Tuesday, February 05, 2008

stay at home depression

Years ago, when I found out I would have three children under the age of three, I decided to resign from my agency job, stay home with my kids and gradually transition to private practice. I was nervous but excited. I was going to be a stay at home mom, something I had never planned on. I savored the idea of devoting myself to my kids, free from the distractions of working outside the home, at least for a while. Living on one income, we had to scale back on discretionary expenses. We fired our cleaning lady and ate fewer meals out. One day, knee deep in dirty diapers and even dirtier high chair trays, I had a depressing thought: As a sahm I felt like a glorified maid. Yes, I was home raising my kids but I was spending most of my time doing laundry, cleaning house, washing bottles, and preparing food. How tedious it was to dice grapes for three kids! And how I dreaded cleaning those dried up and crusted over high chair trays! I loved the time with my kids and I'm glad I had that time with them, but I found that the joys were often outweighed by the burden of the daily chores. I had never liked house cleaning and the more kids I had to clean up after, the less I liked it. When potty training was in full swing? I found I had sunk to an all new energy low. I was clinically depressed and reached for help. Now, years later, back to work in a hectic but thriving practice, I've never felt better. I still find cleaning up after my kids unpleasant but now I have the satisfaction of a work life to add balance.

These sahm years came rushing back, in a rather tongue in cheek backward glance, when I read the summary of a recent study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. You can also read a summary here. This survey looked at rates of depression among various occupations. Major depression was reported most frequently in the following four types of jobs: Personal Care and Service, Food Prep and Serving, Social Services, and Health Care. Yep, that about covered it.

This isn't to say, of course, that there aren't plenty of moms (and dads) who feel great being a sah parent. More power to them. But for me, it wasn't a good fit. I was happier working and I believe my kids are better for it, too.


Radical Reminders said...

All the way through your post i wanted to comment on one particular thing, but then you said it at the very last line :)
"I was happier working and I believe my kids are better for it, too."

Finding a good fit for yourself isn't only important because you need balance in your life but also because your kids are better off when you're a happier parent.
I'm sure some sah parents are fulfilled being sah parents and it translates into their families and time with their children, but if being a sah parent isn't fulfilling enough for you and you need outside the home work to balance it out, that's what you need to do. Even when you come home to a dirty house after a hectic day at work your kids are better off because your life is more balanced and fulfilled, and you're happier. To each their own :)

I am glad you found what works for you though, that's what's most important! :)

shrink on the couch said...

yes, it was definately *my* experience, and I know it is an experience shared by many. on the other hand I have several friends who love being home with their kids full time and never want to work. So its all about the individual.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

shrink on the couch said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

Trying to Embrace It said...

Similar to what you mentioned, I am experiencing a deep sadness (punctuated by many moments of joy) about how my life is shaping up right now. We moved several months ago, and I had to give up the idea that I'd be able to return to work after my child-care leave. Now I'm at home with the kids and feeling guilty for wanting to get back to work. I'm not sure I'd be happier at work - we'd have to hire someone to take them to daycare due to our hours, I wouldn't be able to do the same job because of having a family - but I know I'd feel a sense of purpose again.

Knowing that I'm doing the most important job on earth doesn't make me feel any better, and that I am a less than enthusiastic housekeeper and chef doesn't help either. I love so many things about being at home, but I don't feel like I'm particularly "good" at it. I was really good at my job.

Thanks for sharing this; it helps to know that others feel similarly.

shrink on the couch said...

trying -- thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad my post rings a bell with you, or not glad exactly, but feel relief that by posting my experience, some other SAHM feels validated.

interestingly, this post is one of the most frequently searched. i.e, "SAHM and depression" tends to pop up numerous times as a search term.

this tells me you and I are far from alone.