Parenting is hard. Parenting with depression is even harder. With depression, you might not have the energy to even take proper care of yourself, but when you have a child (or two) depending on you to feed, dress and bathe them, ignoring their needs isn’t an option.
When you muster up the energy to finally get everyone situated, it might be a wholly halfhearted attempt to meet the bare minimum just to get the job done. When the task is completed, feelings of failure, self-doubt and a gnawing sense of “being a bad parent” might plague you, sending you further into depression and even less focused on the kids in front of you.
The truth of the matter
Allow us to shed some truth on the situation. First, you’re not a bad parent, you’re a parent struggling with depression and trying to manage the difficulties of parenting. That’s a lot for one person to undertake.
Second, struggling with parenting doesn’t make you a failure. Especially if this is your first baby, there’s going to be millions of trial and error moments simply because you’ve never done this before – did you master riding a bicycle the first time your dad removed the training wheels? Probably not, so don’t expect yourself to master parenting with your first (or even second) child…plus, raising kids is way harder than learning to ride a bike, remember that.
Third, everyone doubts their abilities to parent. Depression is likely to magnify that sense of doubt to a debilitating point. Remember, just because you think you’re doing an awful job, your child probably doesn’t see it that way at all.
Coping with depression as a parent is both a mental challenge and a physical challenge, in that you physically need to get up and do things to overcome depressive states. By taking small, simple steps each day you might surprise yourself with how often you actually succeed.
Find your people
It might be your own parent, your best friend or someone from a mom’s group who’s been around the ring a time or two. No matter who it is, it’s someone knowledgeable, reliable and honest who you can call when times get tough. Maybe you feel like responsibilities aren’t evenly distributed between you and your spouse, but you don’t know how to ask for help without becoming emotional and angry. Perhaps you need someone to come over and hold the baby while you get the laundry folded or lawn mowed. It can be anyone you trust who can cheer you on or kindly call you out.
Even if you don’t reach out frequently, it’s always helpful to know you do have someone you can contact when you don’t know where else to turn.
Kids love being outside. Infants will sit in the stroller and nod off during a walk. Young children can explore with chalk, dandelions, water, even dirt and sand while you rest on the back porch. The point is, find time to get outside every day. Whether it’s tending to a garden, going on a 30-minute walk or bike ride, or relaxing in the sun to soak in some Vitamin D, a little time outdoors can go a long way in reducing symptoms of depression.
Power off your devices
Turn off the news, it can be full of stressful information that you have no control over. You have your own life to worry about, why make yourself sad and anxious about what’s happening somewhere else. By choosing to focus only on what’s in front of you, you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
Take a break from social media. Whether that’s turning off notifications or deleting apps entirely for a period of time, give yourself a break. Social media makes you feel the need to be “on” and available 24/7, not to mention the temptation to compare yourself to all the other parents out there. You already have to be available constantly to your children, so ease the burden and don’t make yourself available to people on the internet, and always remember social media parents are only posting the best parts of their life, so don’t compare yourself to only half of someone else’s reality.
Sometimes, regardless of the steps you take and the advice you read, you still find yourself struggling. This does not mean you’re a failure, it simply means the problem is just not something you’re equipped to handle on your own. Even individuals who struggle with depression without the addition of parenthood need to reach out for help at times, so there’s absolutely no shame if you need to as well.
This is what counselors are for, to help those who don’t know how or simply don’t have the energy to handle mental disorders like depression. Reaching out to and talking with a counselor or therapist not only can provide you with the tools you need to handle depression, but it can give you a new outlook on life as well.
If you feel burdened by the responsibilities of parenthood and overwhelmed with depression, contact Pyramid Online Counseling today at (833) 525-3077 for convenient, at-home and professional counseling.