So, it's been a bit insane (no pun intended) in my neck of the woods lately.
I'm pretty sure the phrase "nothing can prepare you for children" isn't an unfamiliar phrase to anyone.
I'll be very clear, I was as mentally prepared for motherhood as anyone could imagine being. I'm level headed, I don't generally freak out when my child bumps her head or scratches her knee. I anticipated post partum depression, and I knew how to take care of her when she arrived (for the most part). I wasn't scared to breast feed, bottle feed, or deal with poopy bums and other unsavoury things. I was even prepared to get puked on a lot. But she has terrified me to my very core without even trying, and has sent me on the longest treks of head hanging guilty feelings, and seemingly endless tears, several times.
And what this means is having a child, no matter how "stable" you are, can and will shake the very foundation of that mental stability to it's core. Maintaining your own mental health is never more important than when another little living soul is dependent on you for every breath they take. My toddler got sick this weekend. This isn't very surprising. Since she started in a preschool daycare setting in March, and we've been sick just about every other week in this house since then. Not foregoing the fact that she's been sick enough to be hospitalized for the last two August long weekends of her short life already. I figure we're gearing up for a doozy in two weeks. Now, when a child is sick with even the faintest sniffle or sneeze, the world comes screeching to a halt, at least for mommy's. With one arm holding a toddler, juice cup, bunny and snot rag, and doing all your other life/house sustaining things with your free hand, life becomes nothing short of chaos, and confusion. Add more sleep deprivation to an already disrupted sleep cycle, and an inability to keep up with those key responsibilities that keep your family on an even keel, and you have a real recipe for disaster.
Oh, and the more this goes on, the more worn down you become, the more likely you are to get sick with whatever they have, and the more likely you are to get depressed and anxious because you feel like it will. never. get. better. Couldn't possibly, because it's like you've jumped on a germy hamster wheel of misfortune. And let me tell you something, if Lady Fortune is fickle, the Madame Misfortune is pretty fucking evil.
All this got me to thinking though, about the statistics and information we hear about who is affected by mental health. Anyone who lives with a mental illness will tell you that it's not surprising that everyone in the world is affected by issues related to mental health in some way. But moreover, I've been told by a health care professional who cared for people mental health disorders like depression and anxiety (the ones I suffer with), that these types of patients are generally intelligent, over achievers who are extremely critical of their own perceived failures.
SO, give over to any over achieving mom, and I'm going to tell you that the stats for people affected by depression are probably exponentially higher for working moms over stay at home moms, and are probably greater still for working mom's whose children are not with another member of the family for their day to day care. And that got me wondering if this was in any way related to the pressures of corporate America, and moreover that so many women are now also the breadwinners in their families. While the article's main subjects demonstrate a gender role reversal of the marital partners, I would speculate based on my own experience that this is by in large a rarity. In my own case, I'm still the primary care giver and the fact that I'm the breadwinner is as much the reason for flexibility in my day to day schedule, as it is for the added pressure and responsibility I feel day in and day out. The more balls you are juggling in the air, the more responsibility you have, the greater the opportunity is that something will fail, break or just plain not be good enough by our own over achieving standards. And then you feel all those trigger feelings. Just as it is with any diet, if you don't leave yourself enough time to nurture your emotions and your mind, and find your zen as they say, how can you possibly expect to stay healthy?
So, I have to say, that all the employee assistance programs in the world (like this one) are only going to be so helpful. We need equality of pay, equal opportunities for everyone regardless or race, gender, age, or physical challenge, and that goes for the home and child rearing responsibilities as well as the for workplace. Perhaps patience is the key. It's taken a long time for women to achieve this level of equality. I guess I can hope that by the time my daughter is dealing with all these adult life things, that her spouse is the kind who will contribute equally, both to the household income and the family care.
With all that said, it's also true when they say:
"it's worth it a million times over. And I'd do it again without even blinking an eyelash."