Baby Blues: Spending Time Away From My Baby Makes Me Feel Healthier

babybluesBaby 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’ve written before about the feeling of isolation that comes with being a SAHM, and I stand by it. Staying at home all day with a baby is lonely, lonely work. But I don’t do that anymore. I work at home while baby attends daycare. But the nature of my isolation has changed, and it really hit me yesterday as I was taking a break from my work to toss in a load of laundry. Time away from my daughter makes me feel healthier.

Yesterday, there was no toddler tugging at my leg. I didn’t have to tread softly lest I wake her up from a nap, either. My daughter’s in daycare and I’m a full-time freelancer again alone all day in my apartment, and I fucking love it.

I haven’t worked full-time for over two years. When I got pregnant, the allure of reading parenting websites was far stronger than my desire to pitch an article or promote my Etsy store. What had been my routine—wake up, go to my favorite café, write three or four articles until my caffeine buzz made it hard to see straight, smoke a million cigarettes, go home, nap, maybe work on a painting—suddenly wasn’t viable anymore. Obviously the caffeine and cigarettes were the first to go. But there was something about being pregnant that made it really, really hard to keep up with the other stuff, too.

I wouldn’t say I gave up my career. I never looked at it that way. I just saw my growing belly as this marvelous, awe-inspiring thing, and it didn’t make sense to me to carry on with the status quo. I couldn’t get the baby off my mind anyway, so I spent that time doing things for it. I learned how to sew and made curtains, two quilts and a baby carrier. I made art for the nursery. I discovered how to cook with exotic stuff like turmeric and ginger.

I did do some journaling, but I figured my paying work would just sit on the back burner for a little while. The plan was to gestate this baby, pop her out, spend a couple weeks bonding and then start my career fresh from home with baby resting neatly in a sling or a bouncy chair.

But fate certainly has a sense of humor. I was granted the most gorgeous, dark-haired, button-nosed little girl—who seemed to want nothing more than to go right back into my uterus. Since that wasn’t an option, thank god, the next best thing was just for me to hold her. In my arms, not a sling or a Bjorn. Just my arms. All the time. I loved cuddling her, but I couldn’t so much as take a shower without her freaking out.

I thought this might change as she got older, but it didn’t. She would scream if I so much as went across the room to get something. She would cry after two minutes in a bouncy chair. The only way I could get some physical time away from her was to take her for a drive. But I can’t get much work done with my hands on ten and two, you know?

I got very angry at times. My depression really set in around the six month mark, when it was starting to look like I was never going to get to start working again. How could I? She would scream her head off for even the most patient and wonderful of the babysitters we tried, and it was impossible for me to sit in my office and work with her cries coming through the walls.

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    • Justme

      Alone time always makes me feel healthier too…but then the guilt kicks in because I feel like a bad mother because I don’t want to be around my child 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I think that’s the myth that we’re fed – if you don’t ALWAYS cherish EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT with your child, you’re somehow a terrible mother that shouldn’t have ever had reproduced.

      At least that’s what the little green monster in my head tells me. :)

      • SDA

        The “cherish every moment” thing is ridiculous. Talk about pressure. The guilt has been hitting me hard and I rarely get away. A lot of it is because I truly do LOVE spending time with my daughter, but I am getting 24 hours off next week and I am making myself enjoy every second guilt-free.

    • Ana

      Good for you. Being healthy and balanced and doing work you love sets a good example for your daughter. Not everyone can stand to be around kids all day, and there is nothing wrong with that. I thought I could be that perfect multitasking mom too, but I am finding I can only really relax or focus when I know I am not the one in charge of baby. It’s good for both of you to get some space sometimes.

    • Mary

      I think I commented on one of your other articles on this topic. I regretted NOT putting my kids in (at least) part time daycare. I didn’t have a job to help nudge me out the door so I just stayed home and suffered. They are school aged now and I’m still a SAHM. I think I never went back to work because I needed to decompress all the stress it caused me. I needed alone time. I needed a quiet house for my own sanity. I do love my kids and enjoy my time with them (they are older now and I can have conversations with them, so that helps) but there are days when I’m driving to the school, I dread picking them up due to the noise and chaos it brings. So I get it.

    • Melody

      I know what you mean. I’m a SAHM of 3 and a homeschooler, and I start to lose my shit if I don’t get my free time. If I’m lucky I can squeeze in an hour in the morning and at night when they are sleeping, but usually I’m not so lucky. It’s hard being constantly needed by at least one of them at all times, I feel like I can’t even hear myself think. I literally hide from them in the bathroom sometimes so I can get a minute here and there. Alone, mommy-only time is definitely necessary for one’s sanity so don’t be afraid to make it a serious priority. Also it’s nice to miss your kids once in a while. My daughter goes to summer camp at my MIL’s out of state for a few weeks a year and it’s great for us spending that time apart.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

      THIS IS DISGUSTING….YOU WANT ALONE TIME OK…BUT DREADING SEEING YOUR DAUGHTER AFTER 8 HOURS. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE…WHY DID YOU EVEN HAVE KIDS IF YOU DONT WANT TO BE WITH THEM.GROSS!

      • Tea

        I think your caps lock button is stuck, dear.

      • Blooming_Babies

        Thanks Tea… I needed a laugh after that comment

        Amanda your honesty is valuable and just a little to blunt for some, but I think you know that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        yeah i can hear her all the way across the world at that volume! This woman reminds me of the one who checks her daughter’s diapers when her husband changes them ;)

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Amanda Low

        Aww, thanks guys :-) It’s true that I like to write candidly, even when that means saying things some people might think are harsh. But if we can’t be honest, there’s little hope we’ll ever break the barriers set in place by a culture that holds motherhood to impossible standards.

      • Zoe

        It’s great that you have identified and accepted what you need to do to feel yourself again. SAHM-ing wasn’t working, so you needed to find another way. You’ll find a balance soon. Good for you!

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        wait, I’m sure that you’re sarcastic. Right…? Right…?? if not, well, this might help! http://www.stfuparentsblog.com happy readings!!

      • Kat

        I don’t exactly believe you feel this way. I think it’s the guilt everyone’s mentioned; you’re the perfect example of where it goes. It’s okay to be honest, let it go.

      • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

        Lol at the country-fried beauty queen comment. So of course, I just HAD to go check it out myself. And yeah, you’re right!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

        I think you came to the wrong website, lady. The one you want is http://www.thestir.cafemom.com.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

      I totally get it. I love, love, love being a mom but I do get weepy thinking about the times before baby when I would take off for the day and walk around NYC – without having to worry about anyone or anything but myself. I think time away from kids is good for parents and children.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      I don’t know if it’s all that unhealthy for now that you need some alone time. I get the sense that you’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed and overstimulated and you just need some time to put your mind on social sleep mode. There’s nothing wrong with taking some “me” time. You’ll be the better for it on the long run! As long as it doesn’t turn into a overwhelming issue and doesn’t interfere significantly with your life, go for it!

    • J

      I’m a working mom and spend 20 hours away from my son a week and work the other 20 or more with him around. I never dread picking him up though I love my adult time. I would never be a SAHM. I hope the dreading going to get her is just a stage for you, otherwise you’ll miss out on all the amazingness of watching her grow resenting her dependency on you. I started out with you, but felt uncomfortable by the end.

    • jessica

      I’m with you on this. The hardest thing for me about becoming a mom was giving up, not just alone time, but all boundaries. In the first few years my kids would even scream if they couldn’t follow me in to the bathroom! Of course I love them and of course I understood that they were just babies and didn’t know any better. Now that they’re older I find it much easier and I think you will too once your daughter is at the age where she is more independent.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

      WOW!!!!!!!!!! I wrote in all caps because I knew everyone
      would take notice and I was right… country fried beauty queen…don’t get it
      at all, considering I am not from the country and well if you want please
      elaborate! I don’t know why it is ok for everyone to voice their opinions, and
      I can’t….Just as this women decides she doesn’t want to see her kid after a
      whole day without her, I can feel differently. I just don’t understand this is
      under baby blues so there is obv something wrong with the situation, and
      everyone is saying it is ok. Its normal to want alone time, but come on after a
      whole day dreading to see your child. I feel like maybe this woman needs help
      and is reaching out. It is defiantly not a normal feeling. I do work with
      children and have for a long time. I do child counseling, so I see first-hand children who know there parents don’t want to see them or don’t want them around esp. when they
      get older. When you have a kid it is not just about you, but the other life you are
      affecting. How would you ladies feel if your mom didn’t want to see you after a
      whole day you were dropped off with other people? I am sorry I am passionate
      about this, because this is what I went to school for. So before you all jump
      down my throat, and make stupid references I assume calling me stupid or
      whatever, you are just as bad as me jumping down this writer’s throat. All I’m
      saying is this woman should find a balance, so she can have her free time, but
      not make her child feel like crap and be able to give her the attention she
      deserves. If she does go to counseling maybe she will get good suggestions how
      to balance, get rid of her baby blues, and fix her situation before her child resents
      her, and it gets worse. All you ladies need to stop name calling someone whose
      opinion differs from yours!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        your use of the word disgusting was probably what set everyone off ;). Have you ever noticed that, when you come off strongly and say things in an insulting tone, people just won’t side with you? Perhaps there was another way of putting it – a more mature, thought out way?

        As parents, we all think that once we have kids, we’ll know and do what’s best. And then we hit bumps in the road. I’ve written about my issues with Amanda’s posts too, but people who have disagreed with me have mostly remained respectful of me, perhaps because I tried to keep it mature? I don’t need to insult this woman who is pouring her heart out to all of us. I agree with you about the fact that she is not in counselling – BUT – does that mean that she has nothing to contribute to the conversation?

        At the end of the day, I stated what I didn’t agree with. But you know what? Ever since Amanda started writing, I’ve seen her make astronomical efforts in order to gain control of her depressive state, and I can swallow my pride and say that, perhaps I was wrong! And I appreciate her honesty.

        By calling people disgusting, and trying to shame them into doing what’s “right” in your eyes, you are just pushing them further into their closet of shame. Perhaps you didn’t realize that you were doing this, but this is how it comes off, especially if you write it all in caps!

        Perhaps this will be a learning experience with you – that it’s not because you are not allowed to express your opinion on something, but you do have a social responsibility (yes, even online!) to stay classy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        You are very right. But these readers are not any better than
        me because was I not called names as well. If you read all the comments I think
        you will see my point. I also came to the site and just thought it was some random
        article! I didn’t even know the girl who wrote it was going to read the
        comments. I felt really bad after the fact. I just went on this site, and there
        are so many anti spending time with your kid articles and saying how it is ok
        to spend time away from them. It got to me after a while… having alone time does not mean all freaking day, then dreading to see your child, and it scares me no
        one saw the difference. I reacted like an idiot, but if I did so did everyone
        else who commented on my picture. So what I think about those kinds of people
        were I am sorry very validated…

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        Actually, I did read the comments, and only one called you a country-fried beauty disaster… The rest were just kinda funny responses – don’t really know how you can get offended by that, especially after all of the intense insults you threw at the author.

      • Sara

        I agree with this 100%.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        The author wrote an article with a comments section, so she expected to get comments. I didn’t even attack her personally and call her stupid names. I was referring to what she said about her child and how after all day didn’t even want to see her. I do think that is disgusting. My comments were actually appropriate with the article, not just childish name calling for people who don’t even know me personally. And I was not just focusing on the author only, I was also talking about all these article on this site making it seem like people are bothered by there children. I find it disturbing. that’s my opinion. I bet the author is a great gal, but um she wrote and article and I commented on it…..

      • Justme

        Oh yes. Having PPD is so….disgusting. Feeling like a terrible mother because your hormones are completely fucked….so disgusting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stacy.shain.1 Stacy Shain

        um it is when you do not get help and your kid isn’t getting the attention he or she deserves. um ppd causes some moms to kill there kids too, are you going to use that as an excuse then…I respect people who get help

      • Justme

        I would encourage you to read her previous articles regarding her mental health.

        I would also like to note that just because someone goes to therapy doesn’t mean they are all better and will never feel any sort of negative thoughts ever again. Wrestling with mental health disorders such as this one is like riding a roller coaster – there are always ups and downs.

        I would also encourage you to peruse Katherine Stone’s awesome website that discusses all facets of PPD – http://www.postpartumprogress.com so that you can help dispel some of those myths you apparently believe about PPD.

        I would also encourage you not to be such an insensitive bitch.

        Have a good day.

      • ay

        Rallying around a mom that dreads picking up her child is strange.

      • Justme

        It might seem strange to someone who has never experienced PPD, but as someone who has been there I understand that dreading the pock-up of your child most often has nothing to do with your love or devotion to your child. I used to have an anxiety attack every time my child would wake up in the middle of the night, and I dreaded being left alone with her. Does this mean that I didn’t care for my daughter or shouldn’t have become a mother? Absolutely not…it’s just part of the condition.

        We aren’t rallying around to actively support a woman neglecting her child, we are rallying around to support her (and others experiencing similar feelings) as she moves through this difficult time in her life.

      • ay

        I do undergo treatment for depression and anxiety. I interpreted the article as one expressing feelings that aren’t healthy. Supporting someone through illness is great. Acknowledging expressions that are concerning as such is equally important.

      • Justme

        Dreading seeing your child doesn’t necessarily have to always be considered unhealthy.

      • Simone

        So castigating the mother who dreads picking up her child, making her feel outcast, and calling her names is going to work better than rallying around her? Rallying is the only option, isn’t it?

      • ay

        I think supporting anyone with an illness is crucial. I also believe that depression can be scary to deal with. Some of the sentiments expressed are concerning. I think that a professional may be able to help.

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