• Tue, Feb 26 2013

Baby Blues: I’m Getting A Part-Time Job To Save My Sanity — And Therefore My Daughter

postpartum depression babyBaby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

I read the most fallacious comment about motherhood and depression on Facebook a few weeks ago. A friend, a mom of two with a deployed husband, had finally found her happiness again by deciding to return to grad school. The questionable reply came from a traditional relative, who said something like, “don’t do it. Even if you think it will make you happier, your kids are too young to know whether you’re happy or not. They need their mommy at home.”

This comment really struck a nerve. Though I won’t deny that being a SAHM is good for some families, it is simply false to assume children can’t tell if their parents are happy or not. There are few absolutes regarding parenting, but in my short 15 months as a mother, there’s one thing I know for sure: children are astoundingly tuned-in to their parents’ emotions.

While my daughter doesn’t speak yet, she’s already catching on that mama gets really out of sorts sometimes. Her fussiness is often a result of my own, in the same way she’s giddy and giggly when I’m in good spirits. When she gets a little older and I’m having a depressive episode, she will ask why I’m crying. Or she’ll notice the old scars on my wrist. I will explain that I have something called depression, which sometimes makes me cry and makes it hard to get things done and think clearly.

That talk doesn’t worry me. She will be smart enough to understand it. What really worries me is the effect postpartum depression has on our lives right now. I’m making some changes in order to combat my depression, primarily in my choice to start a part-time serving job outside the home. It’s difficult enough suppressing my ingrained phobia of putting baby in daycare (I was raised to believe that a child’s first three years MUST take place at home and have mother present at all times, or else a child will fail to thrive). But now that I’ve gone public with my decision, I’m really feeling the intensity of being torn between doing what’s best for my health and what’s best for my daughter.

It’s mom guilt on steroids, guys.

I’m about to uproot our little home routine and put my daughter in with a group of strangers for hours at a time. I can count the number of playdates she’s had on one hand, so she’s not exactly used to interacting with other little people. I do think the group setting will eventually be good for her, but I realize this isn’t going to happen instantly. She will wonder where I am, where she is. She will probably get upset not being able to nurse every couple of hours like she’s used to. Or worse, she will start to refuse my milk. This would break my heart.

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  • Mary

    If I could do my kid’s baby years all over again, there are a few things I’d change. One of them would have been to work part time or to leave the house for several hours a day. I don’t suffer from depression and we didn’t need the money. There was a time when being apart from my daughter in her toddler years would have done me and her good. She and I just needed breaks from each other. But then again, I had no idea of her strong personality that lied ahead. If I did, I would have been prepared, instead, I just suffered through it. She’s 6 and awesome now but I had some tough years with her.

    Whatever the reason, follow your instincts. I wish I had.

    • StephKay

      I feel the same way. I actually do have depression and generalized anxiety disorder, and my daughter has a super big personality. In fact she really is an awful lot like me. She’s funny and creative, but also stubborn and emotional and prone to major separation anxiety. She was never babysat, ever. I used to bring her in with me for my few work hours a week until I ultimately quit altogether, her separation anxiety was just so intense I felt I had no choice. The big change for me came very recently when I started having pregnancy complications and spending all my time either in the hospital or at home but unable to care for her at all, not even to make her a bowl of cereal or pick her up when she falls. I had no choice but to send her off to spend daddy’s work hours with friends and grandparents, in some cases even overnight if I’m being hospitalized. After the first week of growing pains she’s been a whole new kid. That anxiety just melted away, and now she comes home every day with a big smile and all kinds of stories about how much fun she had. Sure we miss each other, and sure our situation is extreme, but had I known how great this would be for her independence and anxiety issues back when she was a baby 3 years ago I absolutely would have gone ahead with at least a couple of hours a week outside the home for her.

  • Lisa @ How to Be Supermom

    Amen! Studies show that moms who work part-time are happiest. I don’t even have postpartum depression, but I’d love to work part-time out of the house. I’d be doing it already if I could find a job I wanted that would cover the cost of daycare. Failing that, I’m planning to ramp up freelancing enough to cover a NANNY. So I can leave the house. It’s not normal for moms to be home alone with kids all day!

  • Blueathena623

    I hope this all works out for y’all! Maybe with the extra $$$ you’ll be able to see a dr? I hope that’s not presumptuous to say, I just remember you talking about not having the money to get help.

  • Antonia

    I may not have children yet but I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Through my years of working on it, the one thing that is most clear is that I and I alone am responsible for how I cope and handle the challenges that come along. My husband, friends and family are great and supportive but they cannot make me better. I think doing what you need to do in order to help make yourself a better person, better wife and better mother is important. Don’t ever forget that the better person comes first. You are right, your daughter will be fine and if that makes you a better mom then that is the best.

  • Michelle

    Now that I’m pregnant I have started to think back to my earliest memories and my relationship with my mom. My mom is an elementary school teacher and continued to work after maternity leave. I have absolutely no bad memories of feeling abandoned by my mom or anything that people say to try and make you feel bad. Granted, I was watched by my mom’s long time best friend and she had a daughter 6 months younger than me so I was happy as could be with them. The only time I remember being mad at my mom for working was when I was entering first grade and I wasn’t put in her class. I was a dramatic child…
    You do what works for you and let the haters hate.

  • C.J.

    My best friend has depression and was a SAHM. It was not good for her. She went back to work part time and it did her a world of good. She is much happier. You need to do what is best for your family not what other people think you should do. My mother worked and I don’t remember thinking anything of it as a child. I worked when my kids were small. It didn’t effect them negatively and they loved their daycare. They loved playing with the other kids and learned valuable social skills. I felt guilty leaving my first one at day care when I first went back to work too. I went to pick her up after work and she didn’t want to leave, she was having fun. Eventually I realized that kids really don’t need to have their mothers be physically with them 24/7. That doesn’t mean they don’t need their mothers, just that they don’t need to always be with them. Good luck at your new job!

  • DeliciousIrony

    I think it’s a great idea. I have had depressive episodes my whole life and severe postpartum depression. At the moment I’m a SAHM and am hating it, not because I don’t love my kids but because I know how badly my “off” days affect them. I decided to go back to school after my son was born and it saved a lot of my sanity but I’m still looking forward to the day they are all in school themselves.

  • Allyn K. Milojevich

    My son is 14 weeks old and has been in day care for 7 weeks now and LOVES IT! He is always so happy when we drop him off in the morn ings and happy when we pick him up in the evenings. Despite enjoying himself, he is always ecstatic to see us at the end of the day. Your child will make friends and get to play with other kids who will love to play the same games over and over again. I trend towards depression and while I have thus far not shown any signs of PPD, I knew that to avoid it I would have to go back to doing what I love (which for me is teaching part time at a university while finishing my graduate degree). I look forward to your reactions and wish you the best of luck!

  • Cassy

    Children are AMAZINGLY adaptable.

    One note – you mention a stable home life, with you at home full-time, and while I know exactly what you mean, I just want to point out that as soon as baby gets used to her home-and-daycare-or-wherever routine, that new routine will also be stable for her.

  • Zoe

    The whole SAHM thing is weird to me. My mother always worked. My aunties always worked. In school, the only kids whose mothers didn’t work were the ones with babies under the age of 2. All my friends with children work.

    Living the way I do, growing up with this mindset that was the norm where I lived, it absolutely floors me to hear that women have been giving the advice that a mother SHOULD stay at home with the children. I have never in real life ever heard a woman say that. If anyone ever said it to me, I would simply not understand the concept.

    That isn’t to say, of course, that a woman ‘SHOULD’ work. If being a SAHM works for you, then great. If it’s not working, then maybe it’s time to try something else.

    Just don’t get bogged down with ‘SHOULD’. You ‘SHOULD’ be doing the best for yourself and your family. Your daughter deserves a mother who takes the time to make sure she is as effective a parent as possible, using the means and resources available. If you have a really bad day, congratulations – you’re a fallible human being doing the best you can with PPD. Forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t live in ‘Shouldland’.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    Geez, your friend’s sanctimommy acquaintance needs someone to take the stick out of her butt. If the family’s happy and they’re able to make a living, it’s nobody’s business who works in what configuration. Kids with fulfilled mothers (and fathers!) are the ones who are best off.

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