Moms with Depression: How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Kids
First of all everyone from My Depression Connection wants to wish all the moms out there a Happy Belated Mother’s Day. I hope the day was special for you and you got to do something fun or at least relax for awhile. Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs out there but you add something like depression to the mix and motherhood can soon become overwhelming. So I am going to give you some tips and suggestions of how to stay afloat and be able to take care of you and your kids despite your depression. But before I do, I am going to first talk about why some moms may be susceptible to depression.
If you are a mom with depression, some contributing factors might be…
• You have just had a baby and you are suffering from postpartum depression. The first three months after giving birth can be a rough time emotionally for some women. Postpartum depression is fairly common. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that one in ten new mothers will experience this type of depression. If you worry that you have postpartum depression I have written an article to help you identify the warning signs in my post entitled, “I have a new baby. Why do I feel so Depressed?”
• You lack support. There are many single moms out there or mothers in relationships where they may not have the emotional or physical support from their partners. The task of parenting can seem overwhelming without some sort of support system.
• Hormonal changes may play a contributing factor again for depression in later stages of a woman’s life. The transition to menopause can trigger depression in some women. Information from our My Menopause Connection warns that: “Women who have no history of depression may experience depression as they transition into menopause, suggests a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry.”
• You have “mother issues” with your own mom. Perhaps you didn’t have a good role model for being a mom as your basic emotional needs were neglected. It can be difficult for some women who experienced childhood deprivation or trauma to come to terms with being a mother themselves. Parenthood may trigger some of those old childhood feelings and can cause them to resurface.
These are just some of the many varied factors which may exacerbate depression for some mothers. And some women may enter motherhood with an already existing pattern of depression but the challenges of parenting can make it seem all that much harder to cope with.
So this is why I am going to give you some tips and suggestions of how to manage your depression when you also have children in your care:
• There is a sign in the cabin of every airplane near the oxygen masks which instructs parents to use the mask first in case of an emergency. This seems to go against our gut instinct as mothers to take care of our children first. But the thing is, who is going to take care of the kids if you don’t take care of yourself? If you suffer from depression, it is all the more reason that you need to make sure that you get some of your needs met so that you are more capable of giving time and energy to your children.
• Depression is considered by some to be an illness like any other illness. If you were a mom with diabetes or asthma, you would learn ways to manage the symptoms so that your health does not deteriorate. The same goes for depression. When you have children who depend upon you, it is critical that you understand your particular warning signs and symptoms of depression. When you feel that a depressive episode is pending, it is crucial that you get some help and treatment. Don’t wait and allow your depression to become worse.
• Children who have a mom who has depression or other mental illness may often feel super responsible for their parent. Yet their role is not to be a mini-parent. It is my opinion that children need to be allowed to be children. Sometimes the boundaries and the lines may become blurred in such a circumstance, but as a parent, it is really important that you do remain the parent figure. Your depression is not your child’s responsibility, it is yours.
• Be honest about your depression with your kids but avoid giving too much personal information. Again, your child is not a mini-parent nor is he or she a therapist. The age of your child is important to consider when explaining depression and how it affects you. You want to convey that you do love them no matter what and that your illness is not their fault. Some children may believe that your depression is somehow their fault. You need to be clear that your moods and happiness is not dependent upon them.
• Give yourself a break: Physically and emotionally. Get a babysitter, friend, or family member to watch the kids so that you can get a break in order to have some time to yourself. And here is the real trick, don’t feel guilty about it. Parenting is a very difficult job and so you do need respite and times to look forward to away from household responsibilities so that you can re-energize.
• Recognize that there will be some days where you will need to go into survival mode. Prioritize about what are the most important things to get done that day. If you have kids the list may look like: Make sure everyone is fed, clothed, and clean. Know your limitations of what you can and cannot do on any given day. And in the same respect, redefine what success means. Having a mother who is loving and kind despite her weariness, may be a whole lot more important to a kid than the fact that mom got all her dusting done.
There is a lot to being a mom which may go unappreciated. There are no raises or certificates of achievement for doing a good job. And as I have said before, being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. So I did want to end this post by saying that you are super important and your kids do need you. Even if your kids are all grown up they will still always need you. So be kind to yourself. If you suffer from depression, do seek help and treatment to take care of you.
I hope that we here on My Depression Connection can help you to find the resources, information, and support that you need to stay on track and to manage your depression on a day to day basis.
If you are a mom who suffers from depression, we want to hear your thoughts and stories. What symptoms of depression make parenting especially difficult? What coping mechanisms do you use in order to stay afloat and able to take care of yourself and the kids?
You know we love to hear from you. Thank you to all who share here on this site. It all makes a difference in helping both yourself and others who may find sustenance and support in your words.