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When Depression Makes You Feel Like an Awful Parent

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Having a child is a lot of work. It’s exhausting running after a tiny person everyday who will eat anything off the floor and cries when they don’t get cookies for breakfast (to be fair, I would too). Struggling with depression is also exhausting. Constantly working to fight off negative thoughts and pushing away that pesky grey rain cloud over your head is taxing. And when you put both of these things together, some days are anything but the sunshine and rainbows that exude from your little one.

Depression looks different from person to person, just like parenting styles differ from parent to parent. Sometimes you can’t physically or mentally get out of bed in the morning, some parents only feed their children organic food. Some days you can’t stop thinking about ending it all, some parents let their kids watch TV all day. Sometimes little things make you so angry you could put your fist through a wall, some parents let their children dress themselves.

Whatever you are struggling with mentally and emotionally is still valid whether your child has been giggling nonstop for 20 minutes or they’re screaming in the restaurant you’re in and everyone is staring at you. You are allowed to have these overwhelming feelings of sadness while your child is telling you goofy knock-knock jokes. You’re allowed to laugh when you’re hurting on the inside. It’s OK to get angry when your child misbehaves but still teach them how to act better and treat people nicely. And it’s definitely OK to cry at a commercial because that’s your way of releasing pent-up emotions, even though it’s just a commercial.

There are days when your kid wakes you up and your brain says, “nope, not doing this today,” and that’s OK. This is a good time to ask for help. Call a friend to come over and have a play date so you can blow off some steam over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. Ask your partner to wrangle the kids for an hour so you can lay down and close your eyes for a bit. There is no shame in saying, “I can’t do everything.” Moms especially feel a lot of pressure to be the “perfect mom” who has great hair and the perfect body and takes her kid to the park in nice, clean clothes every week. There’s nothing wrong with your kid wearing the same shirt two days in a row because you couldn’t find the motivation to do laundry for the third day in a row.

Every parent needs a little “me time” every once in a while. It’s healthy to be in-check with how you’re doing so you can be the best parent you can possibly be. You don’t have to pretend to be perfect for anyone — not your kid, not the other parents in the school drop-off, not even your partner. No one can tell you how to parent your child, just as no one can tell you to perk up and get over it. Some days your child will eat cookies for breakfast and you won’t clean a single dish in the sink. Other days they’ll get all their homework done before dinner and you’ll have vacuumed the entire house. And it’s OK if there are more bad days than good, and it’s definitely OK to ask for help when the bad days get to be too much.

You are doing a great job. You are tired and want to hide in the bathroom some days, but you are doing the best you can. You are a mom or dad, and you mean everything to your child. And they will always love you, no matter what kind of day it is.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo by Jupiter images

Originally published: March 30, 2017
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