And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Parenting and Depression

This is a "by request" post. I have done my best...

Parenting is, at best, a challenging job. Any parent can tell you horror stories of sleep deprivation, midnight trips to the ER, and the never-ending fear of doing the wrong thing. They can also tell you wonderful stories of first kisses, homemade presents, and silly verbal mix-ups.

Parenting is the same for me as for just about every other parent I have ever talked to. It is hard for me to make comments on how depression has changed things, since I don't always know if it is depression or my personality type making things difficult. Also, depression affects everyone differently, and my experiences should not be considered typical. After all, no parenting situation is typical. Every parent and every child is an individual.

I think the hardest part about parenting with depression is that everything becomes very personal, and it is easy to obsess over things you have no control over.
Example: When Big Sprout started 3rd Grade, she was entering a new school with new teachers. I was so nervous, worrying about if she would like it and if she would make friends that I couldn't sleep for days. When I did get some sleep, it was full of nightmares that she would come home crying everyday or that the school would call and say that I was obviously an unfit mother (for whatever reason) and they were sending my child to foster care.
Example: When Big Sprout gets upset with me (as all children occasionally do), it is very difficult for me to not become overly upset. I have been known to go in my room and cry like a baby if she pouts because I am making her clean her room.

These feelings are irrational, but I can't seem to make them go away.

I have a tendency to isolate myself regularly. I am uncomfortable around people, and often retreat to my bedroom to be alone. This makes things tough when you have children who want your attention. Needing alone time is okay, everyone does. It is finding the balance that is often difficult.

A part of depression for me is being tired and not wanting to move. Kids want you to play with them, to take them to the park, to be excited about their discoveries. This is tough. My kids have had to learn that Mommy doesn't always have the energy to keep up with them. Luckily, they have a fabulous Grandpa who lives very close by and is willing to take them to the park or play with them outside almost every day. Grandma loves to cuddle and listen to endless stories about Big Sprout's day. DH helps, too, and Big Sprout has a wonderful "honorary uncle" who takes her out and plays games with her every week. This really helps me out when I am having "low times" and just can't seem to get it together.

I never want to use depression as an excuse for poor parenting. I feel that is irresponsible. Being a parent means being involved in your kids' lives, and doing what is best for them. Often this means that as parents we don't get what we want right at that moment. The big thing is finding the balance. I have to make sure to take care of myself, but I also have to put aside things that I would prefer to do in order to take care of my family.

Really, parenting with depression is probably not much different than parenting without that complication. After all, every family has it's challenges. For some it is financial, for some it could be a live-in Grandma who is sure she can parent better than the parents. Some families have children with special medical needs, some families have deaf parents with hearing children or hearing parents with deaf children. This is just the challenge I face. Maybe somebody outside of the family would see our life as abnormal, or maybe I will see it someday in the future. Right now, though, it all feels pretty much the same as most of the other families I have seen.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

I think you hit on something - parenting with depression is a challenging complication because it's so vague and ambiguous. It's hard to know where the responsibility for difficulties lies, and depression by it's nature is going to tend to point toward some personal failing. (Compare to, say, somebody who is deaf - it's usually obvious when that is the cause of a problem.) If depression causes you to act badly, then you feel like a bad parent, which feeds the depression, and suddenly you have a classic feedback loop.

The right medication can sometimes make a big difference. The wrong medication can make no difference, or make things worse in some ways. (Or have crappy side effects.) Don't be afraid to ask your doc if you can try something different if what you're taking is not working for you. Also, stopping some meds can actually send someone into a worse state than when they started, at least for a little while, so try not to go cold turkey.

Just thought I'd share. My family's been there...

barefoot gardener said...


Thanks for your viewpoint. I agree that meds can be both a blessing and a curse. Like everything, it seems, it is a matter of finding a balance. Unfortunately for those of us in families affected by depression, balance is a very hard thing to come by.

Jacki said...

Thank you - that was very insightful.

barefoot gardener said...


Glad you liked it!