Motherhood and Depression; Help me understand.


Motherhood depressionWarning, this post covers the topic of motherhood and depression.

As a behaviourist and researcher, my job entails looking at bigger picture as to why people behave the way they do. Do I understand all aspects of human behaviour? Not a chance. The diversity is too great. Can I get my head around motherhood and depression?  Probably not but I hope for a realistic and honest understanding.

Today I have questions and observations linked to behaviour as motherhood and depression are a constant in my personal life with friends and at work. I’d like your input.


Motherhood – Why do we beat ourselves up so much?

1) Are we comparing ourselves to what we believe this ‘motherhood journey’ should be. Is it even a journey? Or more of crazy trek in safari land where you have no idea what will pop up next? Is what we see and read some made up holy grail of motherhood. That motherhood should be free flowing from our hearts, all encompassing, and there are no allowances for mistakes or junk food. That unconditional love for your child will give you the strength to do your very best each day. Your every breath is for your child. That winging it is not enough. The good days and ok days alongside the horrendous days that throw us into meltdown and survival mode are the only days we beat ourselves up into believing our children will remember. The day mum cried as she drove us to school in her PJ’s, gave us cereal for dinner and didn’t read the bedtime story.
2) The judgement of ourselves alongside its best friend guilt. The list of I shoulds. The list of to do’s.
3) Striving to make the Pirate Ship Cake on Pinterest for your five year old and their friends. Ask a child “What was the best part of the party?” and I doubt they will respond “The Cake”
4) In our perpetual state of busyness. Are we obliviously telling ourselves a tiny lie about how we spend some of our time? Our escapism from the rut is a few minutes of ‘me time’ on Facebook. Many are able to set limits to their social media and can drop in. Or does your quick status update, lead into reading your newsfeed and commenting. Getting annoyed at the comments, liking 99 activities for your two year old toddler and then feeling guilty because you’ll be lucky if you have time to spend doing one activity from the list you’ve downloaded. Oh, and woo hoo you’ve signed up for the newsletter, another item you will have to make time to read. A two year old does not require 99 activities and nor do you. Every play activity is not a basis for teaching reading, numbers, colours, fine motor skills, gross motor skills etc… Simply playing is the learning.
5) The mother you may have dreamt of whilst role playing as a child somehow omitted to cover, stripping puked sheets five times in an hour, catching diarrhea in your hands, breast milk shooting out and hitting the postman and a little human being constantly wanting and needing you a billion times a day.

Depression – Why are we afraid to say “I am depressed”?

1) Are the pressures of being grateful for what you have making the admitting of depression a selfish act? You should not be depressed when you have so much to be grateful for; the roof over your head; food on your table, healthy kids… There are no shoulds in depression. Depression takes hold and sucks the gratefulness out of everything. You berate yourself for the lack of gratefulness. You analyse your state of mind, a depressive process in itself. Depression is all about making you feel the lowest you can feel, no matter what gratefulness is staring you in the face. Depression is not about thank you’s.

2) What does living in the moment even mean when you cannot face getting out of bed? Your living in the moment consists of blackness. You have read all the techniques, books, blogs etc.. that have helped others there is nothing helping you. You are not ‘others’. Your depression is uniquely yours. Yes, exercise is an underused antidepressant, go for a walk, clear your head – not all depression cares to step outside and go for a walk.
3) When people you know are depressed. You empathise, and you clearly see the cause of their depression. A death, divorce, abuse, mental health issues, trauma etc… Your depression does not sit within these specifics. You are depressed full stop. Depression does not care for reasons.
4) Not wanting to be on repeat. “I am depressed” may lead to less contact in friendships, as you do not want to be a burden. Everyone has their own issues to deal with, so you retreat further into your black hole. My gorgeous friend calls it her cave. She wants to be alone.
Her depression is not sociable. Having someone just sit with you, no need to talk,stroke your head, hold your hand, and pass you tissues, will the not make the depression disappear but a friend simply being there is huge. No words are required. Connection and empathy and a big block of chocolate.
My other beautiful friend wants to talk, to meet up, have a coffee. Is her depression on a lesser scale? No it is not. She has depression; she still has her own blackness and inner hell. Depression comes in many guises. Depression is non comparable. Depression is classified medically into varying degrees of severity, and a whole lot more; this does not mean that your depression is of a lesser importance.
5) The “How are you?” the programmed response “I’m good, busy but good” never “I am depressed and anxious. There are moments I feel I can’t breathe, but I mask it well because I shouldn’t be depressed. I am the one that keeps everything together” Is it really working for you? Perhaps it is time to say how you feel, let the words come out “I am depressed”
I’d like to see and experience a whole lot more empathy across motherhood and depression. You don’t need to understand the situation,  or have answers,  simply let them know you are there.

I find the Black Dog Institute has one of the best sites covering all aspects of depression.

If you care to share any insights that may help me understand more  please leave a comment.

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Nathalie Brown

Child Behaviour Consultant at Easy Peasy Kids
Child Behaviourist and researcher. Creator of "Less tantrums. More smiles". I look at the bigger picture and think outside the box when working with children and their behaviour. Their world is different. As adults we sometimes forget this. Happiness Creator in my spare time. Eater of chocolate and cake.

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  1. I have suffered depression on and off since the birth of my twin girls, now 3 yrs old. They are very good girls, but can really test my limits at times. We, my husband and I, live on the other side of the country from our families, so have little family help (my brother lives close by but works fly-in fly-out so is around every second week).
    I am in the process do coming off anti depressants, which has is its positives and negatives.
    Mostly what makes me sad is when I loose my temper with my family. I have a terrible temper, the anti depressants really helped mask it. But now that I’m coming off them it’s emerging again. I get this desperate, agonising, blinding anger. It erupts and I’ve broken things around the house, a chair, my good steamer pot, bedroom door handle. I’m so ashamed of it, and I hope the girls don’t remember any of it.

  2. This speaks to me because while I don’t have depression I sure have days when I’m depressed, I suppose I’m just fortunate it doesn’t hang around, but that doesn’t make it any less real! x

  3. Helen K says

    Interesting post thanks. Linking the two topics is really important too. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life and if it goes on too long, I find it leads to depression. One of the aspects I’ve struggled with is the busyness element you’ve written about, and enough ‘me’ time – where I am not constantly on call for others demands. Being at home doesn’t provide the space, neither really does work – if in a managerial position you have those above or below you needing input, if not, you are constantly trying yo keep up. And sleep – that’s a big factor for me (so many years with inadequate sleep takes such a toll). Medication, counselling /psychiatrist appointments help, but the main thing is mental space and physical health, both requiring time for self. And that can feel selfish (even when consciously I know it is fundamental). Hope that’s useful.

  4. Reading this made me break down in tears. This is exactly how I feel. Every word of it. My husband just told me this morning that he misses me, that I’ve become distant. Then he asked why. I said I know I’m being ungrateful. I have more good things than most people. I shouldn’t be sad or want more. He asked why I do. All I could say was, I don’t know. He said he’s afraid of loosing me. All I can think is, I’m afraid of loosing me too. I already feel so lost and I don’t know how it happened or how to come back. I can’t fix me.

    • Hi Mae, first of all huge hugs. Have you seen your Gp or a counsellor or a support group. Please call 1300 22 4636 this is Beyond Blue and they are awesome, I know because I have friends who work there. They will listen and guide you on what you can do, Love Nathalie

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