and find it offensive on behalf of my husband, who has a wonderful, nurturing relationship with our children. He is more than capable of calming either one of our children, and sometimes better at it and more patient than I am. Yes, a breast is a quick and easy way to pacify a baby, but as a parent I am more than a pair of breasts and I resent the implication that my husband is less of a parent then I am just because he lacks breasts.

      “Fathers lack the mothering hormone and cannot suffer the colic crying of an infant”?!?! Do you actually believe that nonsense? What a terrible insult to fathers, not to mention an awful endorsement of biological essentialism.

    • Rachel Mills

      Let’s not paint all mothers and all fathers with one big brush. I think that’s unfair and unrealistic. What you should have said is *your husband* lacks the mothering hormone, and you recognize that and good for you.

    • ratiomom

      Nope. Of course your husband wasn’t going to be able to comfort the baby. You set him up for failure by making it so that the only thing they would accept was physically attached to your body. That’s one way of doing things, but it’s certainly not the only one, or the best one. Your observation says more about you and about the way the balance of power works in your marriage than it does about fathers in general. I find your comment insulting to all modern fathers who are more than distant cash cows in their kids lives.

    • melindasue22

      In my experience breast feeding doesn’t console a colicky baby.

    • PJ

      Are you serious? My husband is MUCH more patient than me with our son. He handles stressful crying situations much better than I do. Also, I had the opposite experience from you–while my son was generally not a crier, there were actually times when he was crying for unknown reasons and trying to breastfeed him completely enraged him. It was quite stressful and upsetting. My son was actually never particularly interested in nursing for comfort.

      Why do some people think their experience is the model for everyone else’s?

    • Lena

      Ah, nice way to perpetuate traditional gender roles. Mom’s exhausted from lack of sleep because of a colicky baby? Too bad, she’s on her own, dad can’t lift a finger because only she has the “mothering hormone.” (I hope everyone here forever thinks of that one whenever you comment. Are you for real?).

      Repeat after me, yentavegan: “I am not every woman.” I want you to say that every time you think that anyone who doesn’t parent like you is doing something wrong.

      Mothering hormone. Jesus Fucking Christ.

    • Ob in OZ

      It is comments like these that make me smile. I will forward this to my wife and suggest the next time we are both exhausted (almost every night, since we both help our children when they are distressed even though only one of us can breastfeed). I’ll ask her to let me sleep as I lack the mothering hormone. I may get a “your fathering hormones will do quite nicely” and a shove out of the bed, or words may fail her and there will just be a lot of shoving.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        It is comments like these that make me smile

        Me, too. As in, “I wish…”

      • Elizabeth A

        I dunno, you might get more sleep. But remember that sex you were planning on having, oh, ever again?

    • Box of Salt

      “Fathers lack the mothering hormone and can not suffer the colic crying of an infant especially when sleep deprived.”

      Of course they lack it! They have the fathering hormone, which allows them to survive all types of irrational child behavior at any hour of the day or night, even when sleep deprived.

      Clearly, some fathers have a deficiency of this hormone. I’m glad I’m not raising children with one of those.

      • yentavegan

        In defense of my husband who is the best husband and father, he freely owned his inability to tolerate wailing infants. He is the rock steady in mylife. Our children love him and our devoted to the example he set. He is hard working, generous charitable and forgiving. He laughs at silly situations and does not sweat the small stuff. I hope my sons become the type of husband and loving father he is.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Here’s my question re: the “inability to tolerate wailing infants” claim: what would he do about it?

          The question in parenting is not whether we like everything that goes with it. I don’t like cleaning up poop accidents off the floor, and, in fact, I tend to gag if not puke a little (OTOH, I have no problem with the messiest of diapers).

          But the question is, what are we going to do about it? Make my wife clean up all the messes? What if she isn’t there?

          The key is to respond appropriately. You can’t avoid problems and stress in parenting, so you need to be able to deal with them in an appropriate fashion.

          So back to the father who claims he can’t tolerate a wailing baby: what will he do when faced with one? Lose control? Not acceptable, because you can’t count on him not having to face that situation.

          So it comes down to, is it really “I can’t deal with it” or “I don’t want to deal with it.” If it’s “I can’t” then the correct response is to get help so that he can’t. If it’s “I don’t want to” then, well, join the club.

          • Lena

            If I had a husband who claimed “can’t” and refused to do his share of the childcare, his ass is out. WTF is the point of having a co-parent if I’d essentially be a single parent anyway?

          • yentavegan

            Well what did my own husband do when he realised that he could not calm down our crying infant the one time I left the house to attend a class? He greeted me at the door , handed me the sobbing infant and begged me never ever to leave him alone with the babies. He then took out a life insurance policy on me, in case I died he would have the money to hire someone to watch the babies.

        • auntbea

          Well, that’s all fine and well, but your husband is not “men.”

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Clearly, some fathers have a deficiency of this hormone. I’m glad I’m not raising children with one of those.

        And there are moms who seem to have a deficiency as well. My brother’s first wife, for example, seemed to have no mothering instinct at all, to the detriment of her two daughters.

    • Jennifer2

      Since I didn’t breastfeed, neither of us had the mothering hormone. My husband got sent into the lair of a cranky baby plenty, and both have survived and even thrived. In fact, he was probably the better of the two of us at dealing with a crying infant while sleep deprived. Actually, I wonder if the lack of mothering hormone is what made me have trouble with breastfeeding instead of the other way around. Maybe I’m supposed to be a father. If we have a second, I’ll try to convince him to get pregnant/give birth/breastfeed.

      • Jennifer2

        Also, my mother formula fed both of us kids, and my dad was about the most patient, calm, gentle man imaginable. My mom has raved about how he actually enjoyed walking my little brother around the house at night since that was all that would soothe him. One of my favorite pictures is of him giving a bottle to his then 2 month old grandson. And it’s not just because they had the exact same hairstyle (thin in back and above the ears, mostly absent on top). But he just has such a sweet look on his face and my son is staring at him so intently.

    • Elizabeth A

      By this logic, my gay neighbors should never have been allowed to adopt their sons. Since they lack the mothering hormone and can’t cope with colic while sleep deprived. Somehow, they and their kids made it through, so I call BS on not sending a father into the lair of the crying baby.

      I breastfed two perfectly normal, sometimes cranky, intermittently inconsolable infants. If sticking the breast in their mouths quiets them down, we don’t consider them inconsolable. We couldn’t always make the baby stop crying, but we could take turns, and know that our shifts with the screaming hullabaloo were not going to go on forever. Making one parent solely responsible for all nighttime comfort tends to make that parent feel trapped, and exacerbate any mental health issues that s/he may be experiencing.

      • yentavegan

        Hold your ponies Elizabeth A! My response was to the essay cited above and please do not put words or political motivations in my mouth. The article about the dad focusing on his narcissism as a coping method for a crying infant activated the snark in me. Your gay friends did not write the essay, your gay friends do not begrudge me my coping mechanisms for responding to my crying offspring. I practice the skill of suppressing judgement of other mothers/fathers parenting choices.

        • Elizabeth A

          I don’t begrudge you your coping mechanisms. What I DO begrudge you (and I begrudge it a lot) is any support for your apparent statement that men should never be asked to cope with a crying baby. While sleep deprived. You say, that’s the work of people with different hormones and anatomy.

          I say: Plenty of men, for reasons ranging from alternative family structure to childbed mortality, have dealt with screaming infants. It is not beyond their capabilities. They (the men) will not whither, die, or run mad in white linen from the screaming babe alone.

    • auntbea

      Huh? This comment, in addition to being insulting to an entire class of people, is just really not true. The “mothering hormone” as far as I can tell, is oxytocin, which men have. Secondly, I am fairly sure that a bunch of research suggests that men are generally *less* stressed by crying, meaning there is less to “suffer”.

  • Mel

    I think the author would be better off if he found some more coping mechanisms. By coping mechanisms, I mean someone to give him a break.

    One of my aunts showed up at my mom’s house with an infant who had been shrieking inconsolably for 6+ hours. (In that community, child care was a woman only job, so auntie had almost no sleep and no real support at home.) She said two words “Take him.” Mom scooped the baby out of aunt’s arms and had auntie go home to get some sleep in a quiet house.

    A neighbor of my mother-in-law would come over to give her breaks in the middle of the night when my brother-in-law (2 years old) was not sleeping until after 2am (turns out he’s a night owl) and my dear husband (6 weeks old) would not stop crying unless he was being walked – not rocked; not standing still; the person had to be moving or he’d start screaming.

    A different aunt and uncle had twins late in life. My whole nuclear family was shipped down to their house once a month to take care of the babies from Friday evening to Sunday noon. I was a teenager; it made me very sure I did not want to be a teen mom.

    • FormerPhysicist

      That’s the best of family and community. Well, except for the woman-only bit.

    • ratiomom

      This way of dividing the burden of baby care is probably the best teenage pregnancy prevention ever devised. Win win!

    • Yesacsection

      I wish I had an auntie who would do this! Or a nuclear family as awesome as yours. I have found daycare to be the best available option, so occasionally, I sleep during the day. I’ve often wondered what a stay at home mom or dad, who cannot afford daycare, and live far, from extended family can do for relief. I also wonder how single parents manage.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    This is the quote that bothers me the most: “…marveling at our daughter’s fortune to have been born into a family that
    desperately loves her and wants to provide her with everything. I hear
    myself thinking: “How dare she treat us this way? Does she know how
    lucky she is?”” It reads like an abuser justifying himself to me. Abusers often tell their victims how lucky they are to have them and try to make the victims feel indebted. He’s doing that here. Will it escalate? Maybe not. Maybe it was very situational. But it’s not a good sign.

    • Meerkat

      I was really bothered by this, too. I read the article and it did seem incomplete and disturbing. I wonder if the author is aware of the impression he is making, especially as a mental health professional. What does the whole “I remind myself that I come first. I love myself first” mean? It would make sense if this was coming from a parent who is staying away from crying baby’s room or doing sleep training. But the author is thinking that when he is walking into the screaming baby’s room… It does sound kind of scary.
      I reached a breaking point when my son was 4 months old. Colic was nothing compared to months of accumulated sleep depravation. He stopped napping during the day, so I couldn’t even have a proper meal and woke up every hour at night. I was a zombie during the day. At night he would wake up, nurse, fall asleep in my arms…I would sloooooowly maneuver my body into a standing position and lower him into his bassinet the ever so carefully…..only to hear piercing screams as soon as his head hit the mattress. I was so tired I could not even think a coherent thought of how “ungrateful” this baby is. It was more like:”goddam&&&@@@@@@$$?!)$;!:! I am so tired, sleep, sleep you little…..” I cried in frustration as I repeated this process over and over again. I was really angry at him, and my anger scared me. I did feel hopeless, so I bundled him up in the morning and went to his pediatrician. I knew I needed help, but in such an exhausted state I couldn’t think clearly. I broke down in her office, sobbing hysterically. She checked the baby over to make sure he was healthy (which he was) and had a long talk with me. I must have looked like death. She told me that I needed to start sleep training that very night. She assured me that he will me ok if I leave him crying, recommended good sleep books and told me to call any time. We wanted to a avoid CIO, but I knew I wasn’t a good mother to my son if I continued to feel the way I did. I knew that if I was happy and rested, everyone in my family would be happier too. We started sleep training that very night, and it worked. We worked on it for a couple of weeks before we saw real consistent results and we continue working on it. I shared my story with mom friends and many of them keep thanking me, because it offered them hope and concrete steps they could take.

  • S

    The doctor is writing as a parent and a psychiatrist, and he frequently refers back to his psychiatric training. To me, that sets up the expectation that he will be able to place his personal experience in some wider perspective. But he never really does that. So the piece feels incomplete.

    • Older Mom

      Word count limits are brutal.

  • Gene

    My spouse is a big fan of Louis CK. In one of his stand up routines, he says that you aren’t a true parent until you have flipped out your children behind their backs a few times. DH loves this line and I tend to agree. Being a parent isn’t always roses and cream. I’m not sure I would have used the same words and this parent, but I have happily gone to work leaving my fit pitching child in someone else’s care. Terrible 2’s have that name for a reason. And colic is miserable. You (are supposed to) love your children, but it is not always easy to like them 100% of the time.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      But again, that’s not what he talks about here. He is talking about basically an obsession with his anger. Yeah, kids do things to piss you off. But then, lots of things piss us off. However, that’s not the issue. Obsessing on that anger, and having it consume you is not anything like flipping off your kid behind their back.

  • Guesteleh

    Some babies are just off the chart difficult. If you haven’t parented one, you have no idea just how life-altering and draining it is. Everyone goes through baby boot camp but this is more like baby Bataan Death March. For those parents, it can be an incredible relief to know you aren’t the only people going through this. I had that moment when I took the test from the book The Difficult Child and realized that holy crap, my kid is off the charts hard to deal with. Just having that awareness made it easier to cope and today he’s a great kid but we went through a lot of hell to get there.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      But he’s not saying that he is in an especially bad situation. He is implying that this is a common feeling for parents.

      “I am amazed by how rarely parents talk about just how furious our young ones can make us.”

      Who is that “us” that he is talking about? Doesn’t sound like he is just talking about “parents of off-the-chart-difficult children.”

      Yes, their are kids who are off-the-chart difficult, but that’s not the norm (by definition – otherwise they wouldn’t be “off-the-charts.”

      • Guesteleh

        He’s describing an especially bad situation. That level of crying is extreme. Even so, I think many parents of middle-of-the-road kids could relate to this to some extent. Kids push your buttons, anger is normal. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or an abuser.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I admit that I didn’t bother to read the full article, but

          Considering that infants and toddlers scream despite having been fed,
          changed, walked around, bounced, hugged and kissed,

          isn’t extreme at all. It’s normal for babies and toddlers to scream despite having their needs met. The extreme part is about how much they do it, not that they do it.

          And in that respect, I don’t see the extreme part, at least not in the parts quoted here.

          • Guesteleh

            You need to read the entire article and the comments too. It will give you a different perspective.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            I’ve read the entire article. It reads to me more like an inexperienced young man who didn’t know what he was getting into when he decided to have a child than a child with extreme crying.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Indulge me. Provide some quotes from the article that indicate that the child was at the extreme?

          • Clarissa Darling

            I’ve read the article and you’re right, the guy never states explicitly how much his daughter is crying.
            No mention of if it’s 2 times a night or 20 times a night or for 10 minutes at a time or 10 hours at a time.
            He’s just saying she cries and he’s angry. I think people are speculating that his daughter’s crying must be extreme because his reaction seems so extreme but, there’s no way to tell for sure from the article.

  • Clarissa Darling

    Well, I finally got around to reading the actual article instead of just relying on Dr. Amy’s account. I scrolled down to see the comments and found this little gem:

    –Before I read the biographical note, I thought you were the infant’s mother, and my first reaction was “she must not be breastfeeding”. I say this not just because breastfeeding is a way to connect the baby with the intense reassurance of Mommy’s scent/feel/taste/voice/appearance, but also because a breastfed child is so quickly soothed.

    In German, the verb “to breastfeed” is “stillen” — with the connotation of “to quieten”, as in the phrase “still waters run deep”.

    Yet another benefit of the original Nature-designed infant nutrition.–

    I’ve really got to stop reading this blog because I’m starting to have bad dreams about lactivists!

    • Older Mom

      Whoever is crazy enough to believe that hasn’t had a kid with health problems, sleep problems, or feeding problems–or hasn’t suffered from low milk supply as an adult.

      What a bunch of crazy.

    • LynnetteHafkenIBCLC

      Lol. Until you have sat breastfeeding your little cherub and gazing adoringly into her eyes, and then suddenly felt a sharp set of teeth viciously bite your nipple, you havent truly experienced rage. 🙂

      Edit: well, rage followed by deep breathing and leaving the room until calm returns.

      • Marguerita

        LOL been there. And the internet only told me how it’s not a sign I should stop breastfeeding.

      • Oh teeth make it worse but are optional, my sons bites me and he doesn’t have teeth yet!

        • Isramommy

          Oh, yes. I have a toothless biter too. Let me tell you, I love nursing and I will be sad to give it up but I seriously think I am going to have to wean him when he cuts his first tooth. I’d really like to keep my nipples attached to my body. Let’s hope he’ll be a late teether like his sister was.

      • Yesacsection

        My little cherub has has eight teeth. I can’t get this cherub to drink formula or breastmilk from a bottle; thankfully time is near for cow’s milk.. Thank you for making me laugh out loud!

    • amazonmom

      Hmmm. My kid screamed 20 hours out of 24 a day the whole time I breastfed. Guess she didn’t get the memo

      • Clarissa Darling

        Maybe she doesn’t read German.

  • Lisa

    I read that piece with my 9 week old passed out (finally) on my lap and thought Wow, someone else acknowledging how hard this is. Not scary at all.

  • Lena

    I’m not a parent and lean towards keeping it that way, but I didn’t find that article all that alarming. It could be I’m interpreting it too generously–I tend to assume ranting writers are being hyperbolic for emphasis–but the fact that he’s aware of his anger and where it comes from:

    “Perhaps surprisingly, I believe that this anger is directed much less at
    our daughter than at myself. In these 4 a.m. confrontations I
    experience feelings of aggression in direct proportion to my perception
    of personal failure at the most important job of my life. In those
    moments I feel as if my love is not enough or that if I were stronger or
    smarter, she would not be crying.”

    makes me think he’s just letting off steam and trying to help feel other parents less alone.

  • Deborah

    Sounds like the psychiatrist is in dire need of some psychiatry himself.

    • Sue

      Somewhat ironically, the specialty of psychiatry does tend to attract people who have experienced mental health issues themselves. Good for insight, I guess, but can lead to some unusual perspectives.
      (present company excepted, of there are any psychiatrists out there).

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Somewhat ironically, the specialty of psychiatry does tend to attract
        people who have experienced mental health issues themselves.

        Just like Bob Wiley, in What About Bob?

        “Death therapy, Bob. It’s a guaranteed cure.”

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I agree. And a babysitter. And maybe some family leave time from work. And a grandparent willing to tell him “go back to sleep, I’ll take care of the little one tonight.” He’s overstressed and needs to deal with it before something bad happens.

      Crying babies frighten me. Not because the crying bothers me (though it does) but because I’m scared of the parents’ reaction. Seen too many people explode at a baby just acting like a baby to not be scared of this article. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe there’s no danger and he’s just blowing off steam. But he sounds like someone on the edge and the baby is much smaller and more fragile than he is.

  • PollyPocket

    If he is “angry” at his daughter as a newborn for doing normal newborn things like crying, what happens when she does normal school-age things like lying? Or normal teenage things?

    I mean, yes, an infant’s cries are irritating, but parenting doesn’t exactly get easier once the child is no longer an infant.

    • Older Mom

      I disagree. Everything gets easier once you’re getting enough sleep.

      • notahomebirthlactivist

        I don’t think so. Older kids and teenagers can keep you awake with worry. Babies may cry a lot but at least its rarely life threatening. My parents have always said the teenage years were the hardest with my brother and I. Dating, cars, parties, alcohol etc.. and we werent that bad either. I work with young people a lot, and sometimes it makes me want to keep my kids small forever. Only sometimes of course.. the sleeplessness does get old sometimes.

      • Lizzie Dee

        I agree that chronic sleep deprivation/exhaustion makes dealing with anything much more difficult, and if this chap was writing about that and the toll it is taking on his emotions, then fair enough. But he isn’t. He is writing about his anger, and, it seems to me, justifying it in terms that I don’t think are all that typical or helpful. He uses two other words: desperation, hopelessness – and no-one would deny having those negative feelings from time to time. But he appears to be saying that he feels an aggressive, punishing anger he cannot distance himself from not briefly but consistently. It may just be badly written, and he is, in reality, a loving father trying to share difficult thoughts, but it still smacks a bit of the “She made me do it” defence of a violent man.

        Teenagers are something else entirely, a whole new set of parenting quandaries, whether sleep deprived or not. They press your buttons in ways you hadn’t even thought of. If you are lucky, it doesn’t last long.

        • Older Mom

          I’m confused. Isn’t anger an emotion? Is it no exacerbated by sleep deprivation too?

    • JustRhon

      This^. Right now this man realizes that his “doesn’t she realize how lucky she is” argument is irrational because of the child’s age but I fear what will happen in a few years when she is “old enough to know better”. Anyone that can express such profund anger at an infant, that is simply trying to get their needs met in the only way they can, poses a terrifying threat to an older child.

      • guest

        I agree. I never felt this kind of anger towards my son as an infant. Sure, I was frustrated and cranky when he had a fussy day, and we struggled a lot with feeding and there were a lot of tears from both of us about that the first three months (till we switched to bottles). But I never felt rage like this guy describes. The first time I was truly angry at my kid was when he intentionally hit me in the face and hurt my nose. I had to take deep breaths and remind myself he was just being a 2 year old. He’s now 4 and regularly annoys the crap out of me, but I have to just keep gently correcting his problem behaviors, celebrating his strengths, and reminding myself that he’s still learning to be a decent person. This guy sounds like he’s going to expect perfect behavior from his toddler, which is a recipe for disaster – one of the jobs of a toddler is to push boundaries just to see where they are. That can really piss off parents who don’t have an anger issue – and this guy sounds like he does have one. 🙁 Poor kid.

    • Yesacsection

      I hope some things get easier. Having a child attached to my breasts was a major pain effectively in my entire body, because I was chronically sleep deprived. Tried several formulas and all that happened was it would get spit back at me. And, when my cherub cried incessantly for hours at night despite everything I did, night after night, for colic, I did get angry at the entire world, including my child from time to time. My child cried a lot during the day, too. I was pissed my husband did not have breasts,ovaries, and a uterus at one point. I did however, recognize I was angry at the situation and frustrated, but in the end, not at my child. That’s what gets me about this man. His article never seems to go to that.

      Now, I’m only 11 months into it, but it is depressing to hear from you it doesn’t get any easier. I’ve found it sometimes get’s a little better and I’m trying to be optimistic here! When my child’s colic ended it was a joyous day, and parenting, did, in fact become much, much easier. I’m now wondering if sometime down the road I’ll look back to those colic filled days as some kind of awesome fun adventure compared to the later stages of development.

      • Lizzie Dee

        The worst time for me was the first year after my second was born. I found dealing with a lively disabled toddler and a new baby was a lot harder than I had anticipated, and I didn’t have much in the way of support. A neighbour, watching me struggle one day, said jokingly “It gets worse, you know.” and I remember thinking ” It can’t!”

        It didn’t. It never got easy, given my special circumstances, and the challenges still come up, but if you got through the first year, it will improve. (I look back on colic as a benchmark of how awful it can be, and wonder how I did it.)

  • R T

    Whoa, not okay! My baby had horrible colic! Once, my husband came home and found me laying on the floor crying, bawling at the top of my lungs and flopping around! I was wailing an apology to our 8 weeks old son for being a failure as mother, but I was not angry at my baby! He picked me up, picked up our baby and sent me for a nice long nap. My husband and I remarked we understood how emotionally unstable people with poor impulse control could shake a baby. However, we were never angry at our baby. We were able to understand he wasn’t trying to ruin our life. He didn’t feel good! I think this man is teetering on the edge of being a danger to his child. I hope he gets some professional help! I’m not surprised he’s interested in the mental health field as I get the impression he has some experience with his own mental health issues. Yikes!

    • R T

      Wait a second, this is a two year old? Something might be wrong with her?!

      • PollyPocket

        I was under the impression this had been written about his now two-year-old daughter when she was an infant. Unfortunately it offers no perspective with time.

        At two, my own daughter still really didn’t sleep, and needed constant physical reassurance to get through the night. Apparently increased ICP can cause night time fussiness and pain.

        But I never felt anger about the situation. I felt helpless knowing my baby was in pain and didn’t have the coping skills to deal with it. Our neurologist is two hours away, and every drive is worth it, for the pain free nights.

  • Lisa

    I’ve been frustrated parenting a young child, but never this angry. I hope he doesn’t lash out one day.
    My mantra with EVERYTHING parenting is “This too shall pass”. Colic, teething, whiney phases, illness…. they all pass.

    • Older Mom

      They do. And it’s much, much easier to remember it when you’re not in the throes of sleep deprviation.

  • lucy logan

    everyone is so supportive–i think this guy is way over the top and scary. its odd he doesnt mention the childs mother or express any concern as to why his toddler is crying all night long. He seems like an enraged narcissist of the sort likely to abuse a child. Im not a perfect parent, i find my toddler frustrating at times, but i cannot imagine being THIS angry at her. even when i was sleep deprived and she was a tiny baby who wouldnt sleep.

  • theadequatemother

    Best advice ever – dont take parenting advice from someone more than 2 years ahead if you because they forget. My mother, whenever I asked for help went kind of blank. Apparently she could just lay me down and I’d go to sleep. Apparently she just handed me a cup one day and I knew exactly what to do with it. Potty training? Apparently I did it on my own. Either I was an angel baby or she has just forgotten.

    I remember the intense frustration, anxiety and anger I felt when my kid was crying. I remember playing chicken with my husband (who had the first eight weeks off) as we both lay in bed pretending to sleep an hoping the other would “break” first and deal with the crying. I don’t think this guy’s feelings are out of the ordinary. Maybe his frankness is, maybe he’s doing his daughter a disservice by writin under his real name, but given how the younger generation uses social media I would bet a substantial amount that this blog post is not going to be up there in the top ten list of online content that bothers her. Which is more a commentary on what I think is a sad culture of overstating in general.

    And like him at work things are different so t was a by of a shock that my kids cries bothered me so much. I mean I can hold yor kids down and force an anesthetic in them and not care about the crying at all. I just can’t get that emotional distance from my own kid.

    • KarenJJ

      Heh my mum was the same. She actually said to me before my first was born “oh newborns are easy. They just eat and sleep all the time”. I was flabbergasted at the time, but a couple of years out I sort of get her point. I wonder if I’ll say the same thing to my kids when they start having kids of their own.

  • Marguerita

    This is OT but I was wondering if others experienced this kind of thing too. I feel like I’m being punished by my coworkers for having had a baby.

    My workplace has been great about the baby – paid maternity leave (I took six weeks and they expressed concern that this is too little), flexible hours, pumping room, etc. My boss has been very supportive. What surprised me was that all my other coworkers began ostracizing me when I got back from maternity leave. I was surprised since these are people that used to invite me for beers after work and now I’m air. I sent them a photo of the baby when I was on maternity leave and no one replied. They don’t talk to me, not even things that I actually need to do my job.

    At first I thought I did something wrong – I really was very distracted at first with the new baby. It’s clearly not that though, as I’ve been getting raises and clients love my work. If I’m doing something wrong at work no one is bothering to tell me what it is. I did have problems working my full 40 hours because I was crying every day from this situation but I asked to reduce my hours.

    • auntbea

      How old is your baby? They might be ostracizing you…or your PP brain might be helping you interpret their behavior particularly negatively. When my depression is not well controlled, for example, I become convinced that everyone is irritated and frustrated with me, when in reality they are not thinking about me one way or the other. I only suggest this because you mention crying every day, which suggests you are down and feeling quite sensitive. Have you asked someone else you trust for feedback about what you are seeing/sensing?

      • Marguerita

        He’s now a toddler. I thought I might be misinterpreting their behavior when he was new but I’m convinced now. I’m not entirely sure if the baby is the reason they started ostracizing me but it seemed to start gradually when I told everyone I was pregnant. I felt well integrated until then.

        None of them have children except one and his wife is a STAHM so they don’t really understand a lot of the hardship. Their behavior is absolutely not normal though. They completely and obviously ignore me.

        Knowing them, I wouldn’t be surprised if they resent me for being “costly”. I am the newest member of the team and the only one who took maternity leave.

        • auntbea

          Welp. If that’s really the case, I don’t really know what to tell you. Sorry!

          • Marguerita

            Well, I’m glad it’s not that way everywhere. I don’t plan on staying there.

          • Clarissa Darling

            At my old job I had a work friend who was the only one in her department that was married with a baby. The rest of her department was young singles just out of college. They’d always get together to do things like go out for an extended happy hour which she couldn’t attend because she had to take care of her child. The next day they’d all be in the office talking about the things that happened while they were hanging out together. I know it made her feel left out. In her case I don’t think her co workers were doing it on purpose, they were just young and clueless about how to relate to a married mom. If they’re ignoring you and you think it’s due to hostility rather than cluelessness I’d try to find a manager or HR rep you can confide in about the problem. If I were your manager I wouldn’t want to lose a good employee because of bad team dynamics, I’d want to help you resolve it if I could.

          • Marguerita

            Your friends’ situation sounds similar to mine except I’m sure they are doing it out of hostility. In hindsight, I have seen them shutting out another coworker in a similar way and she ended up getting let go. Anyone would have a hard time doing their job properly when you feel like you’re treated as an enemy for no good reason. I never collaborated with this and probably helped mark myself as the next one to hate.

            I did speak to HR and she knew about these people being a clique (I don’t think she knows to what extent) and she wanted to help but I don’t think there’s a solution.

          • Clarissa Darling

            So sorry to hear you’re going through this. And sorry to hear talking to HR has been useless. IMHO, they are really dropping the ball since it’s part of their job to help you work out a solution. It will be the company’s loss if a good employee leaves because of their ineffectiveness. Good luck finding a new position. Hostile work environments can be so draining and I hope you find yourself in a better place soon.

          • Kerlyssa

            If you’ve seen them do it before, and HR is useless, run, don’t walk, imo.

    • Guesteleh

      I experienced something similar and I left my job as a result. It was just a flat out hostile environment for parents. Luckily I’ve been able to land another job where people are much more understanding so I wouldn’t say it’s universal, but you’re not crazy for feeling shut out either.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        You know, it has been found that non-smokers have been discriminated against in workplaces due to things like lack of casual interactions. Given that parental status is a protected class (you aren’t allowed to discriminate based on parental status), then you could actually make a harassment case against an employer that doesn’t prevent it from happening.

        With proper documentation, I think you could win that case.

        • An Actual Attorney

          Ah, Bofa, parental status is not a federally protected status in the US. It may be in particular localities. But in most places, it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against parents or non-parents.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Then why aren’t employers allowed to ask applicants about parental status in interviews?

            OK, maybe it’s not “protected class” but “do you have kids?” is not acceptable.

          • An Actual Attorney

            They are allowed to ask. Not everything that is legal and allowable is advisable or smart.

          • Kerlyssa

            Your name is both hilarious and informative. Kudos!

          • An Actual Attorney

            Thanks. I picked it a long time ago to respond to some folks talking about what they thought the law was.

          • Kerlyssa

            Sometimes hiring guidelines are set to cover the requirements of multiple areas, the area of the home office, or non legal requirements. A multinational corporation may set guidelines that spring from laws in other countries, or a company may set guidelines in accordance with a corporate culture that is, say, gay friendly, even if none of its locations are required by law to do so. Taking the hiring guidelines of a specific company or location and trying to extrapolate local laws from them is a very bad idea.

  • Dr. W

    I think many people have held a screaming child at 3AM and understood how shaken baby syndrome happens. It is OK to be mad. If you control yourself, take some deep breathes, and do the next right thing, you are a good person. Most people have wanted to kill their spouse at some point. Most of us do not do it. Show me a person who says they have never had any very dark thoughts and I will show you a big fat self-righteous liar. Thoughts don’t change reality. Actions do. People have all kinds of thoughts. What they choose to act on is who they are.

    Been getting more sanctimommy lately there Amy.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Actions change reality and this person took an action: he wrote an article for the NYT justifying himself and his anger at his daughter, talking about how “lucky” his daughter is to have him as a parent, and explaining how right he is in every way. This strikes me as emotionally abusive-what if she googles herself or her father later in life and comes on this story-and I am concerned that it is part of an escalating pattern. Next time will he decide that since anger and hatred were ok he’s perfectly justified in hitting the child for screaming? Yes, everyone has dark thoughts, but not everyone feels the need to write 1000 words to be published in a major newspaper about them–or about how wonderful they are despite these thoughts.

      • Dr. W

        People are allowed to share how they feel. If he hits the kid, it is a crime. The article is kind of a weird way to deal with this. I would not go in for it. But if this helps him feel better, then judge away, if you are a big fat sanctimommy.

        If no one wrote about their dark thoughts, literature would suck.

        I thought it was the crunchy anti-vac folks who pretended that babies were never-ending rainbow puppies that pooped fairies and cured cancer. Babies are wonderful. They are also black holes of labor who can sap your will on a regular basis. They wear you out, in body and spirit. This guy sharing how that wear affects him is no big deal. If his actions are good, he is good. You will find thought policing very tiring. Also, people will stop actually sharing their real thoughts with you.

        • fiftyfifty1

          “If his actions are good, he is good. You will find thought policing very tiring. Also, people will stop actually sharing their real thoughts with you.”

          You said this well. It’s really important. And health providers in particular need to be able to hear “scary” thoughts related by their patients without freaking out. How can we expect people to come to us and tell us what’s going on if we immediately jump to a conclusion and start judging?

          • Clarissa Darling

            I guess I have a different perspective because as a teenager I dealt with depression. I did a pretty good job of keeping things together from the outside though (got good grades, was never in trouble at school etc…) so my parents and my doctor were inclined to pass it off as normal teenage mood swings until it escalated to the point where I was hurting myself. I’m sure as a doctor it can be difficult to find the line between showing concern and jumping to conclusions. Just speaking for myself, I’d prefer a doctor to err on the side of expressing concern. The line between destructive thoughts and destructive actions can be thin and it can be a struggle for a depressed person to avoid crossing it on their own. And, please keep in mind that not every patient will be comfortable saying or know how to say “I think I’m depressed, I want to hurt myself, I need help” very clearly. I tried in various ways to tell people what I was going through but, I wasn’t taken very seriously I think because I never clearly said “I feel like hurting myself” until I already had.

            As far as the guy in the article is concerned– surely no one could say for certain based on his writing if he is suffering from mental health issues or just airing his normal frustrations. I guess I’m just not as confident as some posters are in supposing that concern is entirely unwarranted.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I have no problem with careful listening and expressing concern and providing support and treatment if warranted. I have a problem with hearing somebody’s emotions and then passing judgement. What if you had expressed your emotions as a teenager and the response you received was “I find Clarissa scary, am I the only one?” and then a bunch of statements hinting that you were self-centered, that you should know better, and that *I* had never had the sort of screwed up response that you had. Would that have been productive for you? Or would it have been more useful to hear that you were not the only one? That a lot of teenagers struggle. That being a teen isn’t easy. That you are not bad or selfish or scary. That the emotions you felt, although strong and painful and filled with self-loathing, were merely feelings and not proof that you deserved punishment.That it was ok to put your needs first.

          • Clarissa Darling

            I think I might not have been expressing myself very well last night. I’m not trying to directly relate this guy’s situation to what I went through as a teen. I am just saying that from my perspective, it would be better for a health provider to hear a patient’s scary thoughts and take some action than it would be for them to think “well, I don’t want to judge this person so I’m going to accept that their thoughts/feelings are probably normal and wait to see what happens”. Also,I hope you know I wasn’t trying to direct this at you personally or imply you don’t do a good job of listening to your patients so I’m sorry if it somehow came off that way. As to your question: “What if you had expressed your emotions as a teenager and the response you received was …….. a bunch of statements hinting that you were self-centered, that you should know better, and that *I* had never had the sort of screwed up response that you had”. This is pretty much the response I received for a long time and yeah it totally sucked. This guy is not a teen confiding in his parents or professionals he should be able to rely on to be sympathetic and understanding.
            He’s published his thoughts in the NYT. I have to believe he knew some debate/criticism would be coming. Personally, I think it’s fine for him to express
            his feelings and I also think it’s fine for people to express their feelings about his feelings in this context.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally at all.

            Regarding this case, I think it’s very reasonable to read what he writes and perhaps reply that his situation seems harder than most and that his anger is stronger than most, and also warn him that anger can sometimes be dangerous. That in addition to his first steps (which were 1. recognizing the emotion and 2. forgiving himself) he might want to seek extra support or even treatment. What I’m not cool with is the snark that Dr. Amy expressed nor the holier-than-thou. Dr. W was right in saying that Dr. Amy has been pretty sanctimonious lately: She’ll have us know that HER children would never have needed “snack toys”, that HER solution to the work/life balance conundrum was the honorable one, that unlike every other human studied SHE doesn’t make mistakes when completely sleep deprived (because she is professional not selfish like those other people, natch), that HER emotional responses to a crying baby in the middle of the night are mature even in the face of a grueling day ahead. Sanctimonious and boring.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            Perhaps I should have made my concerns more explicit. I fear that this man has such outsized anger that he is capable of physcially harming his daughter.

            I don’t know about you, but none of the abusers I have met during my professional career ever acknowledged they were abusing anyone. Instead they spoke of their outsized anger and used it to rationalize the abuse: “She made me do it.”

            Through training and experience, I have learned to listen to more than just words that are spoken and try to see beyond to what may really be happening.

            I don’t understand why you dismiss this as “passing judgment.” You make it sound like all emotions must be acknowledged and validated. You can think less of me for it, but when I hear about all consuming anger toward a child, I get worried. If that makes me judgmental, so be it.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “I don’t know about you, but none of the abusers I have met during my professional career ever acknowledged they were abusing anyone. Instead they spoke of their outsized anger and used it to rationalize the abuse: “She made me do it.””

            It’s an offensive leap to equate a loving father who describes his emotions but does not abuse to a person who cites “anger” defensively when asked why he is an abuser.

            “Through training and experience, I have learned to listen to more than just words that are spoken and try to see beyond to what may really be happening.”
            Yeah, unlike the rest of us doctors. Please, spare me the condescension.

          • LibrarianSarah

            You are quick to put yourself in the father’s shoes but completely neglected to put yourself in the shoes of his child. How would you feel if you were a teenager or preteen and you google your last name and this article comes up. Embarrassed? Angry? Upset? Guilty? Call me whatever you want but I feel that parents these days need to have more respect for their children’s privacy. I am going to judge this person because he decided to have these thoughts that belong in a locked diary printed in a national newspaper and published on the Internet. The Internet is forever and this kid is going to read this. So yeah I am going to judge this person. Judgey judge judge judge.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            And health providers in particular need to be able to hear “scary” thoughts related by their patients without freaking out.

            He is not a patient speaking to his health care provider. If he were, the whole conversation would have been completely appropriate except that the provider should definitely ask him if he had any thoughts of hurting himself or others. But this is not a confidential discussion with a health care provider. It’s an article in a major newspaper that can be read by anyone and he gives no indication that I can see that he is seeking help, but only seeking self-justification and cookies for being a wonderful parent.

        • Lizzie Dee

          This isn’t literature though. Not sure what it is, except a personal confession in a newspaper. It isn’t cathartic, a way of making other parents feel better about negative feelings – it is too much about his own rather odd thoughts. Like most parents, I have gone eyeball to eyeball with a bolshy toddler and thought “Why are you doing this to me?” – but I know it isn’t a particularly rational question. It sounds rather like he is the one who expected an infant to be all sweetness and light, and is blaming the child for his negative feelings.

          As for judging – who doesn’t? You are judging Amy’s responses, but that doesn’t make you a sanctimommy. Yes, people are allowed to share their thoughts, but that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed universal approval or thoughtless acceptance. Judgement can be a good and natural thing which is not the same as being judgmental and holier than thou. I didn’t feel anger the way this man feels. That doesn’t make me better, it makes me different.

      • KarenJJ

        I wonder if he felt obliged to help. That he found a mental trick to help him keep his anger at bay and wanted to share it in case it helped others.

        A friend and I had our first babies close together. We catch up with a group of friends and when we did after her baby was born she said, “I thought people that shake babies must be really dumb or really violent, but I can see how it could happen now”.

        My husband responded to our first’s demands with anger when he was tired (not violence at her but a type of anger I’d never seen in him before). It was inappropriate and it roused the ‘mama bear’ in me. If it had escalated I would have asked him to get help (actually I think I did but we all got past that stage, started getting more sleep etc and his anger abated).

        • Jessica

          I think you hit on something that bothered me about the author’s NYT column. It’s not that his feelings are unnatural or unexpected or even that unusual – but the degree of anger he feels toward a crying two year old is inappropriate, and for his sake and his child’s he needs a break or some help. I hope his wife knows how he feels and does something.

          I have been plenty frustrated over lack of sleep and incessant crying – my son has night terrors and before I realized what they were I would get increasingly upset when he wouldn’t just CALM DOWN. The ability to go to my husband and say, “I am losing my patience and I need your help,” and his willingness to give me a breather is invaluable. For the author’s sake I hope he gets a breather, too.

          • KarenJJ

            I don’t know that there really IS an appropriate way to express the anger, helplessness and frustration that you can feel at 2am when a baby is not going back to sleep or has been screaming for hours (or both – thankfully we never had long screaming fits during the night).

          • fiftyfifty1

            Interesting how different things push different buttons for people. I do remember feeling rage, pure rage, at my infants when I was sleep deprived and they would cry in the middle of the night. But my son had night terrors as a toddler/preschooler for the longest time and they never bugged me at all, even before I fully realized what they were. They freaked my husband out in a big way though. He dreaded them happening. To me, something about the cry of the night terrors seemed so different somehow that it didn’t trigger any annoyance or fear or anger or anything really. I found them interesting.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      If you think this is about being a sanctimommy, you may have missed my point. It is quite common to feel angry at a screaming baby and in no way am I suggesting that he should pretend that he is happy with the situation.

      But we KNOW that sometimes parents feel anger that is outsized and although the child may seem like the proximate cause, there may be other factors at work.

      It seems to me that rather than being refreshingly honest, this piece may be a cry for help from someone who recognizes that the depth of his anger is inappropriate and needs help, but isn’t comfortable asking for it.

      It is a very satisfying myth to imagine that successful professional people don’t physically abuse their children. If only that were true.

      • SarahSD

        Yeah. In that sense, and to answer your original question – it does scare, me, exactly as much as my own feelings of being overwhelmed and angry scared me at the time. But I think it’s hard to know from the outside whether someone is going to snap or needs professional help, as opposed to needing short term support or sleep, which this guy obviously could use. Many people on here say they identify with the feelings this fellow had, including the depth of them, and still managed to not abuse their children. And others who didn’t experience it might find it shocking.

        You would think that as a mental health professional he would be able to evaluate whether he needs professional help. Maybe not. But I don’t think having, or even publishing that he has those feelings necessarily means that he does.

      • Dr. W

        The man needs “help”. You want him to get “help”. Sounds like feigned piety to me. However, my last line was snarky and I apologize. It did nothing to advance the discussion.

        There is nothing fundamentally wrong with what the guy wrote. Your response that you are afraid he is going to harm or kill his kid is, frankly, overboard.

        I do feel like a jerk only posting only now, when I finally disagree with you about something. Big big fan, I just think you are inferring like crazy out of fear for the child.

        • fiftyfifty1

          Oh I wouldn’t worry too much about snarking a little on Dr. Amy.

    • Lizzie Dee

      I read somewhere that one’s risk of being murdered is fairly high in the first three months of life – and yes, I can understand very easily how and why people shake a crying baby. But what I take from that is that parents should be very wary of feeling anger and find a way of dealing with it – not write articles claiming it is OK. Lie on the floor and scream yourself, ask for help, buy ear plugs.

  • Dr. J.

    As a doctor-Dad to 2 babies who had colic I kind of feel like I know where he is coming from. You enter the world of this tiny unknowable person who screams, for hours at a time, without reason, who cannot be consoled. You don’t sleep, you cannot think properly. Everyone you know offers advice that is useless but you try it anyways. You don’t sleep. The ringing in your ears never stops, you cannot concentrate, you are not a good doctor at work and you are guilty that work is a solace. You return home to the screaming. You don’t understand your feelings, you struggle with ambivalence, you believe that the baby hates you, you believe that the baby is sick, you believe that you are missing something. The screaming is evidence that you are a bad doctor and a bad person. Your friends offer some advice about what you are doing wrong. You don’t sleep. You start to have dark thoughts, you bring yourself back, you go to work. You drive the baby in your car, for hours, screaming, so that your wife can sleep. You forget to eat. Your parents call to tell you what you are doing wrong. The ringing in your ears is louder. You don’t sleep.

    And then it ends. One day it just ends, the crying stops, not gradually but abruptly. It’s just over, life goes on, you wake up suddenly in your quiet house and go to check on the baby, now you are scared by the silence. You feel like you only finally just met your baby. You promise your baby that you will be a good Dad.

    • CanDoc

      This.
      Brilliantly stated, thank you.

  • Alenushka

    He is brutally honest. There is different between feeling a fury and acting on it. I actually think when people notice and anger and fury and they acknowledge that they are actually feeling it, they are more likely to let is go and d the right thing. Perhaps it is my Buddhist upbringing. I feel that one feels really angry at the child, one should leave the child in the safe setting, crib for example, and take a 5-10 minutes breather by herself in the shower. As an old nurse said once to me, “better the baby hates you for 5 minutes that you hate him”.

  • Karen in SC

    The person who can discover a safe sleeping medication for babies will make a fortune. (that’s all I got LOL)

  • Oxigenated

    Constant sleep deprivation is just awful. It’s a method of torture. A few days of no sleep can kill. I don’t know what kind of help he has, or how much help he’s able to get. I don’t know if earplugs work for him. I don’t know when’s the last time he slept more than two hours at a stretch.

    I would say I am a really good, in touch, attuned, loving mother. I was very sleep deprived with my daughter (#1), but managed. Then came #2. For his first three months, he didn’t sleep for more than 1.5 hours at a time. He wasn’t colicky, holding him sometimes (not always) helped, but he just didn’t sleep. And I’d wake up at every little noise. AND wasn’t able to fall back asleep. And just when I did, he was up again. And I had a toddler to attend to as well, and was trying to keep doing some work from home, because I simply had to. There were so many times I wanted to just scream at him “just shut up and go to sleep already”. COMPLETELY unlike me. I rarely ever raise my voice, and the only times I do it with my toddler is if there is a safety issue and I want to get the point across, and even then, it’s not screaming, it’s just loud speaking. And there I was, thinking “oh, I get why people shake a baby…”. And then I came to my senses – I realized I HAD to take care of me. Every time I sensed I was getting to that point, I made sure he was fed and changed, put him in his crib where he was safe, closed all the doors, put in ear plugs and turned on noise/music so that I couldn’t hear him, and took an hour or two to sleep, breath, get myself back together. And when I was able to be there for him again without wanting to shake him or scream at him.

    Sleep deprivation does awful things to everyone, and some people fare worse than others, and some babies are worse than others for crying (my son was definitely more difficult than my daughter). At 4 months I sleep trained to 1 feeding. At 5.5 months I weaned off the last night feeding and got sleep through the night. I felt I became human and myself again. I can now be fully present at all times for all my kids. My patience is restored.

    So, yes, what the father wrote doesn’t scare me. I empathize. And I loved his analogy of the oxygen masks. That’s *exactly* what it’s like, and my loving spouse kept reminding me of that, whenever I told him I let the baby cry again and just put in earplugs because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

    BTW, he’s now a 7 months old who smiles *all the time*, sleeps great at night, and still takes very short naps. He just seems to need much less sleep than other babies, but I can cope during the day with his not wanting to sleep, because we’re all getting a good night’s sleep 🙂

    • SarahSD

      Mine was like your second (except she didn’t sleep through the night till she was 2 years old). I wish we had tried sleep training earlier, or had more success when we did finally try at 9 months. We’re so terrified of going through it again that we will probably stick with one.

  • Dr Kitty

    Kind of off topic… I find the whole “love myself” thing a bit weird.
    I don’t know, but I’m just not the sort of person who thinks like that.
    I don’t do positive affirmations and what not.

    Maybe I’m so shallow that I never consider that sort of thing, maybe my self esteem is so amazing I don’t have to…but it’s just….odd to me. Not just in this article, but in all the NCB “I am a strong powerful woman and I know what is best for me” stuff.

    I find for the most part it reads as either narcissistic, an excuse for selfishness or as desperately needy by someone with low self esteem.

    I’m a human being, I try to do my best, which is sometimes good enough and often isn’t, but aren’t we all in that boat? Aren’t all of our metaphorical report cards marked “could do better”?

    Maybe I’m missing something.

    • Older Mom

      Sounds to me like he’s losing it from lack of sleep and grasping at straws for how to hold it together and not do something he’d regret.

      • Dr Kitty

        If what he means is “I’m not a terrible person just because I find this too much to cope with” then fine, but that’s not what he actually wrote.

        • KarenJJ

          Bit odd but maybe it’s an American thing? Or a psychiatrist thing?

    • SarahSD

      I felt weird about that too. But when I thought of it in terms of being gentle with yourself or forgiving yourself, it reminded me of what I went through. Maybe it’s less about self-esteem and more about getting through the difficult moments. Anyway that’s the only way I can relate.

    • Bombshellrisa

      The part where he says “I come first, I love myself first” doesn’t seem to fit here. It’s not like a relationship where someone is taking because you are letting them and you need to end that cycle. This is a baby.

      • SarahSD

        Is it more like, put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else? I know when I felt overwhelmed and like I was a failure, I was of no use to my child. Ironically the shame spiral for me felt much more self-centered than acknowledging it and getting over it so I could care for my kid.

        • Bombshellrisa

          I hope that he means it that way, but if you really do need self care, telling yourself “I love myself, I come first” before you go and try to comfort a baby during a marathon crying session is not the way to do that.

    • Anne

      I read it more as “forgive myself”.
      For not being the perfect Dad.
      For having these feelings instead of those I am supposed to have.
      As a psychiatry trainee I think he is trying to use a strategy to manage his feelings.
      I don’t recall who said this, but I think it applies- “it doesn’t matter what you think- it matters what you do” (apologies to all Buddhists)

  • Older Mom

    Last thought here: I applaud this man for breaking a cultural tabool. I was just at a playdate yesterday with an otherwise lovely mom whom I had just met. She started trash-talking another mom for putting limits on a girls’ night out because she needed to get to bed by 10 pm because her child (about 8 months old) had had a bad night’s sleep and mom was exhausted.

    I thought this seemed reasonable. In fact, I’ve done that myself, many times, usually opting for an even earlier bedtime.

    But this mom, she was super angry about her friend setting these boundaries on a night they were going to hang together. “Every new mom is tired,” she complained to us. “She needs to get over herself!”

    I didn’t know her and didn’t want to start a fight, so I bit my tongue. But really, I just wanted to scream. The most important thing a mom can do during that awful first year is get enough sleep, however she can.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I really don’t see the connection between your story and what we are talking about in this post.

      This guy isn’t talking about needing more sleep. He is talking about his child making him furious and how his anger consumes him.

      • Older Mom

        My point is that extreme fatigue can turn you in angry monster, but that there is a huge taboo about even *talking* about this extreme sleep deprivation–to the point where it *is* socially acceptable to deride someone for setting boundaries around sleep for herself. I never ceased to be shocked when other moms of young ones say that we all need to just “suck up and deal” with the extreme fatigue.

        Please, can we vent to our friends? Can we set boundaries in our lives so that the sleep deprivation isn’t so extreme? Can we, god forbid, ask each other for help? (Answer: we can’t if it’s a taboo, and if we are supposed to just “suck up and deal”.)

        In that sense, I applaud this guy for breaking the silence on this issue.

      • Older Mom

        Also wanted to add that although he doesn’t *explicitly* say “sleep deprivation”, he does say this:

        “Those angry thoughts flood my mind when her cry suddenly cuts through the quiet of our all-too-short nights.”

        “The English translation of that cry is, ‘Tomorrow your 12-hour workday will be a groggy-eyed waking nightmare.'”

        “In these 4 a.m. confrontations I experience feelings of aggression in direct proportion to my perception of personal failure at the most important job of my life.”

        He is also very clear that “at night, I am too consumed by that anger.”

        All of this sounds like sleep deprivation and extreme exhaustion to me. Even the title includes the words “exhausted parent.”

        In this article, which is clearly limited by word count (all of Motherlode is), he isn’t focusing on the sleep deprivation and fatigue itself, but rather on the resulting anger.

  • Older Mom

    I think part of this is biology. My grandmother went through this with her second child (also, perhaps no coincidence, her youngest). My parents went through this with me (their only child). And then I went through it with my son. (He’s an only due to secondary infertility, but I am scared $**tless about the possibility of a # 2 and endless nights of screaming that don’t respond to soothing OR sleep-training.

    Also, for some perspective, my grandmother threatened to throw my dad out the second-floor window when he was about 8 months old if he didn’t stop crying. Today, her neighbors would call 911 or CPS–or write a snarky blog post about what a bad mom she was.

    In the late 30s, the neighbor mom sent the neighbor dad to stand outside the window just in case (she was screaming in the summer, with the windows open, in a dense urban neighborhood). The next day, the neighbor mom showed up with a casserole and offered to help in any way she could.

    My grandmother was one of the most lovely, sane women you could imagine. She and my dad were super close until she died at the age of 91. She helped raise me (we lived across the street from them) and was nothing but the world’s most amazing grandma.

    Sleep deprivation for the incessant crying will drive even the best of people to desperation. I won’t get into the awful things I thought during those 2-hour middle-of-the-night scream-fests when there was no escape (house too small to escape the noise even with ear plugs). When my son finally started sleeping, it all went away. Quite quickly, actually.

    I also wonder if, in addition to the genetic roots of colic, there are also those of us who do even worse than the general population with sleep deprivation. If so, I am one of them, and I think this guy is too.

    Really, I can deal with almost anything during the day, as long as I can get enough sleep at night.

  • Older Mom

    This is extreme sleep-deprivation talking, pure and simple. Poor guy needs some serious, extended, undistrubed sleep.

    I think the more difficulty your newborn was, the more this is going to resonate with you.

    And no, just because you feel these things or say them out loud doesn’t mean you’re going to act on them. It means you are beyond exhausted and at your wits end. I like the idea that someone suggested about a couple of nights in a hotel. I fantasized about that when my son was young. Alas, no money.

    But man, do I remember how much I HATED it when my son would cry for hours in the middle of the night. I rarely felt like a failure, but I was exhausted and just want to SLEEP. Was I angry? Hell yes! Why the hell won’t you go to sleep?

    And the sleep deprivation, that made the next day so much harder.

    • Lisa

      A night at a hotel is what my parents are giving us for our anniversary while they watch our 9 week old. It’s going to be amazing. Not romantic in the slightest though, I think we’ll both sleep like logs instead.

  • Lizzie Dee

    I don’t think it is the end of the world to feel frustrated anger when a child won’t stop crying – but it seems that this chap starts off angry. I haven’t read the original, and thought he was talking about an infant – if a two year old is regularly crying for hours at night isn’t that a rather different, less usual problem? The way he frames his anger WOULD worry me, as it seems a bit narcissistic – and he ought, surely, to be aware that angry people DO snap?

    My disabled daughter was “colicky” and could scream for hours in her first months – but generally in the evenings, not at night. Once she was a toddler, and beginning to be frustrated by her problems, she had different kinds of screaming sessions – which went on up to her early teens. These struck terror into everyone, but they never made me angry, because she was so obviously out of control – and again, they were not at night. (The fits were – but not a lot of point getting angry about those.) I get being miserable, don’t really understand getting angry – and I do regard it as a danger sign. (Have been known to shut myself in the bathroom and scream myself!)

    Teenagers, though… The best advice I was given when my younger daughter was temporally impossible was Don’t take it personally. Still wouldn’t want to do it again.

  • Carol

    I have a lot of kids and have dealt with my share of colic and sleeplessness. But it’s been awhile since my youngest was a baby, so here’s what I’m wondering: “Colic” always seemed to me to essentially mean “painful digestive distress from undetermined causes,” with the main recourse being to wait it out. (Though a change in feeding schedule did wonders for one of mine.) Could someone tell me if there’s any more specific diagnosis and treatment these days?

    A thought about the dad who wrote the article: Could he be writing with some hyperbole? Parenthood is fraught with “can you top this” stories. If there’s no hyperbole, he does seem scary.

    He also says, “Although I am trained to manage my emotions in the context of a doctor-patient relationship, the degree of parental closeness I have with my daughter renders me unable to use my background in any meaningful way.” I’d be interested in comments on this quote from those in mental health professions.

    • Dr Kitty

      Oh no, I get that. Patients are patients, family are family and you CANNOT try to distance yourself or be objective and professional about the people you love. It doesn’t work like that.

      You can compartmentalise stuff at work, but the people you love know how to push your buttons…and it doesn’t work.

      At the end of the day I may dislike, like or care about patients, but I don’t love them. I can wash my hands, put on my cost, go home and forget about them. Family…no matter how infuriating or difficult, I can’t say that about them.

      • Bombshellrisa

        “the people you love know how to push your buttons”
        Oh God, yes. And if they are family, either they installed the buttons (if they are your parents) or you are wired the same way (family in general).

        • Dr Kitty

          My kid knows that “I’m bored” and “thAt’s boring” trigger me. No, she doesn’t actually know what “boring” means, but she knows she can make me hit the roof if she says it.

          Also a snorted “eh oo” instead of “thank you”.

          Since my mother also went ballistic with the boredom shtick -“you can’t possibly be bored” was the refrain of my childhood- the button installation is clearly circular.

          • Ainsley Nicholson

            If my kids complain about being bored, I assign chores to give them something to do. It is now quite rare for them complain about being bored.

          • KarenJJ

            That’s what my Dad did! For me though, I think what I meant was that I was lonely, not bored.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      I don’t know, my son had reflux because he was born early and his sphincter was not fully developed. He was never fussy, but spit up so much that my entire house smelled like baby spit up no matter what I did. They gave him medicine for it which helped a little, but then had me start him on rice cereal at 4 months because he wanted to eat so much formula and they said solids could help train the sphincter to open and close properly. That is when he finally stopped spitting up.

      Now, my niece was super fussy, but hardly ever spit up and they diagnosed her with reflux without any real tests (my son had esophageal endoscopy to diagnose his) and put her on medication. It didn’t help. So, after that I started to notice that 1/2 the babies I knew who were fussy were diagnosed with reflux and 1/2 with colic. I am not a doctor and do not know if they are different kinds of reflux in infants, but only a couple of the babies diagnosed with reflux had a horrible spitting up problem like my son. I also don’t understand why my son needed a scope shoved down his esophagus and my niece only needed parental reporting.

      • fiftyfifty1

        ” So, after that I started to notice that 1/2 the babies I knew who were fussy were diagnosed with reflux and 1/2 with colic”

        Yep.

        Colic was originally theorized to be an intestinal problem, a true “colic” cramp pain. But no studies have ended up supporting this. The best theory out there is that some babies are just different. Somehow temporarily super neurologically reactive to normal stimuli or something.

        But many parents are desperate and beg for a cure and some docs think “well it can’t hurt to try an antacid”. So the doc says”maybe it’s reflux, let’s try a med” but the parents don’t understand the nuance that it’s a tentative diagnosis and just latch onto it being reflux for sure and then it happens to go away because it was bound to anyway. Then later these parents will tell their friends who have fussy babies “The first doctor said it was colic, but then a new doc said it was reflux and he got on a med and it fixed him within 2 weeks. Don’t let your baby suffer a moment longer. Go ask your doc for ranitidine!”

  • KumquatWriter

    I can relate to the things he’s saying. I’m fact, for a while, I think I.gave the impression that my son was a terrible child. In truth, he can be THAT almost-threenager, but I wouldn’t show the worst of it – he knows when mommy is angry and that is ok. But during the hardest phases, I would rant like a mean girl whenever I was away from him, and often still feel ashamed of my thoughts when I’m near losing my temper.

    As for how his kid will feel abut that anger being on the internet depends entirely on how their relationship develops. My mom used to tease me about how awful my colic was – still does. Its never made me feel bad in any way – its just another funny story about my babyhood.

    I write about stuff people mostly don’t talk about and am comfortable with that. I think it’s good to destigmatize angry thoughts. He is specifically writing about how he tries so hard NOT to let his emotions and thoughts interfere. I respect that.

  • Dr Kitty

    He’s not coping well, by the sound of it.
    Time off work (12 hr shifts surrounded by mentally unwell people won’t help) and a couple of nights in a hotel/motel/ friend’s guest room might help.
    Things are different with sleep.

    I know I have the world’s easiest kid (seriously, through the night from five months, happy to entertain herself in her crib if she woke early) but venting in the NYT is less appropriate for a psychiatrist than taking some time to get some sleep, some perspective and some counselling. Knowing that your child will Google your name and read this one day is a really good argument against writing it.

    • araikwao

      I want to be mad at you for the baby sleeping through thing. It’s the sleep deprivation (this time, plus memories of the last one!) 😉

  • Clarissa Again

    I often wonder about parents who write this type of testimonial. Often they are praised by others for their honesty but, I wonder how their kids might react when they are old enough to read it because nothing on the internet really goes away. Not having had my child yet, I can’t really claim to know what a normal reaction to hearing a child cry all night but, this father’s reaction certainly seems to be extreme. My first thought is to wonder whether post partum type depression can also effect dads. PS. Sorry to keep posting as a guest-my computer is down and disqus apparently hates my phone -Clarissa Darling-

  • Amy M

    I know I did not handle sleep deprivation well. It led to PPD for me. I never got as ragey as this guy, but I do remember once or twice, after being woken up several times, getting angry. I never directed it at the children..I always waited until I was in another room, and would curse to relieve my feelings. My husband got upset with me once, because he thought I was being a little too scary, even though I wasn’t really saying or doing anything, just general cursing to announce my frustration and exhaustion. We had a fight about it, and then eventually got over it. I got help for my PPD and got over that.

    More recently, this is years later now, my husband is dealing with some depression (he lost his job and his mom died) and one of our sons was refusing to go to sleep. My husband cursed, using the exact same expression I had said, back when I was angry and depressed and sleep deprived, so I totally called him on it: “Oh now it’s ok for you to say that, when back when I said it I was threatening “your” son?” Yeah. He apologized. Now he knows what it feels like.

    Anyway, my point is sleep deprivation often goes hand in hand with depression. Anger goes together with both of those like peanut butter and jelly. It isn’t rational. I felt terrible that I got angry when my babies woke up in the night…I knew at the time it wasn’t personal, but it was so, so hard to be so exhausted and have to go to work. This is why PPD has the stigma it does—people are ashamed of having these feelings and hesitate to admit them, event to themselves, let alone other people. How can you can get help for a problem you can’t admit you have?

    I think this man may have a depression issue, and I hope he gets help. I regret that I didn’t enjoy my sons’ babyhood more because I was locked in the emotional iceblock of PPD. The only thing that helps is that they won’t remember it, and I hope it didn’t affect them in some kind of long term way.

    • amazonmom

      I never had rage towards my daughter but PPD sure made it feel like every cry was proof of what a failure I was as a mom and person. She first slept through the night at 8 weeks old and while I was still depressed the frantic desperation was much much less than it had been with every 2 hour wakings.

      • Amy M

        My children weren’t even colicky…they were pretty normal sleep wise…they woke every 3hrs to eat for the first 3mos, then once/night to eat for the next 3mos, then they mostly slept through the night. Oh, and there were two of them. But 6mos straight of poor sleep, combined with crazy hormones, a history of anxiety/depression and a stressful time at work (we got bought out and there were layoffs), it was the perfect storm. I didn’t even feel so much a failure, more just very very unhappy. It was all I could do to get through each day and take care of the children and manage at work. It was awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone except maybe Hitler or someone like that. But getting enough sleep would have gone a long way….maybe even headed it off. Or maybe kept me clear headed enough to recognize I needed help earlier or something. I know some women here got really severe PPD, and I never got quite that bad, so I am lucky, but still no one should have to have it at all.

  • Mac Sherbert

    “my constant sense that I am failing her” …

    I can’t help thinking that this statement explains all of his emotions. He’s a psychiatrist. His job is to help people deal with emotions and yet he is unable to help his own child.

    In way, I can relate to that. I’ve have more behavior modification training than any sane person should be required to have. I’ve been able to get children with emotional and behavioral disorders to things that no one thought possible, but I’m terrible with babies. I’m always blaming myself for whatever my baby’s current issue is. I have to remind myself that it’s not me. Babies are babies…they cry and fuss and sometime you just can’t figure out why.

    I had anger towards my baby that I absolutely couldn’t help due to lack of sleep. However, I always knew it wasn’t her fault and that she wasn’t trying to make my life miserable. I did once jokingly ask my husband “Why does she hate me?” and he said “It’s just the opposite. She loves you too much”. That helped a lot. It also helped to call in reinforcements and get a decent nights sleep.

    Will this guy snap? I can’t say, but it may be that just writing about it will help him see where is he is at and help him to reevaluate the situation. Maybe he needs to talk to one of his colleagues?

  • batmom

    His language is vivid, but I don’t think what he’s feeling is particularly out of the ordinary. How he’s handling it at home is another matter, but there’s not evidence of that in the article (and I suspect that people who are able to express their feelings vividly in words probably aren’t bottling it up and likely to snap at any second…)

    My kid’s only four months, and a good baby, but there have been periods of shrieking where I’ve thought that he must be out to ruin my presentation the next day, etc.

    • batmom

      From the article: “Perhaps surprisingly, I believe that this anger is directed much less at our daughter than at myself. In these 4 a.m. confrontations I experience feelings of aggression in direct proportion to my perception of personal failure at the most important job of my life. In those moments I feel as if my love is not enough or that if I were stronger or smarter, she would not be crying. ”

      So… not seeing a guy who hates his kid, but someone who recognizes that his anger shouldn’t be directed at her and feels like a failure when he can’t get her to stop crying.

      • Mac Sherbert

        Yes! Exactly.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I don’t think what he’s feeling is particularly out of the ordinary

      Really? You really think this feeling is typical?

      I am amazed by how rarely parents talk about just how furious our young
      ones can make us. I think about it frequently — during the day. At
      night, I am too consumed by that anger…

      You think that parents frequently think about how “furious” they are at their young ones? That their anger consumes them?

      That’s ordinary?

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    He sounds like a jerk at best, an abuser at worst. His child is definitely NOT lucky to be born into his care.

  • florence

    Yes, this man has some serious problems and shouldn’t be left alone with his daughter…. and to think he is a doctor…. scary!
    Florence.

  • UNCDave

    Isn’t the stereotype of psychiatrists that they’re all crazy? This guy seems to fit the bill.

  • bodnoirbabe

    My baby had colic and it was awful. I understand what he’s talking about. There is this anger and resentment that just wells up inside you, especially with a first time newborn. Then you beat yourself up about it and feel awful. But the anger doesn’t go away. It’s not really anger at the baby, it’s anger at the situation, at your futility. The exhaustion I think just serves to intensify ANY feelings you have. I never, ever did anything to my baby, but there were times when I was trying to sooth him and he wouldn’t stop screaming and so I started screaming too.

    He doesn’t frighten me. He’s smart enough to know what’s going on and I can only assume that he takes the time he needs to control himself before getting to her. He is just being honest. To me, it sounds like PPD, but it’s manifesting in a male.

    • Anon

      My daughter was colic and it was a hellish experience. I do remember feelings of rage, because I had a child who cried several hours a day that we could seldom put down. Imagine soothing a child almost 24 hours a day, being almost unable to sleep, eat, or go to the bathroom. I was always aware that she was helpless and I was never angry at her, per se, but I was completely overwhelmed by the experience. I was also keenly aware that the vast majority of infants were not like my child – those who could be calmed with a feeding and a bit of rocking. I felt resentful and jealous, in addition to exhausted.

      I am not scared of this man. He has awareness of his internal life. That is not “alarming.”

  • GiddyUpGo123

    I never had a colicky baby but I did have long stretches where they just wouldn’t sleep through the night. I found that if I just let go of the expectation that I was going to get to sleep when I wanted to then all that anger and resentment went away. Yes I was groggy and exhausted all the time but I started to look at that middle of the night time as a chance to read a book or watch a movie or poke around on the Internet while alternately dealing with my fussy baby (my opinion was that you shouldn’t have to give your full, undivided attention to a baby who is refusing to sleep because that’s greater incentive for him/her to stay awake). Once I was able to do that I just stopped resenting the lack of sleep because I had no expectations of how much I was actually going to get. Of course I didn’t have a job, either, and if I did I might have felt a lot differently.

  • Lindsay Beyerstein

    This passage makes me nervous: “The English translation of that cry is, “Tomorrow your 12-hour workday will be a groggy-eyed waking nightmare.” As her cry shifts into a throaty scream, I have sensed a slowly growing animus bloom inside me. I have felt my lungs fill with air in preparation to yell back at her. To make her feel as terrible as I do.” He’s imagining that his daughter is deliberately tormenting him and he’s held off an impulse to do something mean to her in retaliation. He’s not just frustrated and angry, he’s created a nasty little narrative to cope with his feelings. He keeps telling himself that his daughter is doing this to torment him, even though that’s obviously not true.

    It’s one thing to feel generically angry or resentful about a crying baby, that’s only human. But he’s elaborating on those feelings in a really disturbing way. “At night, I am too consumed by that anger. I am busy wildly contemplating global child poverty, or marveling at our daughter’s fortune to have been born into a family that desperately loves her and wants to provide her with everything. I hear myself thinking: “How dare she treat us this way? Does she know how lucky she is?”” No, dumbass, she’s two. What else does he expect his two-year-old to understand? If he really expects his toddler to understand global poverty and her relative good fortune and therefore cry less, I bet he’s irrationally frustrated and angry with her about practically everything she does.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Conversation with my two year old yesterday:
      Him: I don’t want to watch Shrek.
      Me: Why not? Is it scary or something?
      Him: No, I was just disappointed in it.

      To be fair, he turns three in month, but it made me laugh.

      But it makes me think of the comment in City Slickers, when Billy Crystal complains to his wife that the kids weren’t impressed with his career day talk. She tells him, “They’re kids. They’re excited by the guy that gives them change at the arcade.”

      • kumquatwriter

        Glad to see you, Bofa! How are things going?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Been out of town and busy with school starting

    • bodnoirbabe

      When you’re exhausted, sometimes it’s really hard not to take things personal. We all know intellectually that the baby is not doing it on purpose. But when you’ve changed them, fed them, etc and they are still crying like a mad man, you start to think they are fucking with you. It’s non-sensical, but it happens. Doesn’t mean you’re going to body slam the infant.

  • Jocelyn

    In a way, this sounds like PPD to me, but in the father. Excuse me for my ignorance – is there a name for that? PPD in the male partner?

    • bodnoirbabe

      That’s exactly what it sounds like to me.

  • Jessica

    If I was this man’s wife, reading this in the NYT, I would be taking the kid away for the weekend so he could get some sleep, or insist on my husband sleeping in a different room, as far away from their child as possible, with ear plugs and some very loud white noise at night. This situation does not sound healthy for anyone.

  • auntbea

    Aren’t mental health professionals in training supposed to undergo their own periodic mental health care as part of their training? Does he not have a counselor who can help with this?

  • suchende

    Honestly this sounds very familiar to me. I felt anger like he describes many nights with my newborn.

  • SarahSD

    The worst thing about my daughter’s sleep problems was feeling angry and helpless about my husband’s irrational anger at her in the middle of the night. She’s 26 months and only started reliably sleeping through the night in the past two months (thank god). Of course, I was frustrated too, but at times I felt like I had 2 babies when we’d wake up and he’d curse at/about her (to me, in our room, never to her). I was super frustrated that I felt like I had to manage both of their feelings when I could barely manage my own and was just as tired as he was.

    So I am able to sympathize with this guy to an extent because of our experience. Like I said, my family only recently started getting what I would consider consistently adequate sleep. I believe that 23-24 months of disturbed/deprived sleep really damaged our circadian rhythms – especially my husband’s because it exacerbated his tendency for insomnia. Sometimes he’d wake up even when she wasn’t crying and be unable to get back to sleep, only to have her wake up 30 minutes after getting back to sleep.

    I felt like I had to remind him that she’s little, and isn’t doing this on purpose. He knew that his anger was irrational, and fortunately I trusted that he could deal with his feelings and not take them out inappropriately on her. As for the last part of the article, I think it’s poorly expressed, and I don’t like the way it sounds like it’s all about him needing to love himself, but this part actually resonates:

    “However, if I can’t love myself in spite of my constant sense that I am failing her…”

    This reminds me of dealing with the overwhelming feelings of anger and frustration I would have when my daughter was really little and fussy/colicky. For me it was not about “loving myself” – I thought about it more in terms of acknowledging and forgiving myself for the negative thoughts and feelings in order to get on with life – hating my baby/my life and then hating myself for having those feelings can easily spiral, and it’s not a good thing. Fortunately as time went on and she developed, those incidents became less and less – but the helpless anger did sometimes return at night when sleep was really challenging. Sleep deprivation does some crazy things to your emotions.

    Still, I think having some kind of action plan for when things get rough is a good idea. In the middle of the night the priority should be keeping the peace and taking care of the child’s needs, not loving yourself. You can forgive yourself for your feelings in the morning. In the moment, you just need to do what you need to to care for your kid. When I felt out of control with exhaustion and frustration, I asked my husband to care for the baby at night, or he did it for me, sensing that I needed a break. When I sensed that he felt that way, I would step in (I honestly don’t know how single parents do it.) I admit that there are times when I’ve been less than my best self in the middle of the night, to both my husband and to my kid.

  • Squillo

    I think it’s frightening that it’s happening often enough and strongly enough that he needs to write about it in the NYT, and that he’s thinking about it during the day. Seems like a guy ready to blow. I hope that writing about it helps, but sounds like he needs more than a place to blow off public steam. I hope he has a partner or someone else who can take over when he’s overwhelmed.

  • Allison

    That’s crazy. If you aren’t ready to put someone else above yourself, you probably shouldn’t have the kid in the first place…

    • suchende

      What does that even mean? Feeding your child first in a hypothetical famine? Giving them the master suite? Not leaving them when a babysitter for a break you need because the baby cries?

    • stacey

      Yeah, that not really fair.

  • mollyb

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. My older daughter had colic and cried, nonstop, for months. One day she cried for 14 hours straight. I was shocked at the depth of my anger towards her after a 7 or 8 hours crying jag. I wanted to scream and throw things.Even though I knew she was just a helpless infant, after hours of this on no sleep, I irrationally took it personally. It felt like something she was doing TO me for no reason. I remember one time, as she lay howling for the nth hours straight just yelling “STOP IT! JUST STOP SCREAMING!”. Even when she would stop, my nerves would be so jangled it was impossible to relax. I felt like a failure, I was horribly sleep deprived, and I was just so sick of the screaming that never.ever.stopped. She was six weeks old before she slept even an hour at a stretch. This lasted about four long months. I never abused my daughter (save for that one time yelling at her but I doubt she remembers or could even hear that over her screams) and I never felt that I loved myself more than her–I love her more than anything on earth. She grew to a bright, cheerful, sweet little toddler who rarely fusses and sleeps 6 pm until 7 am. Looking back on that time, I feel ashamed and embarrassed by my feelings but I’ve also heard other moms of colicky infants express the same feelings/thoughts.

    • Lena

      My friend gets stressed out just thinking about having a second child, all because her 7 year-old’s infancy was so horrible. Colic is no joke–I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

  • Antigonos CNM

    i see this as a positive sign, that he can identify the source of his anger. But, and this is important — he needs help, quickly. It is the matter of an instant to pick up a baby by the heels and smash it against a wall–I had a baby with a fractured skull in just this way when I was a nursing student. As a doctor, he is probably more aware that he CAN snap, and knows where to get help to get through this period, but, as a doctor, he may well feel he can cope without help, and this is dangerous. His wife undoubtedly could use some professional counseling too, since that anger, repressed, must be affecting the entire family.

    But this is by no means an unusual situation. Our middle child was such a screamer that I once phoned my husband at work and told him to come home at once. “I’m standing in the kitchen, breaking plates, and I’m afraid to go into the bedroom” I told him. “If I touch her, I can’t answer for the consequences”. Happy to report, we all survived.

  • Stacey

    I admit, DS screaming (in the car especially) made me full of rage. I had an overwhelming, barely restrained, desire to smack him, or worse. and he was just a small baby then. I didn’t take it personal, it just set me off because I couldn’t stop it. I had to walk away and leave him alone countless times.

    BUT, I also had a very nasty case of PPD, and I also wanted to drive the car off a cliff with everyone in it, so I dont consider this is normal.

    For comparison, without the PPD: DD cried nonstop, and still cries much of the day, if Im not holding her (@18m), but it doesn’t make me angry. It can be irritating, frustrating, but I just don’t get the insane rage, and desire to hurt her indiscriminately, like I did when I had PPD.

    The feeling of immense anger itself may be common, but the way he describes it sure sounds pathological. His personalization of it strikes me as strange as well. Not OK at all, very worrisome.

  • multimom

    Those comments disturb me. I’m struggling with my fourth two year old right now. And he’s a doozy. Just last night he threw everything out of his bed, after screaming at the top of his lungs for all his puppies to be put in his bed. I have a knot on my head where his sippy cup (of water) hit me. I admit, at 2 am, I wasn’t at my most responsible so I tossed the cup right back at him. Big mistake. We now had a game. Five minutes of that and he settled back down to sleep.

    As parents, we have to think outside the box. And remember that we are still learning each child. I’ve never parented this boy at this age before. And he’s trying to communicate and trying to accomplish physically what he wants mentally. He as frustrated as I am. If not more so. The thing is, I invited him into my life. He didn’t have a choice. I did. And as a result, I have to care for him to the best of my abilities.

    This dad is probably very stressed at work. My husband worked 100 hour weeks for six years. And had four children at that time. That didn’t give him the right to be angry or hostile to our children. It did give him the amazing ability to sleep through whatever chaos they were creating. But it seems to me that mom and dad need to sit down and reevaluate expectations. Maybe it’s a trip to the doctor. Maybe it’s crying it out, because sometime you do need to just walk away. Maybe it’s a night nanny. Think outside the box.

    But in the end, loving your child isn’t a feeling. It’s an act of the will. You choose to love your child. Most of the time it comes easily, but sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s ok. However, you still owe your child unconditional love. Demand this of yourself now, because she needs it. And you’re going to have a teenager one day.

  • Guestll

    The writer has a two year old. I have a two year old. Many of us reading this piece have had two year olds.
    They can be maddening, capricious, and mercurial. There is seldom a dull moment when in my daughter’s company, unless she is sleeping, or mesmerized by Toupy and Binoo.
    I have felt frustration and anger. I’ve had to walk away, change my mental channel, do something else, lest I say or do something I regret. My daughter is a good sleeper now, but she was a terrible sleeper for the first year of her life and I can empathize with that desperate, clawing feeling you get from chronic sleep deprivation, compounded by work responsibilities…
    But..but…this guy is losing the plot. Context is everything — she’s TWO. It’s not about you, it’s not about making you mad, sad, unhappy, rage-y, whatever. Talking about her in terms of confrontation — again, she’s TWO.
    Lots of two year olds have night terrors, lots of two year olds are crappy sleepers. Screaming in the middle of the night, especially more than once, would warrant a trip to the pediatrician.

  • Awesomemom

    I would occasionally have to remind my husband that the screaming and crying was not personal, that the child in question was acting out of a frustration of a need being unmet but I never felt he had rage towards the kids, not to the extent that the author of the piece seems to have. My youngest was my worst sleeper and she drove me to the point where I just had to pass her off to my husband even though it meant having him be short on sleep for work the next day because my frustration coupled with lack of sleep was making me dangerous. Thankfully she sleeps much better after some sleep training and I get the sleep I need to be a safe mother.

    • multimom

      heh! My husband has had to remind me of that. Especially when you’ve done everything you can think of to help the still screaming child. It isn’t personal. And they want to stop screaming even more than the adults want them to.

    • Lizzie Dee

      Well, yes, but you knew the thing to do was hand her off to someone else till you felt calmer. This dad wakes angry – which, yes, I can understand because sleep deprivation is a problem, but can’t he find a solution to that problem? Must he be the one who does the 4 am shift?

      Maybe it is because I dealt with years of uncontrolled screaming bouts, but anger is the most futile response I understand it, and maybe can sympathise a bit with a temporary loss of control, but have some trouble thinking that anger at a child can be justified in quite this way.

  • auntbea

    I see absolutely no problem with him *feeling* this way, if a) the emotion passes fairly quickly, b) he realizes that it is unreasonable to expect that a child will be anything other than a child and c) he doesn’t act out his anger in a way that would hurt his daughter (emotionally or physically.) We don’t have any evidence about how he is *handling* the anger.

    My husband is an exceedingly mellow guy, but he would get furious at our daughter because he felt so out of his depth. She doesn’t, and will not know that, though, expect perhaps when she becomes overwhelmed by children of her own, because my husband is not an asshole.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I see absolutely no problem with him *feeling* this way, if a) the emotion passes fairly quickly,

      But he admits that it DOESN’T pass quickly. He thinks about it frequently, and at night, it consumes him.

      That’s not a flash of anger. It’s taken over his life.

  • FormerPhysicist

    I do understand the frustration, and the self-disappointment leading to anger. I was an awesome babysitter for colicky infants, and wasn’t nearly as internally calm and rational when I had my own child. The same personalization he speaks of.

    Still, he needs to find better coping strategies. Really.

    • Guestll

      As my wise mother pointed out during the height of our sleep deprivation, sometimes, the best coping strategy is time. And wine.
      This too shall pass. We said it a lot — we say it less now. We’ll probably say it a lot again. It works for us.

  • Ivy Wilson

    Ok – wow. This guy is talking about a 2 year old. A 2 year old waking up screaming multiple times a night. He doesn’t mention so much as talking to her pediatrician about possible sleep or neurological problems – let alone having spoken to a specialist. He hasn’t even mentioned sleep training, which might work wonders in less than a week. I can’t help but feel that a 2 year old waking up as much as a 2 week old might have some issues that could be treated.

    • Kristie

      Then you just haven’t had “that” 2yo. Seriously.

      • Ivy Wilson

        Oh no, you’re absolutely right. She may be “that” 2 year old. Absolutely. I’m just concerned that the father is so incredibly angry and yet hasn’t mentioned talking to the girl’s pediatrician about it or even having read a book on helping a child sleep better. Maybe all the doctors and sleep training int he world wouldn’t work at all for this little girl, but it doesn’t sound like her parents have even tried them.

  • justamommy

    No doubt these are the same people who insist that sleep training is terrible parenting.

    • me

      IDK… If they were co-sleeping he likely wouldn’t even be waking up (my husband can’t remember the last time he got up to attend to any one of our kids in the middle of the night).

      Okay, now that I’ve opened that can of worms, I’ll stand back…

      • KarenJJ

        His kid is two? My 2yo is a kicker, a wiggler and wants to play at odd hours. Luckily he prefers his own cot to our bed.

        • me

          Oh absolutely (mine were all transitioned to their own beds around age two). But the way the article is written he has felt this way since they brought the baby home. I can relate. To a point. When I got to feeling this way about my oldest child (bar far my worst sleeper as an infant, now she does awesome) I said enough is enough. She was about 6 months old and I hadn’t had more than a couple hours at a stretch since we left the hospital. I no longer cared about risks or dire predictions that she’d ‘never sleep in her own room’ or any of that. I was spiraling into a very dark place and sleep deprivation was the cause. about two weeks after bringing her in the bed with me, the black curtain lifted and I was able to enjoy being a mom. I wasn’t waiting for the next screaming session to start, no more falling asleep in chairs or on the couch with her, no more feeling that becoming a mom was a terrible, terrible mistake I had made.

          And I only went thru this for 6 months. He’s at 2 years. I don’t know what he and his wife have tried, or if this is just exaggerated for shock value, but who lets this go on for two *years* without trying anything and everything (even things you never thought you’d do – for me that was co-sleeping) to make it better?

          • KarenJJ

            He doesn’t talk about what he tried though. He’s not trying to solve a sleep issue, he’s discussing how he feels about his child when woken at night and he’s tired. I think most people do try everything and anything once they get to this point. My second (the wiggler) went through a rough patch with sleeping at around 12 months and because I had to get up and deal with a demanding preschooler all day we co-slept a few nights.

            And by co-slept I mean that I lay with my eyes closed in the dark on the spare bed while he climbed all over me, poked at my shut eyes, pulled at my hair and kneed my tummy for an hour and a half before he crashed out on top of me and I could move him back to his cot and then try and get some real sleep in my bed. I’m normally against co-sleeping for myself because I have risk factors that I feel make me a higher risk. At least it was a kind of lie down I suppose..

  • amazonmom

    If he’s that frustrated and angry he needs to put the baby down and walk away until he can control himself. The me me me stuff at the end is scary. Being frustrated is ok but the language here seems like its degenerated into resentment. Of course caring for young children at night is difficult but this raises red flags in my head.

    I should go read the whole piece but I’m at the pay wall for NYT for the time being.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Gotta say, I cannot relate in any way, shape, or form. Since my kids have been born, I am far, far less angry about anything than I ever have been. Sure, there were times when incessant crying was frustrating, but I never got angry with the kids for that. Even when I do get upset with them, it is for things that they choose to do (or not do, as the case may be).

    My kids have made me far more happy-go-lucky. They don’t make me angrier, they make me happier than I’ve ever been.

    Maybe it’s just me.

    • Mac Sherbert

      I would also tell you that my kids make me way happier than I could ever be without them. However, I have felt anger at 3 am when the baby hasn’t slept at all and I’ve gotten that same amount of sleep for the past I don’t know 2 months! I believe I read somewhere that sleep deprivation makes it very hard to control your emotions and can make people angry.

      Fortunately, I knew it was the lack of sleep making me angry and that it was time to get my husband up for his shift. Anytime, I got more than 3 hours sleep at time my anger magically went away and I was my old happy self.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        But he isn’t just talking about “feeling anger.” Read it again. His child makes him “furious.” He thinks about how furious he is during the day, and at night, his anger consumes him.

        This isn’t a guy who is happy but with new things that make him angry that he didn’t experience before. This is a guy who has let anger take over his life. It seems that all he thinks about is how angry he is at his child.

  • PoopDoc

    I could see the overwhelmed and frustrated and frayed to the point of snapping perspective easily when the baby is new. Parents are not necessarily used to the sleep deprivation, the feeling of frustration / failure that comes with having a tough baby. We were horrified at the amount of crying that our first did. But his daughter is TWO YEARS OLD. There is something not right about this. If your two year old is waking screaming multiple times a night then there is something wrong. If your two year old is waking screaming maybe once or twice a month and this is the response that it evokes in you then there is something wrong. It is just a difference of where the wrongness is.

    • amazonmom

      A 2 year old is making him feel this way? I guess I expected a little more maturity out of a psychiatrist. I guess I don’t work enough 12 hour shifts or longer in a row to understand since I’m not a doctor.

    • Anj Fabian

      At two years of age, waking during the night is not unusual. Night terrors are not uncommon.

      Screaming? Why? For how long? How often?
      I’d be making an appointment with a pediatrician for her.

      • LynnetteHafkenIBCLC

        Before we figured out night terrors, our daughter woke up one night screaming “MAC N CHEESE” over and over at the top of her lungs. My husband was so overwhelmed with worry that he literally went and made mac n cheese at 2 a.m. and tried to feed it to her.

        • auntbea

          I realize that isn’t really a funny story, but that’s a really funny story.

      • FormerPhysicist

        Because I always have to chime in with this, my kids’ night terrors were linked to their bladders. Their bodies were starting to wake them to pee, but not fully waking them, and they weren’t potty trained nor awake enough to realize and understand. They just shrieked and shrieked and wouldn’t wake or sleep. They did this even before being potty-trained during the day.

        Once we learned that, we put them on the potty half-asleep and they peed and went back to sleep like champs. Once we learned to put them on the potty half-asleep when we went to bed (when they weren’t sleeping – we just picked them up out of bed and put them on the potty), the night terrors *stopped*.

        If your child has night terrors, TRY THIS. What’s the downside? Maybe you wake your kid up and have a few hours with them in the middle of the night. Maybe it doesn’t work. But it’s worth a try.

        • PoopDoc

          We found that going in and sort of moving them about a bit one hour after they fell asleep kept the night terrors from happening. So now we are just in the habit of it. Bedtime at 8:30, pick them up out of bed and give them a kiss at 9:30. It was recommended by one of my colleagues who is a sleep specialist.

  • stenvenywrites

    This is a person is living with a newborn *and* undergoing residency. I cannot imagine the stress of that combination. I fear for his patients as well as his child.

  • Rochester mama

    I read the the full piece and it sounds like he needs to be evaluated for PPD.

  • Lisa the Raptor

    Yikes! Frustrated, yes. Angry? No.