Has parenting affected your mental health?

(1000 Posts)
NutsinMay Sun 26-May-13 15:13:52

There seems to be a lot of links about Mental Health affecting your ability to parent but nothing about parenting affecting your mental health(beyond post natal depression).

Yet although there have been times in my life when I've felt low, anxious, possibly more than that, I've never felt as anxious, stressed, neurotic, controlling, irritable, occasionally close to the edge as I have had since having children. I have no desire to have a relationship or go out (beyond doing stuff with the children as they are always much easier when out).

I do work part-time and that provides some relief but I wish weekends were something to look forward to like they used to be pre-children. Now they are the most tiring shifts of the week.

Having one was fine and didn't change me or my life that much (and I had a high needs baby) but having two for me is a whole another level.

I am tired very tired. I've not had an uninterupted night's sleep for about 5 years so I think that might be a major contributor but I find the fighting between siblings, the noise, the whining, the whinging- the demands of "mummy" shrieked in stereo are occasionally just too much to bear. I sobbed in front of them this morning because I just wanted them to leave each other alone. I sometimes fear picking up by daughter from school as I just don't the energy to cope with the afterschool grumpiness/meltdown/rudeness.

I know parenting isn't easy and I'm full of admiration for those who have more than two, do it alone or unsupported or have children with complex needs.

I do hear stories of women locking themselves in the bathroom to escape their kids and I know a lot of women got by on valium in the 70s and laudenum in the 1870s(or earlier) so I know it's not uncommon.

But I'm wondering why there isn't more written about this? Is the stress etc actually doing damage to my physical health? Is it normal? Does anyone else think they are going mad?

Thankfully, they are out with DP this afternoon as I've been on the go since 6.

NutsinMay Sun 26-May-13 20:51:20

"Having read some of your posts, I do question why so many of you have gone on to have more dc, when you've found it so hard? I don't mean this in a critical way, I'm genuinely interested how you decided to do so as there are days where I question if I could do it again, which is sad considering I said I wanted loads of children before I had dd, and she really is a happy, beautiful, easy baby in most ways"

I put off having DD2 for quite a while. DP was keener but then he wasn't going to be doing most of the childcare. Although I found one a lot easier(rose tinted spectacles and all that), I knew I would not be able to cope with two without a lot more support.

I kept saying to DP, I will consider No2 but only if you can give me a lot more support. He is supportive in many ways but no I didn't get as much support as I needed.

I agree with pp, the first year of two was probably the hardest of my life(and my second baby was really easy compared to my second).

I have always had bad sleepers(at night) though and I think waking up in the night and then dealing with a baby who naps a lot in the day(so you can rest) is a walk in the park compared to waking up loads in the night and then having to deal with a grumpy toddler who wants to "kill" her sibling in the day .

MacMac123 Sun 26-May-13 20:51:57

This is an amazing thread.
I've just been in tears as had huge row with DH. I left him with 6mo while I had day with DS who is 4. Came back to discover kitchen is bombsite, and although I was pissed off with him, was also pleased because I felt he might realise how hard it is for me to keep kitchen and house under control with the kids (which I always manage) and I also run my own business so even though on maternity leave I have to deal with work emails and calls in the daytimes too.

So He caught me smirking, I admitted I was pleased yes that he'd clearcue realised he couldnt even keep kitchen tidy and look after Dd, cue row and him saying I'm so mean spirited and I hadn't even asked if he'd had a nice day with his daughter as I was so busy gloating (this is true!!)

it made me think I'm not sure what's become of me.

Sometimes I feel so lost. There are things I can never imagine doing again, ie not feeling underlying anger with DH, enjoying sex, going to a nightclub, drinking shots. Like all of you, I love my kids but I live in fear of something happening to them. My mind never stops racing with things I have to do and I'm sure I'm suffering sleep deprivation as Dd not slept through in 6 months.

I'm not depressed but yes in some way my mental health has been affected. I'm not who I used to be and I can't imagine finding that person again.

SoleSource Sun 26-May-13 21:07:28

I live on fear of other peoples prejudice. Latest remark about my DS was that he reminded someone of Mr Bean. OK funny but not really as his no speech has almost driven me loopy.

I'm proud i am so fucking strong.

Live in fear he might be physically/emotionally/sexually abused too

NutsinMay Sun 26-May-13 21:20:09

SoleSource- I cannot begin to imagine how hard your life must be and how brave you must be. I know you don't have a partner butdo hope you have someone, somewhere rooting for you.

Sometimes admidst the noise and chaos, I long for a silent house.
Your post has made me realise how lucky I am.

NutsinMay, I could of wrote your post today. My dh went out for 12 hour shift and I was up at 6am with crazy 3 year old ds and also have 14 year old dd. When dh came home from work I was really tearful and said I had had a horrible day and ds was a nightmare.
I have completely given up alcohol as even being the tiniest bit below par was like some form of torture with ds and I definitely felt my mental health deteriorating.
I work as a health visitor and can give parenting advice until the cows come home yet with my own son I can't manage him.
You have my sympathies xx

Wibblypiglikesbananas Sun 26-May-13 21:45:14

What a great, and frankly reassuring, thread! Glad it's not just me.

One of the hardest things I find is that I have very little sense of self left. DD (almost 2) comes first and everything I might want to do comes way, way down the list of priorities. Obviously, this is how it should be in some respects, but sometimes, just sometimes, I want to go somewhere for me or have lunch in a cafe that isn't baby friendly. Does that make sense?

Another thing that has affected me - not sure if mental health wise, but definitely affected me in some way, is the way in which DH and my relationship has changed. We both used to have pretty decent careers, earned about the same, and somewhere in all that, I felt a sense of validation. Now he's continued on a fabulous career trajectory and I'm 'just mum'. And I honestly believe, deep down, that I'm doing the right thing for DD by being at home with her. I just don't know if it's the right thing for me, short or long term.

I long for more aspects to my life - the person I was or could be again at work, perhaps, as well as my role as a parent, rather than just the parent role. This is compounded by the fact that we moved overseas when DD was small so that DH could gain a promotion and due to visa restrictions, I'm not allowed to work where we live now. And then I feel guilty because I have friends who would kill to be in the position I am in now, not having to work, but some days I want to scream with frustration. I spent 5 years at university, and sometimes (most days, in fact) I'm counting the hours until bedtime.

I am currently PG with DC2 so none of this has stopped me wanting more DC - but I'm not the me I used to be. At all. I miss my old self.

Finally - sorry this is so long btw - I agree with the posters who talk about tiredness and its effects. I didn't have PND but the constant interrupted sleep is horrendous.

I wouldn't change DD for the world but it's hard!

NeedlesCuties Sun 26-May-13 21:47:18

So glad it isn't just me.

With my PFB he was such an easy-going baby and I got caught up in my pride and thought it was because of my sterling work as a mum.... 2.5 years later and DD was born and I seriously knew my arse from my elbow.

She's much more high maintenance, although very lovely, but seriously I am eating all the bullshit I spouted when DS was my only one.

I feel a bit like I've lost myself, who I used to be, and time isn't as fluid as it used to seem. I'm only 28, but sometimes I feel like an old lady - lacking sleep, tied to my house, tied to my routines (well, the routines of school pick-ups, nap times etc).

I have single or childless friends who head out to clubs at 11pm, after spending hours getting dressed and made up. The mere idea of that staggers me, although I know I used to do it, just seems a world ago! Now by 9pm I'm slobbed out on sofa in my jammies, having a sneaky glass of wine and eating toast when I've finally got DC to sleep.

Great thread OP, thanks for starting it.

NutsinMay Sun 26-May-13 21:56:31

I know there was a time when I didn't want to go to the local shop without my make-up on and used to spend ages getting ready to go out, trying on different outfits, spending ages doing hair and make-up.

Sometimes I have to get out of the house with the DC so badly that I haven't even showered, let alone done anything with my face and hair. In some ways it's quite liberating that you don't have the time to obsess about your clothes/looks but then I catch sight of myself in the mirror and it's awful. At least on work days I do have to make more of an effort even if I have to shower in ten minutes and do my make-up on the bus.

When I was on maternity I once went two weeks without washing my hair.

curryeater Sun 26-May-13 22:00:49

Sorry if this post is disjointed and bullety but there are so many things I want to say.

- firstly, thank you all for such brilliant, brave and articulate writing. You are all such heroes and I am so privileged to read all this.

- secondly, I was reminded by my asthma inhaler just now on the way to bed, that childbearing can take a terrible toll on your physical health which affects your mental health. I was perinatal for about 4 years (with only two children!) between pregnancy and bfing (still bfing dc1 when pg with dc2) and so never, ever well: spd, asthma, all that shit (I don't know why pregnancy caused my asthma but it did). My parents' generation are all in families of 10 or 12 and it is horrible to think of women like me (some of them must have been like me) being ill their whole adult lives. Or maybe it just killed them.

- Why have two? because a. I didn't want the first one to be alone when we died (hormonal freakout) and b. I thought life would actually be easier once they weren't babies because they would support each other socially (I still think this and am starting to see it come true, not just in the sense that they are friends with each other, but with each other's support they are more confident going out as a unit to make other friends) and c. conditioning. I knew hardly any only children growing up and can't imagine being without siblings and just thought we really should at least have a go.

- sleep deprivation is of the devil. It is unbearable and nearly broke me so many times. So many times I have read on here, "well, a lot of it will be sleep deprivation - " and thought SO WHAT? SHE CAN'T SOLVE THE SLEEP DEPRIVATION. IT IS HELL. It is like saying to someone dying of starvation, "don't worry, dear, a lot of it is just lack of food."

- just want another point about sleep deprivation. Just to say, FUCKING HELL, SLEEP DEPRIVATION. on and on and fucking on, on and on. FUCKING HELL.

- Someone above said, among the things they can't imagine "not feeling underlying anger with DH". Yes, that is a problem, along with the FUCKING SLEEP DEPRIVATION. My dp looked after dc1 for 2 days a week starting when she was 9 months old and he found it hard - but he got her when I had night-weaned her, she slept through the night, and ALTHOUGH I WAS WOH 4 DAYS AND HE 3 DAYS AND THE CM WHO DID 2 DAYS NEEDED 3 MEALS A DAY DELIVERED, HE TOOK MEALS THAT I HAD PREPPED AND STORED OUT OF THE FREEZER ON HIS DAYS WITH HER. I can't believe how angry I am about that to this day, and she is 4. Everything about how we did those early days was just a great big chute of shit falling on me.

- and he patronised me for "not coping" but actually I was propping him up all the goddamned time, whether he knew it or not.

- then there was the time we went to a little zoo and she lay sleeping in the pram and he harrassed me for not looking excited enough and not taking any pictures of the monkeys and I cried because I had just been feeling happy about standing still in the sun and not having to do anything with my arms for 5 minutes.

- he is not a total git and looking back on it I put up with a lot of stuff which maybe if on better form I would have explained better.

- but the whole thing is I was on shit form constantly and didn't have the resources of fucking Don Draper to sell my predicament to him in a darkened room with a resonant voice and some artists to show him what my fucking situation was in a brilliant slogan and some fabulous image so I was just kind of flailing saying things like "I don't know, what would you like for dinner?" when I should have been saying "DINNER IS YOUR CONCERN. I AM SHERLOCK, YOU ARE HOLMES. I AM IN A STATE OF BEING YOU CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE RIGHT NOW. ARE YOU ON MY SIDE OR NOT? WOULD YOU COOK, OR SEE HOLMES GO HUNGRY?" or you know, whatever Don Draper would say about the sitch.

- THROUGHOUT THIS HE SLEPT 8 HOURS A NIGHT, THE GIT

- ok I am totally off-topic now

- yes, there is something utterly appalling about having babies that does damage you and you will never be the same again. At the time it is happening it means you are effectively functionally not the same person. it is terrifying.

- but I hope, however long it takes, you come back in some different-looking form, like Dr Who. My girls are talking now and the difference in how I feel is incredible, because I like people who are articulate. And because you can, very gently, manipulate them and fuck them off. dd1 "I'VE GOT A SNOTTY NOSE!!!!!!!!!!" me: "I put the tissues out for you because big girls blow their own noses. Do you want me to treat you like a baby?" job done.

- sorry about the obscene length of this, I have only scratched the surface.

- I love you all xxxxxx

margarethamilton Sun 26-May-13 22:01:25

Is the stress etc actually doing damage to my physical health? Is it normal? Does anyone else think they are going mad?

This worries me, the long term damage the stress, tiredness, anxiety etc. could cause. DD is 9 months old. I love the bones of her (spent 5 years trying, 5 rounds of treatment for infertility, one horrible miscarriage). But the change to my life is something I was ill prepared for. The loneliness and isolation have had the greatest impact on my mental health. Some days, I yearn for my old life.

calypso2008 Sun 26-May-13 22:04:27

wibblypig Ï can relate to everything you have just posted. I am in a very similar situation under similar circumstances. (only 1 DD though)

MacMac123 Sun 26-May-13 22:09:15

Lol curry eater!
It was me who said about the underlying anger with DH.
And I also prop him up by preparing and freezing the meals for the kids! angry

DogsAreEasierThanChildren Sun 26-May-13 22:13:48

curryeater, I just wanted to support everything you say about sleep deprivation. I would be able to buy my own island if I had £1 for every time in the last two and three-quarter years that I've thought "Everything would be fine IF I COULD ONLY SLEEP". If someone had warned me that you can go on for years with a child who doesn't sleep through the night, I would have slit my wrists early on. DH completely pulls his weight but that just means both of us are permanently exhausted. And I also get The Rage when someone says on here "it's just sleep deprivation". There is no "just" about it!

And breathe...

Shakey1500 Sun 26-May-13 22:28:25

First want to say to Curry that I absolutely relate to your zoo story.

DS was always an early riser and I thanked God/whoever/whatever that Cbeebies was available at stupid o' clock. Me being Anxious Mc Anxious and not being able to take my eyes off him (for fear he would fall and split his head open-ambulance-shit mum) I would LONG for the theme tunes as it was the only time that DS was still and entranced. It meant I could close my eyes for 20 seconds (yes, I counted).

When did it all get so hard? Was it always thus and just under-reported? Taboo? What can we do? It's a time bomb really isn't it?

I have posted on the "regretting children" thread and I am aware that some posters are distressed at reading it but honestly, something needs to be done. I have no idea what. (not saying that anyone on here feels that btw)

Pfaffer Sun 26-May-13 22:32:11

Curryeater, the situation you describe of being at the zoo...enjoying just not doing something with your arms for five minutes: I am out of that phase now but I remember it so well. I see friends coping physically, constantly with their lovely children and I know they're going through it too and there is really very little I can do to help. I remember that feeling of 'Who can help me?' and the sheer anger I felt that it wouldn't be DH because he just did. not. get. it.

Anyway for all of you, there is hope, you do come out of the sleep deprivation and your children grow and develop and things do get better. DS had a holiday with his grandfather last year and we had a week alone and within about three days we were back to afternoon shagging and dinner when we could be bothered and lots of music and chat. It gave me total hope.

Pfaffer Sun 26-May-13 22:33:40

I have a friend who's late 30s, really ambivalent about having children, knows she's got to do something soon if at all. Once I gave her a run-down of all this sort of shit. I don't think she's forgiven me yet.

LimeLeaffLizard Sun 26-May-13 22:39:23

Really interesting thread, thanks.

I have 4 DC aged 8, 4, 2 and 3 months, and am fine in terms of mental health at the moment. Lots of people who see me when I'm out comment on how well I look and how I'm coping so well (they are being kind!), but of course I feel shattered and stressed sometimes. It is bloody hard work and there are times when I feel like a cartoon character with steam coming out of my ears, but I have developed certain coping mechanisms now.

The first year of having DC2 was also the hardest time for me. I remember crying over the fishfingers thinking 'what has my life come to?!' I was depressed during my third pregnancy, this was the lowest in terms of mental health.

After that I have been fine mentally. I think I just let go of the expectations I had previously. I allow myself to be numb to things that would have bothered me before, especially mess and noise! It also helps if you stop worrying about whether you're doing it right (just do what works for you), accept that whatever you do there will be someone judging you (ignore them), and ditch the guilt as far as possible (no-one is perfect, you are doing a good enough job).

There are some people who do an amazing job considering everything they go through. SoleSource you make me feel humble.

LimeLeaffLizard Sun 26-May-13 22:46:15

ps loved the anecdote about photo shoot for kids clothes... it is so obvious that the models in such photos have never actually had children!

I think media and marketing have a lot to answer for in terms of making us feel bad about ourselves as parents... they peddle an unobtainable and untrue image of perfection.

I found 'The Mommy Myth'here a good read on this subject - was recommended by my psycologist when I was depressed.

curryeater Sun 26-May-13 22:52:29

The funny thing is, a part of me knew it was going to be like this, as I had seen it, all of it, realistically, a lot. And I had children late, not knowing if I wanted them at all, for all these reasons. I don't like mess, I don't like having to get up early, I don't like noise, I don't like having to be with people all the time, I don't like housework, I practically have a phobia of shit (to the point that my mother recently told me that her main concern when I told her I was pregnant was how would I cope with nappies), I basically am a pretentious waste of space who just wants real life to fuck off so I can write a novel while listening to Mahler. So in a sense I was quite right when I thought, till I was 36, you know, maybe I should not do this baby thing ever at all. But I don't regret having children at all. I have learnt I can do things almost impossible to me and I love them love them love them. And now I will never kill myself. I will never ever be the mother who left her children through suicide. So in some ways for my mental health that is a great step forward.

Still hoping for the Dr Who transformation. I will never be the gorgeous and wicked person I used to be, but I can come back as someone else gorgeous and wicked. When there are no nappies and no crying in the night. You just sort of go into a cupboard for a while and then you come out again, a bit different, like someone who has been in a lift for 7 (?) years and read nothing, nothing at all, in that time.

I suppose for me, it is easier in that I always struggled with my weight so I know how to lose fat - baby weight is no different from any other weight once you stop bfing, but I think it hits some people hard because they never had to diet before. I know I will always have to watch it, and I do. but I knew that when I was 15.

The thing is (ok sorry if this is offensive but I have had a few so I might tread on some toes): I think some children need people like me to be mothers and to be around children. The people who work at dd1's pre-school are brilliant and wonderful and talented and subtle and clever and I could never in a million years do their job. BUT, they are children-people. I can see their influence in dd1 who talks in a certain Capitalised way about Certain Concepts as if she is playing to a gallery of cretins and I just want to say, calm down love, we get it. There is a shouty crude corralling-and-chivvying manner about all the people who are naturally good at this sort of thing, and they apply it to adults too, and it makes me feel rebellious and sulky and they often don't get certain things. I think people like me who are not natural-children's-centre-people are important for children and young people, because there will come a time when they grow out of ADULTS-WHO-ARE-GOOD-WITH-CHILDREN and need to see the other side of the story - there is always another side. So if all parents were only the ones who can do all that shouty enunciated Early Years stuff, then some children would be very alienated and lonely.

calypso2008 Sun 26-May-13 23:05:24

I so get what you are saying ther curryeater. I think I am quite like you in my attitude, hence I feel a little alienated when it comes to all things children.

I live in Spain, so my DD is bilingual, when she talks in Spanish it is with all that you describe above, really over acted speech and very loud, as you illustrate perfectly. In English (she only gets from me) she is far more serious and clever (dare i say) but I worry I am too adult with her. But I hate hearing the way she almost puts on a show when she speaks in Spanish, as it is is what she has learned as it is the attitude she is faced with every day. as you say, 'adults who are good with children'

Alienates me further. The parents at school all speak to their children like they are imbeciles, in a very slow and very loud way. I am the odd one out, seriously worrying the whole time that I am NOT FUN!

calypso2008 Sun 26-May-13 23:10:26

Frankly, I don't think I am fun grin

Sorry, been on the wine too.

MiniTheMinx Sun 26-May-13 23:23:30

Curry I can really relate to the underlying anger. 12 years later and it still festers. He tries but he isn't very intuitive, which results in me making endless lists, printing rotas, giving directions. Jumping in when he has trashed the kitchen, melted the washing basket to the top of the ceramic hob, (to this day I don't know how!) flooded the bathroom because he was distracted. (he was tired) left baby to fall face down out of his chair........too many to list.

Shakey1500 I think idealisation of the nuclear family has a lot to answer for. From my understanding things haven't always been this way. It's interesting how we advise others to join mother and toddler and other groups to make friends. Maybe it replaces the support we might have had in extended families or further back in tribal societies. Reading Engles at the mo, societies have been organised very differently in the past with women living in groups supporting each other. But should you question whether nuclear families are healthy and natural, whether this causes isolation and depression, then it's made clear that once again the individual is at fault......."go out and join mother and baby group" is the standard advice followed by "go back to work" and do a double shift.

TallyGrenshall Sun 26-May-13 23:56:19

O god yes - the Good-With-Children people just make me want to scream/feel worse/sit in a corner gibbering, especially DS' nursery teacher who speaks to adults with the same slow tone. I want to shake her whilst yelling that I am 30 bloody 3, not 4.

blondieminx Mon 27-May-13 00:01:36

Such an interesting thread.

I can so relate to the anxiety. I used to be so confident, now I'm always worrying will everything be ok (and niggle over mundane stuff like did I pack enough snack, will DD enjoy this or that activity, am I doing enough with her).

Coming out the other side of terrible 2's has helped - but in the darkest days I found myself wailing to the GP about not coping and leaving with a scrip for sleeping pills as I was not able to sleep properly because of my anxiety issues! Which I then worried about taking, in case DD woke up in the night...!

In answer to the OP, yes and more yes.

I'm 26, I have 3 children 8,6 and 6 months and my days goes like this..

Wake up.. Thought pattern is as follows...

' sigh DS is resisting medication again, (he has cystic fibrosis) life is so unfair why does he have to do all this when he's going to die young anyway (harsh but probably true) ..........

Oh god the baby is asleep on his face is he breathing?... Yup and oh good he's crying again and wants feeding.. Oh my boobs are wrecked, look at them hanging out on my saggy, 'mum' stomach...

Gosh the front room is a mess, I tidied it before bed... Shit the kitchen is ten times worse... Please DS just do your nebuliser is 6 years but enough for you to give in and be used to it?

Baby needs changing, best do that then get DS2 up, lovely babies nappy has leaked again... Oh and DS2 is crying because he can't find his uniform... His stammer is so much worse today...

Are the lunch boxes made? Yes did that before bed, do I have the car keys or has DP taken them to work by accident again? Which one will get in a fight at school today? Will the baby nap? ...

^

This. All day. Everyday. It's exhausting, my body is breaking down, my mind is in ribbons. I love them so h keep going because just sometimes I step back and get a snapshot of the baby laughing, the elder 2 celebrating a football win, the house tidy! My MH is shot but meh, I think it's worth the constant inner battle.

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