Envy in Early Parenthood: Do Parents Really Get Jealous of Their Babies?

6 Mins read

Envy is a complex emotion that is characterized by feelings of inferiority and resentment toward someone who has something that the envier desires. It can lead to feelings of bitterness, hostility, and even depression. Envy can also affect relationships, as it often comes with an intense desire to possess what the other person has, whether it be material possessions, career success, or even a child.

Envy has been studied extensively in various contexts, including social comparisons, romantic relationships, and workplace dynamics. In early parenthood, envy can manifest in a multitude of ways. Parents may feel envious of their child’s attention, affection, or accomplishments. They may feel a sense of competition with their child, or even resent their child for taking up so much of their time and energy.

While envy may be a natural human emotion, it can have negative consequences for the parent-child relationship. Envious parents may be less responsive and warm toward their child, leading to feelings of neglect or rejection. This can have a profound impact on the child’s emotional and social development.

In the following sections, we will delve more deeply into the phenomenon of envy in early parenthood, exploring its causes and effects, and discussing strategies for addressing these feelings and fostering a positive, healthy relationship with one’s child.

The Psychology of Envy

Envy is a universal emotion that has been studied extensively in psychology. It is characterized by feelings of inferiority and resentment toward someone who possesses something that the envier desires but does not have. Envy can manifest in various forms such as envy of material possessions, achievements, or relationships.

The psychology of envy suggests that it is a complex emotion that arises from a combination of social comparison, cognitive dissonance, and self-evaluation. People tend to compare themselves to others who possess something that they desire, and when they perceive themselves as inferior, they experience feelings of envy. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person’s beliefs and actions are inconsistent and leads to negative emotions such as envy and frustration. In addition, a person’s self-evaluation also plays a significant role in shaping the experience of envy.

Envy is not limited to specific contexts and can manifest in different situations. It can occur in various contexts such as romantic relationships, friendships, and even in parent-child relationships. In the context of early parenthood, envy can arise when parents perceive their child to have a better life than their own or when the child receives more attention and care than the parent.

Understanding the psychology of envy is crucial in handling this complex emotion in early parenthood and other contexts. It is essential to recognize and acknowledge the feelings of envy and address them to prevent them from negatively impacting the parent-child relationship.

Jealousy in Early Parenthood

Envy in early parenthood is an interesting and complex phenomenon that is not often discussed. Many people associate jealousy with romantic relationships, but it is possible for parents to feel jealous of their own children. This might seem strange, but there are several factors that can contribute to these feelings.

One factor is unrealized expectations. Parents might have a certain idea of what it means to be a parent, and when their children do not meet these expectations, they may feel jealous. For example, if a parent expects their child to excel academically but the child struggles in school, the parent might feel jealous of other parents whose children are doing well.

Another factor is feelings of inadequacy. Parenthood is a challenging and often thankless job, which can lead parents to feel like they are not doing a good enough job. When they see other parents who seem to have it all together, they may feel jealous and inadequate.

Social comparisons can also play a role in parental envy. When parents compare themselves to others, they might feel jealous of those who have happier, healthier, or more successful children.

In order to address these feelings of jealousy, it is important for parents to recognize them and work through them. This might involve seeking support from friends or a mental health professional, or simply being kinder to themselves and acknowledging that they are doing their best.

Overall, the phenomenon of parental envy is an important but often overlooked aspect of early parenthood. By understanding the factors that contribute to these feelings and addressing them in a healthy way, parents can foster positive and rewarding relationships with their children.

Causes of Envy in Early Parenthood

The development of envy in early parenthood can be influenced by several factors. One of the main causes is unrealized expectations. New parents often have romanticized expectations about parenthood and the perfect relationship with their child. When these expectations do not match reality, they may experience feelings of inadequacy and jealousy toward their child.

Additionally, feelings of inadequacy can arise from comparing oneself to other parents and their seemingly perfect relationships with their children. Social comparisons can be detrimental to a new parent’s self-esteem and can lead to envy and jealousy. The pressure to meet societal expectations of parenthood can also contribute to the development of envy in early parenthood.

It is important for parents to recognize these causes and understand how they relate to parental envy. By acknowledging these feelings and addressing the underlying issues, parents can work towards fostering a positive relationship with their child and reducing feelings of jealousy and inadequacy.

Effects of Envy on Parent-Child Relationship

Envy, particularly in early parenthood, can have serious negative impacts on the parent-child relationship. Parents who experience envy towards their children may show decreased warmth and responsiveness, and conflicts may arise that damage the relationship between them. It is important for parents to recognize these harmful effects and take proactive measures to mitigate their impact.

Decreased parental warmth is a common consequence of envy in early parenthood. When parents feel jealous of their children, they may withdraw emotionally and become less affectionate. This can make children feel unloved or unwanted, which can cause long-term emotional damage.

A lack of responsiveness is another effect of parental envy. When parents are envious of their children, they may become preoccupied with their own feelings and needs. As a result, they may be less responsive when their child needs them, which can lead to a breakdown in communication and further damage the relationship.

Increased conflict is another potential consequence of envy in early parenthood. When parents are jealous of their children, they may feel frustrated, resentful, and angry. This can lead to arguments and conflicts that escalate and cause lasting damage to the parent-child relationship.

To mitigate the harmful effects of parental envy, it is important for parents to be aware of their feelings and take proactive steps to address them. These steps may include seeking counseling, finding ways to increase communication and connection with their child, and focusing on self-care and self-compassion. Ultimately, by recognizing and addressing their envy, parents can create a healthier, more positive relationship with their child.

Addressing Envy in Early Parenthood

Envy is a complex emotion that can have negative effects on the parent-child relationship. However, it is important for parents to recognize and address any feelings of jealousy they may have toward their child in order to foster a positive and healthy relationship.

One strategy for addressing envy in early parenthood is to recognize and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs. For example, a parent may feel envy toward their child because they believe that the child is receiving more attention or love than they are. By challenging this belief and recognizing that the parent-child relationship is different than a romantic relationship, parents can begin to shift their perspective and reduce feelings of envy.

Another strategy is to practice gratitude and focus on the positive aspects of the parent-child relationship. This can involve keeping a gratitude journal, where parents write down things they are grateful for about their child or the relationship they have with their child. By focusing on the positives, parents can shift their attention away from feelings of envy and toward a more positive mindset.

Finally, seeking support from others can also be helpful in addressing envy in early parenthood. This can involve talking to other parents who have experienced similar feelings, seeking support from a therapist, or joining a support group. By seeking support, parents can feel less isolated and better equipped to manage their feelings of envy and foster a positive relationship with their child.


In conclusion, while envy in early parenthood is not widely recognized, it is a complex and significant phenomenon that can have negative impacts on parent-child relationships. By understanding the psychology of envy, parents can take steps to address any feelings of jealousy they may have towards their child. This includes recognizing and challenging assumptions around parenting, avoiding social comparison, and seeking support from friends, family, or professionals if necessary. By fostering a positive relationship with their child, parents can ensure both their own and their child’s emotional well-being. It is important to remember that feeling envious of one’s child does not make someone a bad parent, but recognizing and addressing these feelings can lead to a better outcome for everyone involved.

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