July 27, 2006

The Ghost In The Ghost In The House

Grrr. I get hyper-irritable when I read articles that reflexively namecheck Betty Friedan in their opening sentence and then proceed to discuss the dilemmas, stresses, and oft-ensuing depression that come with parenting, but that don't make a single freakin' mention of a father [1]. Does that mean I'm depressed?

[1] Oh, I'm sorry. There WAS one mention of a dad:

What do you think in society could change to make this problem less common or severe?
Figuring out that motherhood is really hard work and it has occupational hazards and this is one of them. It's a job, and it's not always an easy job. Men have always known this, otherwise they'd be clamoring to stay home.
Baby Blues [salon.com via mcb]
The book is The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling With Depression [amazon.com]


Well jeez... if there weren't things like bills, bills and bills, I would love to stay home with my kids. But alas, the healthcare in this country is such that (since I am not independently wealthy) I have to have a corporation help with curing my little ones and the huge costs associated.

Ok, so she's not exactly reaching out to the demographic you aim for on this site, but as a mommy myself who is sorting through depression, I think she hit the nail on the head in terms of a lot of the thoughts I have going through my little head on a daily basis. But I don't think I'll get her book - I don't need to give myself any "suggestions," thankyouvermuch.

[fair point, but to get off my bitter pedestal for just a minute, I just can't imagine trying to deal with depression and parenting without considering it as a partnership (where there are two parents, obviously). And after a couple of years now, I'm really growing weary/skeptical/angry/impatient, not about being excluded from the parenting paradigm and experience, but about the exclusionary feminist folly that always turns inward: "I definitely think that not having a network of women around you right after you have the baby is a contributor (to maternal depression.)" -ed]

True, true. But as first time parents, neither myself nor my husband had any clue really what we needed post-birth. I love him to pieces but I don't think he had any idea the depth of what I was feeling/going through emotionally on top of all the breastfeeding, c-section recovering, etc. The most comfort I got was not from him, it was from other mom-friends who could give me that hug and tell me that it was all going to be OK.

HOWEVER, when my husband got laid off 7 weeks into our daughters life and became her primary care giver while I went back to a job I hate in order to be the primary breadwinner, my depression got worse and I find myself bottling it up so that he can be in top form to be the best parent possible to her as well as concentrate on finding gainful employment. In a weird twist of fate, it's been one of the best things. He is totally enraptured with our girl and he has a complete understanding of what my life is going to be like when I finally get to be the SAHM I've always wanted to be. And I know what it will be like for him to come home after a day at the office and see that adorable toothless grin.

I think all parents need a chance to walk a while in each other's shoes. Honestly, I think that's the only way we can really understand what's going on in the other's head. Now that we've had this freaky friday thing for a while and a new job is right around the corner, when it comes time for #2 (haha...), we are not only both going to be more prepared, but I know he's going to be able to support me through it all a lot better.

Feminist folly? No, no, no, not in this case. A new mom needs the dad, yes, but he's not a substitute for having other new moms who have been through childbirth and the physical (and psychological) fallout, who can help with learning to nurse, etc. I was just discussing this with my husband last night - he's a fantastic hands-on dad, but when we brought our first baby home, he actually was no help. He said, "I didn't know what you needed," and frankly, I didn't either, so I couldn't tell him. Now I do know, so I'm in a good position to help a new mom through the adjustment, IMO.

And maybe my DH would have weathered the adjustment to new fatherhood more easily if he had had a close friend nearby who had also been through it...

[I can totally see that, but that sounds different from "the women in the village show up and do everything for the first 40 days" or whatever. As for the "feminist folly" comment, I consider myself a feminist, but especially when it comes to parent-related issues, I find that there's a tendency to consider them only as women's/mothers' problems and to deal men out right from the start. I -ed.]

Ok, so can we start a grass roots campaign to elevate the importance of fatherhood and husbands as support persons beyond lamaze class? We all know dad's need more credit, but beyond that, I, too, feel my husband would have been better at knowing my needs if one of his (few) daddy friends had stepped up and offered him some advice. His brother (and father of 3) calling from Texas just doesn't cut it.

I gotta say, though, as much as I would have loved more support from the hubby, the thought of a swarm of village women (or men, or teenagers, or random neighbors) who sat me in my living room once the baby was out and for 40 days wouldn't let me do anything but nurse and sleep sounds divine. I don't care who they are or what gender, I would have LOVED that support network. Just make sure there's a cute cabana boy in the bunch who can fan me with palm fronds.

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