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why are there so many depressed women?

(101 Posts)
planks2short1s Thu 07-Jul-11 19:19:45

In all my years,and many incarnations, on mn this is the first time I have been brave enough to post in this section so please be gentle.

I read an artice the other day about how more than half all women have been prescribed anti depressants at some point. Hands up I have been on anti depressants in the past so no judgement on that one. I alsoo had a conversation with a woman who says she is in complete denial about having to go back to work following mat leave, which I can certainly relate to. So my question is -

"Do you think growing up as a feminist, aiming at self sufficiency, a good sustainable career and equality contributes to depression amongst new mothers?"

I felt completely unprepared for the physical and mental shock at the realisation that, despite all of my earlier ideals and achievements, that I really didnt want to return to work after having dd (have to for financial reasons) as not wanting to work goes against all of my ideals.

SardineQueen Thu 07-Jul-11 19:46:09

Hi planks smile

My situation is the other way around - I really enjoyed work and I have found the whole looking after children thing terribly difficult. I carried on part time work but got made redundant at the end of march. I'm on ADs now - just started a couple of weeks ago. I haven't been right since my second pregnancy, so the difficulties may have been kicked off by hormones and exacerbated by the change in lifestyle.

There was a good thread recently here if you feel like a bit of reading! Which talked a lot about this stuff.

I always remember that in the 70s "mothers little helper" was valium, before that there was booze, and as recently as the 20s (i think) things like opium and cocaine were available to buy legally.

I am not convinced that this is a new problem, I think that possibly now it is more diagnosed and people are less able to self-medicate (mummies drinking/smoking is not as socially acceptable any more).

SardineQueen Thu 07-Jul-11 19:47:53

BTW there is nothing wrong with wanting to SAH with your child/ren! A shame that it's not affordable... It is great you feel that way, I wish I felt more like you!

sunshineandbooks Thu 07-Jul-11 20:11:04

Hi planks. I think feminism can contribute to a low level of depression generally TBH - once you start seeing sex discrimination everywhere the whole thing is really depressing! wink

To be more serious though, I think a lot depends on your interpretation of feminism. Until I really started looking into feminism I didn't realise that there was a whole load of feminists who believe that we need to change society so that the role of SAHM is celebrated and so that women who want to SAH can do it and be appreciated for it, rather than being told how lucky they are or asked why they want to sacrifice their career with hmm looks.

I read somewhere that anger is directed outward, and depression is anger turned inward. Feminism has allowed me to see why I feel frustrated at things, to recognise the unfairness, and to fight against it instead of feeling powerless, which I think is where a lot of depression comes from - lack of power. I am less depressed since discovering feminism. But then I didn't really discover it until after I'd had DC TBH, so I was never in the position you are in now.

I am very lucky because I wanted to go back to work after having DC and I was able to do so, but I am under no illusions that it was luck of circumstance. I adore my DC but I never wanted to be a SAHM and I know I would hate it (and be a much poorer mother for it). The thought of other women being either forced to SAH when they don't want to or to be forced back to the workplace when they'd really rather be at home with their child is anathema to me. I don't think a genuine choice is possible in our current society however, without massive change, so my version of feminism is quite radical. I want to see society changed so that the SAHM/WOHM is a real choice, not one that is decided for you by economic necessity.

Hope you manage to work something out that's right for you. smile

SardineQueen Thu 07-Jul-11 20:25:25

"The thought of other women being either forced to SAH when they don't want to or to be forced back to the workplace when they'd really rather be at home with their child is anathema to me. I don't think a genuine choice is possible in our current society however, without massive change, so my version of feminism is quite radical. I want to see society changed so that the SAHM/WOHM is a real choice, not one that is decided for you by economic necessity."

Yes, exactly.

bibbitybobbityhat Thu 07-Jul-11 20:28:51

Its hard to say without knowing how many men have been prescribed anti-depressants in comparison.

I was trying to listen to Jeremy Vine on this today (whilst also holding a phone conversation with my mother who has just been prescribed anti-depressants for the first time in her life, aged 80) and the statistic on his show wasn't over 50%, I don't think? Can't be sure.

planks2short1s Thu 07-Jul-11 20:34:33

I think then, maybe it's more about the need to feel able/ and want to be fantastic at everything. And always feeling a failure because you cant give your all, to it all iyswim.

smallwhitecat Thu 07-Jul-11 20:35:27

Message withdrawn

planks2short1s Thu 07-Jul-11 20:39:05

Sunshine you may have been joking but I think you are more right than you realise. I am ashamed to admit, although I lived a life granted to me by feminism, I never really gave it much thought until I started suffering, unprovable, discrimination in the work place. It is bloody depressing!

I think that the biggest contribution to depression in new mothers is lack of support and isolation. Whether that be because of partners who don't pull their weight, partners who work long hours, families who don't help or living long distances from families and/or friends. But being forced to make a decision that they don't want to for economic reasons is not going to help.

I don't think feminism is to blame for this as feminism is trying to change these situations, as sunshine explained. Tbh the way society is structured at the moment women are generally making more compromises than men when children come on the scene and that leads to an imbalance, resentment etc etc.

There is also the question of prescribing drugs rather than getting to the root of the problem. SQ has already linked to a really interesting discussion on that point.

WyrdMother Thu 07-Jul-11 20:55:53

I suffered with fairly severe anxiety disorder, it hit me when my DD was about 1 at a time when things were finally becoming easier after a tough first year. At work and at home I had always had the "keep your head when all about you are loosing theirs" thing going on and I absolutely believe that the anxiety came from undiagnosed PND and that came from being pushed to my absolute limits by motherhood and returning to work after 11 weeks with a baby who was still screaming half the night (pretty sure she had silent reflux. I will never forget the doctor who said "it's probably just colic", lucky the bugger was on the end of the phone and not within choking distance).

Basically after always being able to cope with what life threw at me I found myself at my absolute limit and terrified of having anything more to deal with.

So yes, I do agree in so far as I think we expect way too much of ourselves. I will never forget some woman of the year industrialist responding to the question "So women can have it all then, be superwomen with a high profile career and children?" the upshot of her reply was "I manage this because I have a Nanny, PA, a driver and a Housekeeper, so yes, a woman can have it all if she has good staff". I can't remember where I read this, it was a long time ago, but if I ever start beating myself up I remember it.

planks2short1s Thu 07-Jul-11 21:08:47

That's a blooming good quote!

WyrdMother Thu 07-Jul-11 21:13:42

grin It is, very inspirational, I just wish I could remember where and when I heard it and that I'd saved the actual quote somewhere, I confident of the gist at least.

That quote also demonstrates the difference between men and women at the top of business. No-one would ask a man that question. They would assume that his wife/ex was looking after the children or that he had paid help. By asking that question the person was assuming that the woman was running a business AND looking after children. That assumption isn't made of men. Women's place in society may have shifted more towards the workplace but men's place hasn't shifted the same distance towards the home. Someone is picking up the slack from that and it is still in a lot of cases the women.

WyrdMother Thu 07-Jul-11 21:18:14

Okay, I was just googling to try and find it and weirdly a similar "superwoman" has just said pretty much the same thing Interview with Nicola Horlick, Investment Manager

Quote:

Q: "You have been described as a "superwoman".
A: It's nonsense. Someone who has a nanny, a housekeeper and a PA isn't really Superwoman."

WyrdMother Thu 07-Jul-11 21:31:03

In fact I am now pretty sure it was Nicola Horlick who origonally said it.

HandDivedScallopsgreat exactly.

rodformyownback Thu 07-Jul-11 22:10:57

"Do you think growing up as a feminist, aiming at self sufficiency, a good sustainable career and equality contributes to depression amongst new mothers?"

Hiya Planks

This is also my first post in the feminist section. I consider myself a feminist, was raised by a (rather more radical) feminist, and have recently been diagnosed with PND (I'm not taking ADs, trying to hang in there until I get to the top of the waiting list for CBT). I've just taken redundancy while on mat leave and am hoping to be a SAHM for the next couple of years although money is extremely tight, so I may have to get some work soon.

I honestly don't know the answer to your question but I'd like to share my experience because this is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I was brought up to believe that the only way to be equal to a man was to be economically independent (money was a big source of conflict in my parents' relationship). To be honest it's been a long time since I've thought about that, because I know so completely that my dh would never think of me as any less than an equal, no matter who is earning the money. We have supported each other financially at various times and the work we are doing at home raising our children is far more important to both of us than our careers [wells up at the loveliness of DH emoticon].

The biggest source of unhappiness in my life is my poor relationship with my mum. I feel like I am such a disappointment to her because I have chosen being with my kids over my career. When ds2 was 8 weeks old, she came to visit and spent the whole time going on about what I could do next in my career. Whenever we spend time together she spends the whole time trying to get me to "have a break", convinced that what new parents need is to get as far away from their offspring as possible. Because that is how she felt about me. When I recently told her I have PND, she launched into this long speech about how she completely understands that I've lost my sense of self stuck at home with two young children, of course my confidence has taken a blow from being made redundant (even though I wanted to stay at home hmm), blah blah blah...

So for me, I guess you could say that the pressure to "have it all" has contributed to my PND, but only really because of the way my mum's politics have coloured my relationship with her. Like Sardine I don't think that PND has increased, it is just more talked about.

Lots more to say but I've already written a thesis so will leave it at that for now smile

rodformyownback Thu 07-Jul-11 22:56:21

blush I missed the whole, interesting discussion while composing lengthy introspective drivel (and intermittent breastfeeding!) <<slopes off to post more self indulgent tripe in the mental health section>>

WyrdMother Fri 08-Jul-11 06:55:43

rodformyownback said "Like Sardine I don't think that PND has increased, it is just more talked about."*

I'd agree with that, because regardless of whether depression came from (historically and presently) being stuck at home having lost all your career prospects, or feeling forced ecconomically, politically or socially to get back to work before you are ready isn't it all about loss of control? Pretty sure that was what was scaring the crap out of me.

I don't think (she says carefully, because this is just an opinion) that men always feel so tied(?), or if they feel it they may find it easier to walk away (disclaimer: this tentative statement is not blanket, I'm sure plenty of men don't, but I've come across some that do).

WyrdMother Fri 08-Jul-11 07:02:10

rodformyownback Might be introspective but definitely relevant and not drivel.

Oh and great to hear feminism gave you the strength to challenge things but I don't think feminism created the pressure on you, I think that was your mum and her (in the most respectful way because ain't we all got it) baggage.

Laugs Fri 08-Jul-11 07:32:00

"I'd agree with that, because regardless of whether depression came from (historically and presently) being stuck at home having lost all your career prospects, or feeling forced ecconomically, politically or socially to get back to work before you are ready isn't it all about loss of control? Pretty sure that was what was scaring the crap out of me."

I'm not sure it's so simple as that.

I have never felt forced to go out to work or stay at home, but I have felt very strongly and instinctively that I want to be at home with my children when they are little, and simultaneously felt very strongly and instinctively that I want to continue working.

I can't do both to my satisfaction, and that is what I find a struggle.

WyrdMother Fri 08-Jul-11 07:42:36

Yeah, I was being rather black and white. I'm going to have to come back to this later if it's still going but that's something I'm going to have to think about.

sunshineandbooks Fri 08-Jul-11 08:00:39

I have never felt forced to go out to work or stay at home, but I have felt very strongly and instinctively that I want to be at home with my children when they are little, and simultaneously felt very strongly and instinctively that I want to continue working.

I think this is a really good point.

What if we lived in a culture where it was common for a woman to take say two years (just as an example) time out from work when she had a baby and she could then re-entered the workplace at exactly the same point she was when she left?

What if childcare was cheaper and more flexible and work-place creches were common instead of rare?

What if parents could use WTC or similar to pay for nannies as well as CMs and nurseries? (This could allow small children to be brought to the workplace for breast-feeding etc)

Regardless of gender, I think it's just not compatible for parents to have a demanding career in addition to be the primary carer, but IME most SAHMs don't want to be at home from 0-18; it's the early years and sometimes primary that most SAHMs want to be at home. I think that because 82% of women become parents and women make up more than half of the population, this is something society has a responsibility to accommodate and allow women to do without it completely sabotaging the remainder of their working lives, which can sometimes amount to a further 30 years or more.

I don't know if these would provide all the answers but I think a lot of women go back to work sooner than they would like because they are terrified of completely losing their career/working identity. I also think that with measures in place like those I outlined above, the transition back into work would be more compatible with women being able to juggle work and childcare.

sadaboutthismum Fri 08-Jul-11 08:14:04

Great thread.
I think that when anyone, male or female, is in a role in which they are unhappy, unsuited and out of their depth, be that in a job or at home, then that can lead to misery and /or depression.

I agree with whoever said we need to make working or not a real choice for women.

floyjoy Fri 08-Jul-11 08:24:09

I think the general trend among people is one of unhappiness with work. Both for men and women. Modern work often involves long hours, overtime that is unpaid (TOIL instead), is often competitive, pointless and repetitive. There's all those non-jobs that didn't exist 30 years ago and don't need to exist now and don't have much purpose other than providing a wage. People are creative, thinking beings but we are paid to give up (full-time) 35 hours, plus commuting time. Then there's all the time you think about work when you're not there. To do that and not be unhappy you have to find some pleasure/fullfilment in your work.

Any break from work can throw an uncomfortable light on what you actually get out of it. I think for some people, myself included, maternity leave can give you a bit of mental space that you can use to consider whether there is better work that you could do that would make you more content.

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