Sometimes, being a mom is hard. I often feel defeated, dejected, confused, and like I am the wrong woman for the job. I also find myself wondering, “Is this normal? Do other moms feel this way? What can I do?” I asked my friend Brooke Randolph, a licensed mental health counselor, to talk about when our struggles go past the blues into depression, and when moms should reach out to a professional for help.
Parenting is the most difficult, most important job you will ever have. It’s something I have said for years – something I say because I am a therapist who works with moms who are unsure if they are doing the right things, moms who are afraid of their kids, moms who are afraid for their kids, moms who desperately want to soothe the hurt inside their child but their child won’t let them in… and that was just yesterday. As a parent (adoptive, step, sometimes kinship, and even grand) I might say something more like This mom life is hard, yo.
It isn’t just balancing schedules and budgets and uniforms and homework while trying to get a hot meal on the table occasionally. Our adorable children are in many ways like loveable leeches, sucking us dry. It can start in utero when they take the Omega-3 fatty deposits from our brains, leaving us with extra fat in our stretched and weakened abdominal muscles instead. Sleepless nights and midnight feedings leave us physically fatigued. For years, you can feel like you have little ones crawling all over you every waking moment, following you into the bathroom and generally invading your personal space and sensory limits. Broken windows, ripped jeans, soccer registration, field trips, birthday parties – your kids would spend every last dime you have if you let them.
And then there are the internet haters and mom-shamers who like to comment on your blog, give you dirty looks, or offer unsolicited advice. All of these things either increase our levels or stress or decrease our ability to manage stress. Fatigue and the reduction in Omega-3 fatty deposits can directly contribute to depression. Lack of time for exercise, fewer orgasms, and financial concerns can interfere with our ability to fight depression, not to mention simply finding childcare to see a therapist or even your best friend away from small ears.
Your OB or Pediatrician may have watched for signs of postpartum depression or anxiety, but what about when our kids are toddlers or entering school? And there are those of us who adopted, who may not have anyone warning us about Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome. The concern over our mental health should extend beyond the few weeks after we bring our children home.
As a private practice clinician, I tend to think that if you are dissatisfied in some area of life then it is absolutely appropriate to seek help. Many of my clients do not qualify for a diagnosis like major depressive disorder, but I am happy to work with them to avoid reaching that point. When to seek help is a common question. While ultimately you are the only one who can answer that question, here are some guidelines to consider:
- If you are dissatisfied or concerned about your mood or any other symptoms
- Lack of energy for or interest in activities
- Noticeable weight gain or weight loss
- Feelings of isolation
- Problematic forgetfulness or distraction
- Disinterest in sex or sexual dysfunction
- Difficulties in any of your roles: mom, wife, friend, employee, etc.
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
Counseling isn’t nearly as uncomfortable as many people fear. While it isn’t always fun to talk about our struggles, the right therapist will help you to feel comfortable and work with you where you are. It is an individualized process and looks a little different for each client. For each of the moms I work with their goals are to be the best moms that they can be and to help their kids be the best they can be.
There is an added benefit as well; research shows that kids whose moms receive counseling do better than kids who receive counseling themselves. Moms, you are oh so important to your kiddos! They need you to take care of yourself, just like putting your own oxygen mask on first on the airplane.
Brooke Randolph, LMHC, is a parent, therapist, and adoption professional with 25 years of experience working with children, families, and individuals. She is a private practice counselor in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the mental health expert contributor at DietsInReview.com, a national diet and fitness column. She was a founding member of MLJ Adoptions, Inc., where she served as the VP of Social Services for seven years. She is a Young Professionals Advisory Board member for The Villages, which is Indiana’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency, serving over 1,400 children and their families each day. Brooke adopted an older child internationally as a single woman, which she considers one of the most difficult and most rewarding things she has ever done. She is a contributing author to the book Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues (2014). She has authored adoption education materials and presented at numerous conferences and workshops throughout North America. Brooke is primarily motivated to encourage, equip, and empower parents and individuals to make changes that strengthen their lives, their careers, and their families.
photo credit: Alison via photopin (license)