According to an article by Alice G. Walton, parenting often exhausting and depressing for many adults. The following is excerpted from her article in The Atlantic, to view the full article click here.
Judging from Huggies commercials, Gerber ads, and perhaps a select number of oddly giddy parents on the playground, there's no more blissful experience than becoming a parent. One's days are filled with the laughter of little children; the pride of school recitals; and the rapture of bake sales, soccer game victories, and family vacations.
However, many research studies -- and an awful lot of parents if you ask them to be candid -- paint another picture. While there's certainly a lot of joy involved in parenthood, it is not unusual to also feel overwhelmed with negative feelings: anxiety, confusion, frustration, depression.
PARENTS ARE AT RISK FOR DEPRESSION
Because of all the work and exhaustion that accompany parenthood, it can bring a rise in depression as much as a boost in happiness. A number of studies have found that people are not only less happy after having children, compared to their pre-child levels, they are less happy than their childless counterparts.
Significantly, once kids leave home, things seem to improve. The same study suggested that the happiness level of empty-nesters was comparable to people who never had children. The authors suggest that while kids are still living at home, "the emotional demands of parenthood may simply outweigh the emotional rewards of having children."
While postpartum depression usually dissipates within a few months or a year after the birth of a child, regular old parental blues can wax and wane over the entire period during which your child is living at home. There are additional factors, beyond the fatigue associated with caring for a child, that contribute to it. Luckily, there are ways to combat it.
Remember the Cost, Idealize the Benefit
Having kids generally entails some level of sacrifice, as some parents are eager to remind their kids. "What I did for you!" can be a common refrain in some households, which is probably not the healthiest sentiment to impart on one's children. But reminding yourself of the cost (and the benefits) can actually help your attitude toward parenting. It may sound a little dire, but recalling how much you have sacrificed to have your own kids can actually help you appreciate the endeavor more. Focusing on the positive also minimized the negative.
Take Time to Yourself, and Your Spouse
As most parents will tell you, leisure time -- doing fun activities by yourself or with your spouse -- is a key to parental happiness. In fact, studies have found that after women became mothers, they enjoyed their leisure time more than before (which is not surprising, since there is much less of it after the baby comes along).
Personal time, either by yourself or with your partner, is an important part of maintaining your sense of self -- and your sanity. Pursue a project you want to do; take a walk, visit a museum, listen to a CD you love. (In the same study, women also rated their moods as less negative toward their relatives after the birth of the child, which could suggest that having a baby makes one a little less hard on family members.)
Spending time with your spouse is also an important tool for getting through parenthood. Though couples' alone time drops off sharply after a baby is born, it tends to climb in the months after -- maybe not to pre-baby levels, but still. And the kind of leisure time couples spent before the baby is born has a lot to do with how well the relationship works after the baby is born. For example, women who spend more time enjoying leisure activities with their husbands before having a child are generally happier in the first year of their child's life. For men, the situation is similar: the fewer leisure activities men do by themselves, the less conflict they experience after the baby is born.
Take Yourself (and Your Child) a Little Less Seriously
Parents are a self-conscious, self-serious group these days. The "helicopter" phenomenon -- parents who monitor their kids' every move and pack their kids' schedules full of extracurricular or educational activities -- is becoming more widespread. But as helpful as we try to be, sometimes we do too much. And doing less can also make parenting more pleasurable.
Free play, the kind kids do totally on their own (as opposed to structured or supervised activity) is critically important in how kids develop basic cognitive abilities, like decision-making, problem-solving, and self-control. The trial-and-error nature of unstructured play is an essential practice for the trial-and-error nature of life -- and taking it away from kids can actually be a great disservice to their overall mental well-being.
Our tendency to strive for parental perfection is understandable given the amount of information to which we have access nowadays. But over-parenting can lead to more anxiety than there needs to be. Learning to have fun with your child -- and let him have fun, too -- will not only make the experience more pleasant, it will be a big help to your child's development.
For more Help
If you are a parent struggling with depression, please visit the Happy Camp Community Center. We are open Tuesday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm; we can refer you to Siskiyou County’s Behavioral Health Services. Alternatively you can contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Happy Camp Community Action, Inc. is a Non-profit organization dedicated to economic development and youth programs in Happy Camp, California and surrounding communities.
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