Not Cut-Out to Parent?
Q: I’m afraid I wasn’t cut-out to be a parent. When my son was born I was thrilled, everything was new and the days flew by. But now that I have two, I’m overwhelmed. My house is a wreck, the “baby fat” from my second hasn’t come off and there are days when I barely have the energy to change diapers and order take-out – forget stimulating playtime and home cooked meals! What’s wrong with me? Is this post-partum depression or am I just not up to the challenges?
A: An evaluation by your physician or your pediatrician (who you may see a lot more!) can help rule out depression, thyroid problems or other organic issues. But while post-partum depression can make being at home with small children feel much harder than it needs to, there’s no getting around the fact that being a parent is very hard work. Much harder than anyone probably warned you it was going to be. And in order to parent well and feel well, you need and deserve a lot of support.
First, find a listener for your feelings. We parents have lots of feelings, which it can be hard to make time for so we tuck them away as if they didn’t exist. The problem is that feelings don’t tuck well forever. Our worries, our frustrations, our angers mount, and the more effort we put into tucking them away, the less energetic and alive we feel. Eventually, feelings may burst out when some small thing goes wrong. Often, they burst out at our children in ways we regret later. Find another parent and set up listening time over the phone or after the children are asleep. This can help relieve the burden that too many unheard feelings create. A good laugh, a good cry, a good rant about how many expectations we’re trying to meet can do a lot to lighten our load and help us remember that we are good, no matter how much take-out we serve or how many answers we don’t have at the moment.
Notice what you can’t figure out, and talk to others about it. There are probably 50 things a day that happen in a parents’ life that he or she doesn’t understand! Why won’t your child willingly brush her teeth? Why is she scared of the dark? Being open about what we don’t know is an excellent learning strategy. It makes us active seekers of information and understanding. And it’s also fine to be open with our children when we don’t know what to do. “I don’t know what we are going to do to keep this house in order. I’m thinking about it. We’ll talk about it tomorrow, after I’ve called a couple of people to see if they have any good ideas” is a fine approach to a household problem.
Reprinted with the permission of Hand in Hand Parenting. © 1997-2011 Hand in Hand
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