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.

peteypiranha Tue 28-May-13 08:31:14

Curry - I just shout dhs name then he comes running and I say theres daddy go and play. Your dh will get the hint. You dont need to let the kids know

peteypiranha Tue 28-May-13 08:33:04

Also there is nothing at all wrong in saying mummys very tired from going to work to get the pennies for all your lovely things, and looking after you. Shes just having a little rest go and play with daddy. I say that and it definitely doesnt make the children love you any less.

curryeater Tue 28-May-13 09:17:30

So many people on here have much harder lots than me. I don't feel under pressure because I have difficult kids or difficult circumstances, but just because I am probably a bit shit.

ledkr - love how you head the list of your dd2's difficulties with "red hair". I have red hair, so maybe that is the root of my problem!

CountessOlenska, thankyou for saying I write well about this. I feel very expressive when faced with a keyboard and a bunch of presumably sympathetic strangers. I feel a lot less articulate at home faced with dp.

This stuck out for me, from TeWi:

"if I go up for a nap, I'd have to be up there 3hrs before I slept one, so DH thanks he's given me 3x as much of a break as he actually has."

The accounting aspect of this really struck me. We feel so desperate that we are noting and totting internally all the time, stuck in tortured competition with our "partners" - but internally - we (or I, at least) never express this. I think it would be counterproductive for him to know just how aware I am, on exactly how detailed a level, how much I am losing out. I don't think it would make him more inclined to help me, it would just make him think I am petty, like me even less, and be even less inclined to have any sympathy for my point of view.

I am stuck in a popularity contest in which I am cravenly trying to negotiate for what in another world would be my rights, based on how much an arbitrary individual happens to feel vaguely affectionate towards me, or not.

HandbagCrab Tue 28-May-13 09:58:42

I really empathise with people on this thread. I'm getting a general sense of mums feeling they have to do everything right otherwise something terrible will happen and they are feeling the crushing weight of the responsibility for this.

I think you have to give up some control on things that are making you stressed and just see what happens. If you can chuck money at it, then it's worth it. I was scared ds would stop breathing in the night, so I bought a pad that sounds an alarm if he stops moving. The pad takes the responsibility for ds' breathing, I don't need to give it headspace.

I have issues with anxiety so I deliberately schedule relaxing time which is really helping me manage it and I spend less time with people who make me feel anxious/ low too. So a hot bath, a yoga class, a herbal tea, a facial are priorities for me so I make time to do them over say spending time with people I don't like, doing a supermarket shop, cleaning etc. Everyone has different things that make them feel more calm and in control and perhaps it's just thinking about what they are and making time for them.

Pfaffer Tue 28-May-13 10:11:03

I'm ashamed to say that after 9 years of realising that dh wasn't going to take any initiative, we got totally plastered and I wept at him that I was completely worn out from the exhaustion of having to do all the thinking about family. It was epic. It encompassed child, school, illness, his mother (that was a big one) who he now realises he can't just leave me to deal with alone - at the end of it I said very directly 'Please, please stop being passive, please support me because I can't stand that you are allowed to ignore all these stresses by simply refusing to see them as stresses.'

The upshot is that he has started wiping worktops. I have literally no idea what goes on in his head confused

Yes! I do feel a bit resentful sometimes I think. His job is not easy, but he gets on well and they appreciate him.

I stay home all day and deal with strops, wee, poo, animals, gardening, cleaning, cooking, washing...

He's also been going to sports clubs in the evening (after kids are in bed) - which I would love to do too (and he'd have no objection), but can't because I seem to be constantly pregnant/breastfeeding so actually I can't.

I'm very aware of the fact that there are lots of ways that would help make life a little better, hut they all involve money we don't have or me being able to drive, which I can't yet (learning, but run out of money)

It's not that DH is a dick making me do all this stuff, or I don't allow him to make mistakes or blah blah. U find that kind of advice quote patronising - it's that because I am in the thick of it, to me it is relentless, constant, 24/7 even when I'm having a lie in and DH is doing the kids breakfast and washing up after because I cannot put off pitching in while there are children in the house. Combined with very, very rarely getting a chance to do anything else.

Ledkr Tue 28-May-13 11:01:53

blush sorry re the red hair comment.
I just meant that from the beginning she just was different to the others in many ways largely her temperament.
How do people feel about simple personality differences because I seriously don't recall my other dc being so very demanding hmm and causing me so much anguish

Salbertina Tue 28-May-13 11:13:50

Ledkr- one of my dc is like this, v oppositional, v defiant, always!! Someone down thread mentioned "feeling broken" by dc, feel dc1 had this effect on me hmm Not his fault, i guess though v hard to separate individual from the behaviour. Big sigh and sympathies.

springymater Tue 28-May-13 12:47:33

My kids have left home now - I brought them up largely alone - and I still, to this day, relish the quiet. I don't just relish it, I luxuriate in the quiet. I never take it for granted. I don't have a partner and I live alone (mostly - sometimes students, lodgers) and I just adore it. In fact, I think I have been recovering from childrearing years for the past 2 or 3 years. I barely do a thing - after all those years of doing everything.

This thread has had me laughing/wheezing until I thought I'd be sick. curry you are a total star and you should be making stupid money writing.

It was mercury7's comment had me wheezing and crying with laughter:

oh, I absolutely do love my children, i did my best for them but mostly it was pretty rubbish

Anyways, you've all made me feel much better about my parenting My kids have, sadly, gone off the rails - which is an immense heartache - and I had assumed I was a crap mother at least on some level. I now realise I did a herculean thing by bringing them up alone. (ok, the way things have transpired it could look like I didn't do such a good job... but that's not necessarily the case AT ALL).

I have to say that I can't help noticing how much work a contemporary mother/parent is expected to do with their kids. There are a lot of rules and restrictions that just didn't apply when I was bringing up my kids - though they were definitely rumbling in the wings and I was dragged this way and that, thinking I 'ought' to be doing this and that. When I was a kid, we went off on our bikes for the day with a sandwich. I'm just as fucked up as my kids, so what's the difference?

I relate to so much of what has been said. My kids asked me to stop taking them to the school gates in my pyjamas. I went insane with sleep-deprivation at one stage - lost my mind, thought the trees were talking to me. Simmered with hatred and jealousy that my husband could GET A COFFEE WHEN HE FELT LIKE IT or READ A PAPER. Later, when the youngest had to be at school at 8am and the oldest wasn't coming in until 3-4am I had another sleep-deprivation loony time. In the end I turned off my phone and went to sleep - if she was dead I'd at least have had the sleep to cope with it.

yes, parenting affects your mental health. Big time.

Ledkr Tue 28-May-13 12:54:54

Well today we popped out for dd1 tap class at half nine.
So big drama to leave house much screaming in car.
Planning a nice restful day (am I mad?) was changing her nappy and she kicked me in the throat.
Henceforth much hysteria from me about not being able to stand another second of my life as it is.
From zero to 90 in one kick in the throat. <sobs>

mercury7 Tue 28-May-13 12:57:37

Springygrin
same here, I've lived alone for 2 1/2 years now, it really does feel like a kind of convalescence from being a parent, I am slowly returning to myself.

I consider myself so lucky that my offspring have sprung off, the thought of still having them living with me in their 20's and 30's is my idea of a living hell.

Your kids may get back on the rails, it may just be part of their own development?

mercury7 Tue 28-May-13 13:00:24

and my mum, as I've said was even worse than me, dont much like her but I dont blame her, who knows what made her the way she was?

Ledkr Tue 28-May-13 13:02:47

I really identify with the "mind full to capacity" comment earlier.
I sometimes can't even sleep because my mind won't shut off and don't even talk to me about holidays or Xmas etc.
Everyone just floats along looking forward to something which miraculously just occurs while I am dreading it sick with worry and pressure knowing that even if I made a stand and didn't do it that I'd end up sorting that out too when the time came.

fufulina Tue 28-May-13 13:24:57

I often wonder what we could all achieve if our minds weren't so full of the minutiae of running families. Women that is. It scares me how much of my headspace is taken up with shit and green beans (to paraphrase Marilyn French).

curryeater Tue 28-May-13 13:27:40

So sorry you were kicked in the throat, ledkr. sad

Springy, thank you for a perspective from the future - thanks

I think one of the things we have to acknowledge, which has been slightly mis-sold, is the finitude of resources. In the following senses:

- that sometimes it is a horrible zero-sum game between you and your partner, or you and someone else, or between family and work. and the hippy bullshit that you are somehow augmented by giving does not always come true. Sometimes you give x, the recipient gets x, and you are x down. Permanently. Time, money, sleep, whatever. It won't come back to you ten-fold, or even one-fold. It's just gone, you gave it away, or had it taken, and you can give so much you don't have enough left to live on, and you need to be a bit cannier about what you have to give, but how? Especially in a culture which is all about lurve and loyalty from women, in which it is very hard to say "if you don't let me have x this time, which means, I am sorry to say, you can have it, I will DIE INSIDE."

- You can, honestly, not cope. You can collapse. It could all be over. It's not a choice between super-top-hole-slick-competence, and adorable-backlit-muddle-through-rustic-shabby-chic-loveliness, and who cares if it is the latter because it is still terribly photogenic. It is actually sometimes about whether you are functional or the whole thing has collapsed and you have been carried away screaming.

- hard work does not necessarily build you up, it wears you down. this a bit like the first point but slightly different. in a time where exercise and physical fitness are trendy we are encouraged to believe that if you feel the burn, you will be stronger tomorrow. Sometimes when you feel the burn, you will be charred and flaky tomorrow.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP FORGIVE ME FOR OFFLOADING YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ

- last summer I had a sort of breakdown and was sent "home" from work but actually cried in a cinema for a while because I couldn't face dp, although I can't remember exactly why. I have been trying to remember this morning because I felt warning signs a little like the ones last summer and I have to work out what to do to stop it happening again. Perhaps what happened last summer is exactly what happened last night and today - he is not talking to me because of the row last night - maybe the same thing happened that time, maybe I wasn't coping so "behaved badly", so he blew up at me, so when I melted down at work I knew he wasn't on my side, so couldn't go home. I think he thinks I should always be nice to him but the thing is he isn't on my side always. He just isn't. Sometimes he is my enemy. He hates to know this. he hates to see this in me, but he doesn't relate this to his behaviour, he sees it as my choice to decide whether he is the enemy or not but I see it as his choice to decide whether to be a git or support me. Patriarchal society equips him to be a git and he must make a conscious choice to be different and is not always conscious enough to do so, but he doesn't recognise this because he thinks he is Special. He's only so special. We are all only so special.

- I have watched how a lot of happy couples behave and noticed that often, the woman issues kind and charming instructions without getting up. She controls everything without actually having to physically do it. SIL never goes to the bar, never pays a bill or produces money, never takes their smaller son to the loo. The only time I have ever seen her get up when out to lunch was to help me, when I was heavily pregnant and needed help to change dd1's nappy on a floor I couldn't get down to. Her husband completely accepts this role as gopher and she appears to completely accept her role as organisational master-mind. I have tried to copy this occasionally in my relationship - trying to make charming suggestions to DP on the basis that I have made the effort to think of it, so he could make the effort to do it - but I usually get the fish eye when I ask him to do things, he clearly thinks that if I can think it, I can do it, if it matters to me why don't I get off my own arse. I haven't explicitly explained the reasoning behind what I am doing and how I am trying to share the load, because this would involve opening the can of worms that he doesn't currently do enough, which makes him flip out and be aggressive.

HandbagCrab Tue 28-May-13 13:33:05

I hope I'm not too evangelical, but what helps me manage my anxiety is tackling it and the things I'm anxious about.

So if I feel like I'm panicking I write it down why I'm scared, how likely it is to happen, what I can do about it, what the worst consequences might be. It really helps. This might work with anger too.

I've spent lots of time since becoming a mum working out what's important to me. I don't want a big house, I want a nice house for example. I want a happy family, not a perfect family. I'd rather spend time with ds than give all my energy to work. By making my own decisions where I can I feel better, like I am in control. I absolutely do not feel guilty when dh does loads of stuff btw and he still loves me, so he says smile

HandbagCrab Tue 28-May-13 13:41:03

curryeater you don't have to do it all. Give yourself permission to not be a poster girl for 'doing it all' womanhood. I have a career and it's on the backburner whilst I have a pre schooler. My sanity is more important than my bank balance right now, and if having a few years part time completely fucks ones career in this society, then it's not one I want to perpetuate quite frankly! I appreciate not everyone can afford to do this though.

Me and dh share the work when we do stuff. I don't have to ask him to do things (I often do nappies as baby changes are in women's toilets in a lot of places still). It doesn't sound great that if you express unhappiness or ask your dh to help it gets argumentative and aggressive. Is this perhaps part of your problem (don't feel you have to reply)?

MrsRambo Tue 28-May-13 14:27:18

curry I think you make a very good point about finite resources. Sometimes there is nothing left to give. And that is that.

The difficulties you have with your DH I can relate to. It's not a simple matter of doing less yourself and asking them to do more. DP and I have sat down and had perfectly civil and calm discussions about work loads, what we can cope with, what to do when one of us is feeling like it's all getting too much etc. However, ultimately, he has signed up to a very different looking job description to the one I have signed up to and in the heat of a stressful day when both our resources are low, it is his version of the job description that he will wave in my face and get cross about and not mine (not even the post discussion modified version...). I don't know where his job description came from and where mine came from? I know his mum was a 'do it all' mum. Still is....

What you say about your SIL is the mirror situation of my Sis and her DH. These types of relationships are chosen, not formed, in my opinion. My sister has always been a bit of princess (I am not suggesting that your SiL is one too!) and she chose someone who was happy to in servitude to her. That's how they click. I have never been of that persuasion and always chose partners who I felt on some kind of level with. Except when DC came along it has felt like DP jumped off the see-saw and I have landed on my arse with an almighty bump!

I have no answers. Just wanted to say that I relate to what you saying.

financialnightmare Tue 28-May-13 15:03:58

I often wonder what we (women) could all achieve if our minds weren't so full of the minutiae of running families.

So true. sad

It makes me so sad that I started adult life at university - prize student with a First Class degree - so hopeful and optimistic and such a feminist. But it all comes down to lactation and shit and wiping fucking worksurfaces. hmm Sometimes I feel like telling my daughters not to bother with education. By the time I'm free from child-rearing I'll just be capable of sitting down and doing a wordsearch.

flanbase Tue 28-May-13 15:11:25

I'm much more capable from having children. I know that others in rl don't see it like this but it's true. I've achieved much more since having kids

Ledkr Tue 28-May-13 15:55:55

curry your last post made me sad.
I simply couldn't cope with life as it is now (difficult child job biggish house and pre teen dd) without dh helping me as much as he does.
I do sometimes feel a bit guilty and a bit of a failure if he has to help when he's tired from shift work or misses something he wants to do.
I remind myself that how I feel dates back to years if conditioning that its my job as a female.
Your dh sounds like my ex who would rather be aggressive or row than help me with his children.
It's horrible.
Having then spent five years as a single parent of 4 I did find it very easy to cope on my own as I had no resentment that my partner wasn't helping so just got on with it.
So his refusal to help is probably making you feel worse.
If he won't change then maybe you should.
Do less,especially for him.
I think nothing now of taking dds out for tea on a busy night so I don't have to cook.
What dh eats if i do this is of no concern to me as is whether he has an ironed or clean uniform.
I married an adult not adopted a child.

curryeater Tue 28-May-13 16:06:05

Ledkr, dp does do a lot but recently there has been so much more because I have been the one trying to buy a house and it was so horribly complicated there was no way we could share it.
I leave before the dcs wake up and he does their breakfast, takes them to the CM, and then he collects them and takes them home before I go back. He washes up a lot more these days, not sure whether he has just noticed this or whether any previous complaints have gone in, but either way it's happening.
It's just the fiddly things. As an aggregate, they take a lot out of me, but individually they are more trouble to pass on than to do, or so it seems - perhaps not.

Ledkr Tue 28-May-13 16:12:40

Yes I agree its the little things.
Dh will do what I do (I can hear him hoovering now) but its the school notes or dance exams or uniform needed or talking to our utility company's/sky tv.
Sorry I wasn't saying he was a swine just that my strategy is to make him my lowest priority when I'm overwhelmed.

hm32 Tue 28-May-13 16:19:44

To go against the grain, having a child has simply been a new chapter in life, a new adventure. I have interests outside the home, a job, and my baby. It is a bit manic but it all fits in and I feel so much more grounded than I ever did before. He simply fits in, presenting a few more difficulties (lack of sleep being one!) but also bringing so much joy and happiness. On maternity leave the monotony of motherhood felt like it would swallow me, but with some space to myself each week, and some childcare, that sense of perspective and usefulness returned.

My mother's philosophy was that children should enrich your life, not become it. I spent my childhood going to things she wanted to go to and being polite etc, while in return she stood in the cold and watched me play team sports, took me to Disney movies and other such things. We also trudged along on long country walks with my Dad - it was his thing, so we took part and kept him company. There was a real sense of taking turns, of each person being valued and supported. Hopefully, I will manage to achieve that too as my family grows.

This thread is amazing! Springy I have just laugh out loud that you turned your phone off & thought well if she's dead I've at least had sleep to deal with it....brilliant!
Parenting is so so hard. I have a 3 year old, demanding, controlling, selfish, pushy, unreasonable son & a 14 year old dd the same. Sometimes feel I am pushed & pulled in every direction. My dh thinks because I work part-time everything in the house is my job because 'I only work part-time. I'm up at 6 every day with my son & don't go to bed until I get teenage one off to bed. I'm shattered, reclusive, skint, anxious.
Started a new post as health visitor 6 weeks ago & feel close to cracking up.
Wish I lived in the 1950's & there was no expectations on me smile

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