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.