Is it Okay For a Mom to Be Jealous of Her Own Baby?


Joanna Schroeder is fascinated by a CNN writer’s confession of  jealousy over her husband’s love of their daughter.


Now, here is a really interesting gender role-reversal!

CNN’s Shanon Cook has written a very honest admission about the first time she experienced jealousy at her husband’s adoration of their newborn baby. From another room, Cook heard her husband call their daughter “Sweetie,” and when she went to answer him, she was shocked:

It turns out I wasn’t the “sweetie” he was talking to. No, the sweetie was our adorable, albeit blobby, projectile-pooping newborn (who, I might add, had no idea what a hippopotamus was).

Well this is new, I thought. After 10 years of being my husband’s No. 1 gal, he’s now trying out my special nickname on our daughter.

And what’s that uncomfortable sensation in my chest? That slight pang followed by a dull ache. Heartburn? No. Could it be … jealousy?

Eventually Cook came to terms with her changing role in their household, and admits to being grateful that her husband is the kind of dad who changes the Diaper Genie and watches their daughter happily while she goes out with her friends.

But without a doubt this is a gender role reversal. Countless movies and television shows feature fathers who eye their sons with suspicion, especially as they suckle at their wives’ breasts. And while my own husband has never admitted to being jealous of our two sons, even when they were nursing, (and my husband isn’t one to hold in his feelings, thankfully) I can deeply understand how the “motherhood constellation” can leave fathers feeling like outsiders.

But I’d never thought about a mom being jealous of the fatherly love and attention her baby might get. Regardless of a certain surprise I felt upon reading Cook’s confession, I think one of the most important things we can do in our society is to talk about what we’re going through, so that people don’t feel alone and ashamed of their experiences in parenthood. Nobody’s perfect, and being a “perfect parent” is as impossible as magically turning oneself into a unicorn. Ultimately, the quest after parental perfection often leaves both moms and dads feeling really isolated in their “icky” feelings.

What do you think? Is it natural for a parent of either sex to feel jealousy over their baby?

Is Shanon Cook’s honesty about her feelings admirable? What reaction do you think the author might get, were the situation reversed, and a father was confessing to feeling jealous of his infant son?


Photo courtesy of cheriejoyful

This post has been edited to correct a misspelling of Ms Cook’s name

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane,,, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. I am so grateful for your blog post.Much thanks again. Cool.

  2. Krishnabrodhi says:

    I read the original article and this kind of stuck with me….

    “But if he gives his wife too much attention, Brandon says his youngest daughter, 8-year-old Juliet, gets jealous of her mother. She even suggested dad work up a schedule so he knows which of the two ladies he should spoil at different times.
    “If (Juliet) is sleeping then I am allowed to spoil mom,” Brandon says.
    Will someone please get Brandon a beer? What a balancing act!”

    I cringe when I read this. Not as a negative reaction to the author but to the dynamic that I see so much in the world that plays havoc on so many people. Pardon me while I partially put on my generalization hat to explain my point of view. Quite a bit of my life I have found myself annoyed at the behavior of a lot of the women that I have experienced. And I mean in general, not just romantic relationships. It seems like so many have been raised to be completely co-dependent on the viewpoints and opinions of others that they are rendered incapable of being completely ok with themselves and self-reliant with regard to their self-esteem. I have seen this so much in my life I have begun to have this image in my head of many women as buckets riddled with holes that their self-esteem runs out of constantly… and it is the responsibility of the world to constantly refill it with compliments and positive opinion or the woman is going to cave in on herself.

    I do my best to not hold it against women because I know this dependency paradigm was thrust upon them almost as soon as they were thrust out of the womb. It starts with obsessing over how their looks over their abilities and by the time their first thought that she wants to be a “princess” when she is a little girl she is well on her way to being initiated into what I call “The Cult of Specialness”. In this cult you have to believe that even though that all 7 billion of us are more alike than different that we are all unique and special. Now this is not exactly false. But the conflict comes when the idea goes wanting to be “a princess” to insisting on being “THE Princess”. Which results in people having to do the verbal dance like this in order to maintain the worldviews of others… “When I bemoaned not feeling like his princess anymore, he told me I’d actually been promoted — to queen.”

    When it comes to kids we have all kinds of lessons we teach them that lead them to care about others. We teach them that it is good to share, to look our for their siblings and so on. I think it would be a good thing if we are all brought up on lessons that teach us to experience the happiness for the happiness of others instead of being immediately rocketed into the “What about me???!!!! In Buddhism they have a specific practice for this called Mudita.

    Mudita in Buddhism is joy. It is especially sympathetic or vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it. The traditional paradigmatic example of this mind-state is the attitude of a parent observing a growing child’s accomplishments and successes, but it is not to be confounded with proudness as the person feeling mudita must not have any interest or direct income from the accomplishments of the other. Mudita meditation is used to cultivate appreciative joy at the success and good fortune of others. It is used to counteract the resentment, jealousy, or envy often experienced at another’s success. Many Buddhist teachers interpret joy more broadly as an inner spring of infinite joy that is available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. The more deeply one drinks of this spring, the more secure one becomes in one’s own abundant happiness, and the easier it then becomes to relish the joy of other people as well. To show joy is to celebrate happiness and achievement in others even when we are facing tragedy ourselves. The “far enemies” of joy are jealousy and envy, two mind-states in obvious opposition.

    “It’s a completely normal reaction. Jealousy is a response to a perceived threat to an important relationship. Part of our feeling of who we are comes from how others treat us, and when one special person seems to shift that treatment to someone else it is normal to feel insecurity and a loss of identity.”

    Where Gerrod Parrott uses the word “normal” I would use the word common. Child are so prevalently brought up in “The Cult of Specialness” that it is thought to be normal to feel the negative feelings of jealousy that that paradigm breeds. I think if we were all raised in a paradigm that celebrated the joys of others many people wouldn’t be lauded for their ability to do the balancing act of keeping multiple self-esteem plates spinning because they would be able to spin themselves.

    I’m sure this will be followed with a bunch of people saying how this doesn’t apply to them. I’ll respond to that right now and say I was not talking about you specifically in your wonderful exceptional-ism. I am talking about the general feeling I get from my personal experiences. This comes out of my frustrating with coming across so many women that think without question that it is the responsibility of the men in their lives to make sure they feel good about themselves. Your mileage may vary. 🙂 <3

    • Excellent comment. I think what you’re talking about generalizes to far more than just little girls wanting to be THE princess, but that’s a good example of it. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to value specialness and uniqueness, but where we go overboard is with the idea that it’s a competition. That is, we think that whatever is special or unique about us makes us better . Combine that with a “winning is everything” mindset, and it leads to thinking that anything less than the best is inferior, and anyone less than the best is a loser.

  3. It is completely normal. I laughed so hard the first time my mother revealed to me that she experienced that pang of jealousy when I was first born. She said she then felt ridiculous for even harbourig the thought and that was that. Hahaha God bless that woman xD

  4. Peter Houlihan says:

    Babies change the nature of a relationship on a fundamental level. I’d be amazed if it were only men who went through this.

    • I agree with you Peter. I admit, I have never had even a tiny pang of jealousy of my husband’s affection toward our daughter or sons, but I can certainly understand her confession. I grew up in an abusive home, and had a volatile relationship with my dad, so watching my husband cultivate a great, loving relationship with our daughter has amazed me and overjoyed me. I just cannot be jealous of something that I am so thankful for! That’s just me, but I totally grasp where she/Cook is coming from. I think the important part is that she recognizes it, and works through it. This too shall pass.

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