Why I am so emotional now I have kids?

woman child
woman child Photo: Getty Images

There are so many ways in which parenthood changes us as women, but one of the most noticeable, for me, has been the changing state of my emotions. 

The other day I was watching a relatively light hearted reality TV show when one of the couples revealed that they had experienced the loss of a baby. I was in floods of tears for the next half hour, and could do nothing but sob that it was all 'so sad' from my pew on the sofa. 

It's not just sad news that seems to strike a chord more deeply with me since becoming a mum – it's good news, too. Whether it's someone recovering from cancer, someone falling pregnant, or someone just reaching out to say that they care, the internal emotion switch goes on and the waterworks commence.

And don't even get me started on the emotional rollercoaster that is One Born Every Minute!

However, after asking around, it's nice to know that I'm not alone in this change. There are plenty of other mums who nodded in agreement when I admitted my newfound emotional side, before coming out with examples of sensitivity that were just as revealing as mine.

My friend Bec says, "You have described me perfectly. Since having my son I have gone from never crying in a movie to being a blubbering mess at 60 Minutes. I am so much more sensitive now, and I actually struggle to even watch the news."

Amelia also relates. "I have absolutely become more sensitive to sad situations since becoming a mum. I used to have a very strong stomach emotionally and physically, but that completely changed when I had my son six years ago," she admits. "I get a tear in my eye almost every day, whereas I wouldn't have cried for months at a time as a young woman."

Rebecca echoes both these sentiments. "I've got three sons and for the last nine years, since my eldest was born, I haven't been able to watch anything where a child/baby is being hurt or abused - particularly if they're a little boy," she says. "I often have to turn the news off, and when my book club suggests a book that includes a child being hurt or bullied, or a particularly sad story, I just won't read it."

Another mum, Anne, feels the same about movies. "Regardless of having watched Mad Max before, and knowing what happens to the wife and child, I now get so distressed I can't watch it and have to leave the room completely. I can't stomach half of what I could before."

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So what causes this change in us when we become mums? Is there a switch that gets turned on at birth that makes us more sensitive and emotional? 

Dr Karen Phillip, a sociologist and counselling psychotherapist, says that it's all do to with association, and that after becoming a mum we have an increased level of empathy. We hear and see events, particularly related to a child or parent relationship, and can better understand and feel what the other person is experiencing after seeing the world through the eyes of our own children.

"Our emotions are released after the birth of our baby, and we can often become more emotional in areas relating to children, injustice, and animal cruelty. We are now more connected to the emotions of these events than ever before," she says.

"When we become a mother we can associate emotions better. It is one thing seeing and hearing the emotions of others, but a completely different thing actually feeling them. 

"No one can explain to you the level of emotion and attachment you'll have for your baby or child. It is only when you feel or associate with it yourself that you can truly begin to understand."

Other mums' emotional confessions  

  • "I have to admit that I hit a real low point when I burst into tears watching a rerun of Beverly Hills 90210 one day. I'm not sure what sparked it, but you can bet my husband never let me hear the end of it."
  • "I can't even read stories about kids being abused in the news. If I see them in my Facebook feed I have to go straight past or I end up just sobbing and thinking about my daughter for way too long!"
  • "Any shows about a hard-working mum or a sick person getting a makeover, or people just being kind to them, send me into a storm of tears. They're just so lovely … I'm going to cry just thinking about them."
  • "Ads with babies or animals get me every time. Tissue ads are re-offenders (kind of fitting, really)."
  • "I got so caught up in the bird being lost without his mum that I once cried when reading my son the book Are you My Mother? Now that's depressing."   

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