What are some common causes of unhappiness and depression in moms?
The overwhelming responsibility of being a mother and having a baby to take care of
A husband who is often not available to help, leaving you emotionally upset
An unnecessary and/or unwanted medical intervention such as induction or forceps during labour or bottle feeds after birth
Learning to breastfeed, which is made to feel like a problem rather than a learning process
A variety of negative comments made by hospital staff, health professionals, family, friends, and strangers (these comments may be in relation to the baby, the way you cope, your parenting style, the state of your house, decisions you make such as staying home or going to work, bottle or breastfeeding, controlling crying/settling by rocking, soothing or feeding etc. )
A feeling that you are not quite yourself
Being unbelievably tired and exhausted
Thinking that it should be different, that others are coping and there is something wrong with you for not having it all worked out
Some ways to identify if you are at risk of or are suffering from depression:
Depression is one of the many emotions experienced by normal and healthy moms.
Being a mother is enormously overwhelming, especially given the lack of acknowledgement by others for our experiences, and also that our society does not often value mothers or families very highly.
Mothers are likely to experience the full range of emotions including frustration, anger, resentment, anxiety, guilt and worry, helplessness, hopelessness, and depressed or sad feelings.
All these feeling are valid.
If you feel that any of these emotions are getting the better of you or are not normal for you, then you can get help.Some suggested strategies moms could use to deal with everyday situations are:
Get some sleep – it is only something that you learn when you are really at the end of your tether, however it is far more proactive and sensible to sleep well during the night – get to bed earlier if you are waking for night feeds or to children who are unsettled at night; have a 30 minute nap during the day – find a warm sunny spot in your home, curl up and have a snooze whilst the kids are asleep or resting.
You can try to discuss how you are feeling with close family or friends, or professionals who would listen to you and not judge you.
Ask friends and family to share their experiences of motherhood with you.
Identify your feelings during the day. Quieten them down as you would a young child who is upset. Do not shut them out or ignore them – while this is not recommended, it is often practised in our society.
Choose how you want to feel. Vividly imagine it and make a 100% conscious effort to feel that way. Ensure that any stressful feelings have been quietened down and are not being repressed, ignored or shut out.
Accept that it is normal and expected that you feel this way. Check your inner comments such as:
“I hate feeling this way – it’s not normal”
“Other normal moms aren’t like this”
“Why do I feel this way – what is wrong with me”
“My kids deserve a better mom”
It is much better to accept that you have these thoughts and feelings, and that they are a part of your personality along with all the other positive qualities and feelings and thoughts you have. Each one of us has many positive and some undesirable qualities.
If you ‘fail’ in your mind, start again. See life as a series of 5 minute blocks. One problem in one 5 minute block can be dealt with, or ‘dropped, forgiven and forgotten’, so it does not drag into and affect the next 5 minute block. This is easier done if you can calm down rather than being out of control with your emotions.
Being a mom does not always come naturally even though you naturally love, look after and protect your children. We can, however, create the way we want to react and be as mothers.
Focus on how you want to remember yourself in 50 years’ time.
See your emotions as having a dial that can be turned down a little.
If you are feeling depressed, soothe yourself and focus on what you are good at. Resist the urge to switch back instantaneously to negative thoughts. Notice the urge and train yourself to choose to focus on the positive. This will take about a month of practice every day!
If you are feeling anxious or worried, write things down on a list, turn down the dial and feel that you can get over this situation. Focus on a high energy task such as getting dinner ready, walking to the park, or tidying the house. If you are feeling frustrated or angry, focus on the fact that only you can change the angry feeling, it is not good for you, staying angry gets you angrier as it is a vicious cycle. See if you can focus on the event that you think ‘got you angry’.
Here is a list of tips that can help you maintain a happy relationship with your children:
Remember to focus on the positive. Keep 5 positive experiences for every negative one. It is easier said than done, but do try to make it your mission.
Think of all the really nice things about your children and your relationship with them.
Get on the floor and play with them 100% – do not think about the dishes or the dinner. Spend just 5 entire minutes being a kid.
Look at your children with your eyes and create a memory of them to remember.
Understand their feelings. Remember that when we think they are being naughty, uncooperative, annoying or whatever, it is often us getting annoyed at them not doing what we want them to do. Who decided that we were right? However, being the mom or dad, we do need to make the decisions, but we can make better ones if we quieten down our anger, e. g. instead of screaming at them for spilling the juice, we can quieten down our frustration, and look at how we want to deal with the situation. We can wipe it ourselves, change the drink container so it is spill-proof, sit with our child, or ask our child to help clean the mess, etc.
Find two positive things per day to enjoy with your children, and make them small things. This can include things like looking at them hold their fork during dinner and watching their fingers curl around the fork; or playing a game of hide and seek with them.
Remember that the day will still pass, that children will do lots of things that potentially annoy or please us. Even if we are wired to be agitated or stressed, we can still do all the things we do in the day with more happiness and satisfaction and less yelling and stress if we calm down the chitter-chatter in our minds and quieten down our strong emotions. So, for example, we can make breakfast in a robot-like stressed fashion, or in a peaceful nurturing mode depending on the frame of mind we want to have.
Often the smallest things make life worthwhile. The rest is icing on the cake. We can learn from this wisdom and life experience.