Here’s my own personal checklist. A layperson’s Edinburgh Scale if you will. If you tick off anything on this list, see your family doctor, or another doctor you like and trust, and talk. Please. It’s not supposed to be like this. I’m not a doctor or psychologist or a mental health professional of any kind. This list just comes from my own experience and I think a lot of women, like me, miss what’s really going on because they put themselves last all the time and they think well, parenting is just hard that’s all. Well, yeah it’s hard. But it’s also joyful and brilliant. Life is supposed to be a mix of both, not all one or the other.
1. Are you sad? Like really sad? If you are awfully, awfully sad, for no particular reason, 80% of the time and the sadness is like a great big hole that stretches into a dark tunnel that has no end? This is not normal sadness.
2. Do you look at your newborn/baby/toddler/child and feel…..nothing much? It takes lots of women a while to bond with their newborn babies, but if you just aren’t getting there and all it feels like is duty, it might be your chemicals out of whack, not your heart.
3. Is going out too much of a chore? Like obviously going out with a baby/toddler/kid is always a chore but if you are actively avoiding your social life, your friends and your family (where you didn’t used to) you may be experiencing a symptom of depression.
4. Is parenting absolutely no fun at all? Does the idea that it could actually be fun seem ridiculous to you? Is it all just duty and work and sadness and surviving? Call your doctor.
5. Do you feel like you missed something when you watch TV ads for baby products? Like, hang on, aren’t I supposed to be wearing a white bathrobe (with no stains) while gazing adoringly into my baby’s face while standing by a window overlooking paradise? Should I shake my head with good natured humour as my baby wakes for a feed in the night for the eleventh time but adore the bonding time such a feeding session affords me as a mother? Why don’t I quiver with motherly thrill as I softly caress my baby’s skin which is as soft as, um, a baby’s? Should I perhaps be taking more time to lovingly rub that expensive baby lotion into my baby’s post bath skin, as seen on TV? Actually no. If you relate to this one you’re actually pretty normal. Note to self: TV representations of motherhood are pretty much without exception, bullshit.
And while I’m at it, TV representations of motherhood do not help those of us who think we are failing miserably because we don’t measure up to some unattainable image. It’s like thinking that the airbrushed images on magazine covers are actually of real people. It’s the stupid idea of the yummy mummy. What? I have to be an organic, earth mothering, homeschooler AND sexy too?
Depressed or not, stop looking at crap about mothers and reading crap about motherhood. Love yourself and your imperfect bumbling attempts at raising your child. Laugh when you screw it up. Laugh at others who reckon they don’t. Cry if you need to. Say sorry to your kids and forgive yourself. Know that you are the only person who is qualified to be the mother to your child. And rock your stained and slightly grey used-to-be-white bathrobe. All day if you want.