How to Be a Good Parent While Suffering From Depression
Depression affects millions of people each year in the US, and parents aren't spared the experience, unfortunately. Parenting in itself is a full-time job, and on top of feeling depressed, the stress of it all can make you feel overwhelmed to the point of a breakdown. Parenting with depression is entirely possible, and we've put together some tips to help you do so effectively. Remember, your mental health condition isn't something you should blame yourself for, but you can always get help.
Make Time for Yourself
The most important thing to do as a parent with or without depression is to make time for yourself. This is vital to your mental health. When you become a parent, often times all of your emotional resources are poured into the child(ren) and you forget that underneath that parental exterior, you're still a person. Being a parent is an amazing experience, but you're not just a parent. You have hopes, dreams, interests, hobbies, and dozens of other features that make you unique.
It's important to hire a sitter or leave the children with a trusted adult so that you can take some time for yourself. There's nothing shameful about needing a break. You're still allowed to put your needs first once in a while, and, in fact, we would argue that you absolutely should put yourself first now and then.
Think of it this way: if you never put yourself first, and your mental health declines, how can you help your child? Focus on getting better and taking some time off to realign when you need to. Sometimes a simple walk in the park in complete silence can do wonders for an aching mind!
Don't Guilt Yourself into Shame
Where many parents falter is the area of guilt. You may experience guilt when you're feeling depressed. You'll have thoughts such as “why am I not good enough to be a mom?” or “it's my fault if my kids don't have a good childhood because of my depression.” Such guilt-inducing thoughts only serve to further the feelings of sadness and shame, sending you deeper into the depressed state.
While it can't be entirely helped, as depression has a mind of its own, you can still remind yourself that it's ok to have a mental health condition. You're not at fault, you're not doing it on purpose, and you're not a bad parent because of it. It's not like you willingly chose to take on depression; it's simply something that happens due to many factors. Don't shame or guilt yourself for what you're feeling. Embrace the fact that you have a certain condition and that sometimes you need time off.
Ask for Help
It's said that it takes a village to raise a child, and truth be told, it's 100% accurate. No parent can do everything on their own all of the time, especially when battling mental illness in addition to handling the day-to-day tasks of an effective parent. Don't be afraid to reach out to friends and family for help!
The simplest things can be a major help when you're battling depression. If your spouse does an extra load of laundry for you, or your mother comes over to help with the kids for a few hours, it can lighten the load tremendously and help you feel like yourself again. Remember that kids are hard work, and there's no shame in asking for help; especially if you're a single parent doing things on your own!
Don't Hide Your Feelings
It can be difficult to open up about your feelings with those around you, but hiding them is much more detrimental to both your mental health and your childrens' futures. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. Don't bury how you're feeling. If you feel sad and overwhelmed, let your spouse or someone you trust know. Visit a therapist where you can talk about your feelings in confidence and get expert insight and advice in return.
While society still doesn't quite understand depression, that doesn't mean you have to hide it from the world. Never be ashamed to say you're depressed or sad. Admitting to it doesn't make you any less of a person or a parent, and is often the first step on the road to recovery.
Last, but not least, joining a support group is a great way to open up about what you're feeling and find advice on parenting with depression. There are groups that exist solely for parents battling mental illness, and you'll be able to find new strength in the community once you join and regularly attend meetings. Support groups have proven effective for everything from combating addiction to realizing potential, and there are plenty of online and offline groups dedicated to helping out parents and/or people with depression.