Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Myths of parenthood #1: Everyone else is coping

I was reading an article in a magazine yesterday on post-natal depression. The opening paragraph discussed some of the common myths of parenthood. You know the ones. Parenting is always rewarding. Having a baby brings you closer together as a couple. Babies sleep. You should be available for your children 24 hours a day.

The one that stood out to me was this one:  Everyone else is coping.

This is the one I always fall for. It always appears to me as though everyone else has it together when I feel like I am struggling hard with all that looking after children involves. It can be a lonely feeling.

I don't think we as mothers do ourselves any favours here. I think that many of us work hard to cultivate the image that we are going fine, that we are managing everything very well and that life is just rosy, thanks very much for asking. I am highly guilty of this. It perpetuates the myth that everyone's coping and it means we are not being honest about what we are actually going through.

So in the interest of keeping things real and to enlighten anyone that knows me in real life and thinks I am in the "coping" crowd, I would just like to say that on many days I don't cope well with my kids. I get grumpy with them often and particularly in the mornings with getting them off to school and in the evenings with feeding them and getting them to bed. I know it's not great and I've been working hard to try to be more disciplined about not getting cranky with them so much, but it's a very hard slog some days. When I'm tired and they're tired, it all gets a bit much. There are lots of days when I end up calling my husband mid-afternoon to remind him to leave work right on time so he can come home and help me sort out the noisiness and arguments that are going on. Without his support, it would be very difficult to get through these busy times of the day.

I know that not everyone else has the luxury of being able to make that 4pm phone call of despair. Being alone in what feels like a very deep hole with children who all have needs (often simultaneously!) is a challenge. The morning and evening parenting rush hours are particularly unrewarding times at which the feeling of non-coping is at its strongest (and the feeling that everyone else is managing well is also creeping in). Survival becomes the priority. It's relentless. And it has to be gotten through every single day.

I'm praying for those who have to manage these times alone and with limited support. And thinking about how I can help them. Meals are one way, I guess. That would be one less task for them to get done. I'm trying to think of other things I can do as well.


Wendy said...

I never had PND, but yes, the struggle of not coping is one that I've had/have. In some ways know that others who have to cope alone helps me to "suck it up", but still it isn't easy (getting easier as they get older, though). Living in a land where husbands rarely get home before 9 or 10 is a sobering thing. As is friends who've had husbands deploy in the military, for months at a time (one friend had three under three when her husband did a 6 month stint overseas). What right to I have to complain? I have to admit that I used TV quite a bit when they were younger in that terrible hour before dinner. It enabled me to have some peace to make dinner. I think I've permanently damaged my voice because I've yelled too much in the last 13 years, but I don't seem to have found a key to stop the cycle. Boys who push my buttons and don't respond to more subtle methods...need I say more?

Sorry, I wanted to be encouraging, but all I've done is spill my not-coping all over you. But I guess that is partly the point of your article, that we don't pretend with each other.

Ben McLaughlin said...

Great honest post, Karen. Thanks.

Pedro said...

Just a note: Ben put me onto this blog.
I have friend who is suffering PND and in many ways I can see just how this happens.
All the 'times' you have described are very accurate and yes, we all go through the same range of emotions and phases even though we love our kids to bits.
You are not alone! good to know none of us are.
Good post.

Alistair Bain said...

Rachel and I talk about this a lot.


Karen said...

Thanks guys, appreciate the feedback. I wasn't entirely happy with what I wrote, but glad it led to some discussion anyway.