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.

Lionessy Sun 26-May-13 18:42:35

Phew they are back. Need a bloody lie down now!

curryeater Sun 26-May-13 18:48:46

Great thread. Huge hugs to all struggling. Will write more when not on phone. X

CityGal29 Sun 26-May-13 18:51:33

For me, it's majorly brought on self image and body issues.

Post DD I managed to bf for a year & did VLCD to lose weight and was totally back to normal at 18m. But being a size 16 for ages etc and I was mid 20s and none of friends having babies was hard, always being the fat one..

Then after DS put on 4st, developed underactive thyroid & basically gone a bit mental, completely obsessed by it all and found only way to avoid weight gain is to live off fish and salad and diet milkshakes. I'm now 7lb off Pre pregnancy weight but completely obsessed with all weight things and terrified I will put weight back on.

Really want DC 3 but the thought of having a bigger wobbly tunmy occupies my thoughts 24/7 & keep googling what size pregnant bumps are at certain weeks etc and its looking like about 8months of looking pregnant then 18m at least of being massively fat, probably fatter than before as people gain more.. Argh can't face it. hmm

apatchylass Sun 26-May-13 18:56:56

It's had a solely positive effect on my MH. I've had clinical depression all my life, since mid teens (am now nearly 50.) Only since having DC have I really taken responsibility for the illness and taken necessary steps to treat it. Before, I just used to let my life unravel for years on end. But you can't do that to children. Consequently, my parenting years have been the stablest and happiest of my life. I attribute my health to my DC. Without them, I'd be seriously unwell far more often.

DogsAreEasierThanChildren Sun 26-May-13 18:58:08

I don't know. Sleep deprivation has definitely affected my mental health - I had a thread on here a week or two ago where as couple of posters suggested I might be depressed, but I really don't think I am: the couple of times I've felt properly rested since DS was born I've snapped back to being my old self. (Ironically those times have been when I've been travelling for work: I've been busy, but I've been able to go to bed and have uninterrupted sleep. The difference it makes is unbelievable.)

The whole experience of becoming a parent (for me, anyway) is like having a bomb go off and blow your life apart: you can rebuild it, and some bits of it may end up better than before, but the process is painful. I only have one - I'm not risking any more! I'm in awe of anyone who can cope with more than one.

calypso2008 Sun 26-May-13 19:01:39

In short, having thought about this during DD's bathtime, I think if you had any issues in childhood, any current issues with husband/partner, other issues, as in work problems, body image, living abroad etc etc... then they become so much worse. Being a mother makes you the most vulnerable you will ever be.

I wouldn't change it though - I am just disappointed I seem to find it, internally, so worrying.

What have I done today? Today DD went with her father at 10.30 and was dropped off at 5pm. Well, I did nothing. Except, I didn't stop doing shite - dishwasher, bedding, other laundry, cleaning, organsing stuff for school tomorrow. Catching up on important emails, shopping and cooking.

So dull. sole I also talk to myself.

GhostOfTheRobot Sun 26-May-13 19:04:27

I quite often cry at the end of a hard day. This leads to feelings of guilt that I've damaged them because I can't cope and they'll have hang-ups.
My parents caused a lot of stress so I am very sensitive to my own behavior.
I would say having children has upped the stress definitely. I scrutinize my own parenting constantly and try not to worry about what other parents are doing but it's hard. I think this is a very common feeling tbh, just not openly discussed, as people have said.

My first response was to think YOU HAVE NO DISHWASHER?!

But god yes my MH is shot to pieces. Anxious - check, sleep deprived - check. Can't relax - check. Never ending grind - check.

God it is hard. I do find it easier though as baby stage was rock hard (youngest waking every 20 mins at night at the low point).

DogsAreEasierThanChildren Sun 26-May-13 19:08:58

DH and I often find at the end of a tough day when we've both been at home (i.e usually the weekend) that we're fighting over the chores because neither of us has a scrap of energy to deal with DS. I agree with the poster above who said one of the hardest things is that weekends are tougher than work days.

DogsAreEasierThanChildren Sun 26-May-13 19:13:07

Sorry, just realised my post above wasn't clear: I meant we're fighting to do chores so the other one looks after DS for a bit!

TallyGrenshall Sun 26-May-13 19:16:21

It has definitely affected mine for the worse. I had some mild 'ishoos' before but now it's so much worse. Even the smallest thing seems huge so I have hidden away from it, which makes it worse.

I think I feel like everything is my responsibilty (even though DP has always done his share without me prompting) and every little thing is something of such importance that if I get it wrong, DS will be irreperably screwed up for life.

IrnBruTheNoo Sun 26-May-13 19:16:36

This weekend is nearly over and I cannot wait for it to be a school day for DC1. It has been tough to fight back the tears during today.

Salbertina Sun 26-May-13 19:25:45

A little anecdote to cheer people up, hopefully.

I am fortunate to live near a location beautiful enough to be commonly used for shooting upmarket kids clothes ads. It's hilarious to watch the filming, you see the "mums", shiny and bright-eyed 20-somethings immaculately clad in white linen only being paired with "their children" at the v last minute. Behind all this, out of shot, there's a line of deck-chairs where sit the real parents, ordinary looking, a good decade older and enjoying the rest.. They're surrounded by bags, buggies, toys and other paraphernalia, none of which makes it on camera!

Salbertina Sun 26-May-13 19:28:29

But to add, yes, it has affected my MH, for good and for ill. There's a Kate Figes book, forgotten the name, about (the horrors of) pregnancy, labour, the first year.. An accurate and sobering read.

calypso2008 Sun 26-May-13 19:33:31

Ha Ha Salbertina grin

I agree also, that weekends are hardest. Especially if you are a lone parent.

I have 15 weeks of summer holiday to get through this year, worrying the whole time that I am doing enough, arranging enough, swimming enough - you get the picture.

Other mothers I envy just sort of don't give a damn and I am sure their children are happier. Although DD does seem very happy and her teacher says she is extremely well adjusted, I worry she picks up on my worry... and so it goes on, and on, and on...

TeWiSavesTheDay Sun 26-May-13 19:39:08

I hate breastfeed by the way. The hormones make me absolutely utterly depressed, zero sex drive. Close to tears. But I feel too guilty to not do it because physically I have no issues.

Fucking guilt.

Wishiwasanheiress Sun 26-May-13 19:42:05

Good grief yes. I always feel responsible. I am still shocked there is never an 'of'f moment when I'm me. Two years later!

I now feel I should put a qualifier. That I love my kids. Which, of course I do. I never ever understood what my mum did.

But boy do I find myself saying stuff she did, "why can't you just help me?" "Do I have to do everything ?" The responsibility can be overwhelming at times. Amazing and all good things, but sometimes when it's quiet I look around and just think......jeez......this is really hard.....

Chubfuddler Sun 26-May-13 19:43:49

I am very together as a mother but yes I do collapse in a heap and drink wine after they go to bed. Plus I work so I do not have 24 hour parenting except weekends, when I actually enjoy it because it is a break from the working week routine for us all. I can imagine if every day was me and a toddler I would probably stick my head in a gas oven. I adore my children but 24/7 would destroy me.

I feel things much more deeply and my anxiety is much worse. I don't think I was anxious before. I imagine terrible things happening to my DCs. I realised when I imagined they would be abducted from the garden that I had to get control of it and I stop negative thoughts before the take hold.

I think about my own demise much more and I hate it if the family are separated as I imagine half of the family being on an accident and the other half left grieving and damaged.

I used to work but started getting panic attacks and crying on loos at work which is ironic really as my career fell down the toilet. I went from being a force at work to not being listened to or promoted for 3 years. I was so stressed.

I then became a SAHM after DD2 and initially it was a relief to not feel the pressure but now I just feel alone and sad so often. No leaning in from me!

Also, I've had 3 years of bad sleep. Maybe a handful of unbroken sleep. My short term memory is crap and I struggle to remember words that I've even worried about early dementia! So I wonder whether the whole going back to work thing is just an unrealistic dream. Perhaps I'm broken!

MonstersDontCry Sun 26-May-13 20:09:37

Reading this thread has nearly had me in tears. I can relate to so much of what everyone has written.

Everything changed after DD was born. I just turned into a different person over night. I'm pregnant with DC2 and just trying not to think about how hard it going to be. Especially as DD still doesn't sleep all night.

I don't regret DD or this pregnancy for a second, but I know 100% I would choose to be childless you lived more than once.

MiniTheMinx Sun 26-May-13 20:22:32

SauceFor I'm sure your not broken, just feel like it sometimes. I know the feeling of wondering if you could ever cope with work again.

I gave up when DS1 was 18months old. I returned after ML to find that my manager in her wisdom had allocated two extra teams to me, one of which was in an area I had no experience in plus she was angling for me to take over a more senior role managing another service. She didn't have children, so there was no reasoning with her. I had the opposite problem but stress and pressure all the same.

I now work from home, self-employed because I could never envisage a time when I would be able to return to my previous work. I'm not the same person but slowly finding a new version, somewhat weighted down with extra responsibilities and worries. But it is possible eventually to work again, even after a long break.

MidLine Sun 26-May-13 20:26:03

Was just thinking about this yesterday. I also love my dd more than I thought possible but I think I can honestly say that in the nearly 7 months since I've had her I've not had one minute were I've felt truly relaxed.

I'm an anxious/worrier type anyway but it has increased since she's born. Mine manifests itself by obsessing about her sleeping and I am sleep deprived also which I know doesn't help. I do love the stage she's at now but there are times when I really just wish she was older when "things will be easier" but looks like that might be a fantasy.

It's almost like, even on a really nice day where everything has "worked" the enjoyment is still blunted in a way by anxiety and, like others have said, that I've done something that may have damaged her some how.

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.

fallingpetra Sun 26-May-13 20:34:55

I already had MH issues but yes, being a parent definitely exacerbated them. DS is a teenager now so these days it's nothing to do with sleepless nights, body issues or exhaustion. It is hard work through all the stages of parenting (no, it doesn't get easier as they get older! grin. Parenting has been harder than usual for me as DS has autism and I was also a single mum (like a few other posters here).

I am not one of those who'll blindly encourage other women to try for dc and that they'll never regret it - I do get slightly irritated when I read those sorts of responses on MN. It's worked out for us, but I know I would never want to have another child again (I am on the most reliable form of contraception available and I wouldn't consider not having a termination if it failed).

MrsHowardRoark Sun 26-May-13 20:38:37

I'm having another because I want my Dd to have at least one sibling. I come from a large family and my relationship with sister and cousins is very close.

Also, my DP would love to have loads of children and I knew this before we got together. Honestly, I'd be happy with one but I feel a bit selfish.

NutsinMay Sun 26-May-13 20:44:47

The Kate Figes book is "Life after Birth" and yes I've read that too, great book as is "Three Shoes one Sock and No Hairbrush" which speaks honestly, to me anyway, about having your second child though it's got a roasting by many on Amazon who find it depressing. Maybe don't read it if you are pregnant but it's good if you have two and are struggling.

I'm humbled by many of these posts esp: SoleSource, that sounds very tough and bleak andLionessy so sorry to hear about your experiences.

Thanks to everyone who has posted. I am comforted, reassured, moved and fascinated by this thread.

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