I developed postpartum depression and really struggled for the first six months after I gave birth. We had a very high-needs infant. I had no friends in the area. With my husband’s long work hours and commute, I was essentially taking care of the baby alone for 5-6 days out of the week. Additionally, I had never been unemployed before in my adult life, and I sorely missed that type of fulfillment. It was a hard time for me that was very scary.
During that time, I felt as though my husband kind of abandoned me, and like he had no sympathy for what I was going through. For the first time in our marriage, we argued constantly. He expected me to spend every weekend with his friends or family. My in-laws, whom I got along with great from a distance, began to smother us with constant advice on everything from our parenting choices to our finances. I felt as though my husband was still a teenager and they were always telling him what to do. he worst part was: he’d listen, even if I didn’t agree! It seemed as though he was taking their side against me in everything. In short, I felt as though I had no support system at all — we are currently living twelve hours from my family and the majority of my friends — and as if I was the only piece of the puzzle that didn’t fit.
Eventually, I insisted that we see a counselor. We only went one time, as my husband’s schedule didn’t permit him to get off early from work to make the visits. I do think, however, going to the one counseling session helped him to see there was a definite problem and how very unhappy I was.
Since then, things have improved but not as much as I’d prefer. We’ve tried to set boundaries with his family, but they still get involved in our personal lives more than I would like. I have still not managed to make many friends. It is a small town and his parents are pillars in the community, so almost everyone I meet knows them very well. I know that the majority of my dislike for the area is due to the past, which is silly, but I can’t seem to love living here. We are expecting our second child now, and I dread the postpartum period.
I would really love to move to a neutral location for both of us at some point, but I feel guilty asking my husband to give up his friends again and a job that he loves all to make me happy. I have considered asking him to be willing to move once our children are a little older and I begin to look for employment again. By that time, I thought he would have been able to put several years into his career here so that he wouldn’t be job hopping. However, I’m not sure that asking this of him is fair. Another option I have considered is asking him to move to the town in which he is employed once I return to work, but I know that he would not like that idea. I feel as though he’s being a little stubborn about only being willing to live in his hometown, even though neither of us is working there! What do you think? — Mama Blues
Geez, talk about a defeatist attitude. You write as if nothing is in your control and like your husband holds all the cards here. You write like you already know your husband is going to shoot down all your requests for compromise even though you haven’t even talked to him about most of them. Are you not equal partners in this marriage? Are you not equal partners in parenting? You, my dear, are not powerless in creating the life you want, from building a support network to finding some fulfillment outside of your family life, as well as being proactive in dealing with potential post-partum depression.
First, you can talk to your husband NOW – not when your kids are older, but now when you are consumed with tending to their every need on a daily basis with very little help – about moving closer to where he works. Explain how overwhelmed you feel caring for one – and soon two – young children all day without any help and that if he could cut over an hour from his daily commute and be home in time to at least help with getting the kids to bed, that would be a huge relief for you. That hour may not seem like a lot, but multiply it by five days a week, four weeks a month, and you’re talking about the difference of 20 hours of support each month that you don’t currently have. Surely that, in addition to the gas money saved and the psychological relief you’ll feel, is worth the extra expense of living in a pricier area closer to your husband’s work.
Another suggestion I have for you is to consider getting a part-time job a few hours a week once your baby is old enough to be left with another caregiver. You may find that you can’t find a job that pays more than what it would cost to pay a babysitter, but I’m telling you from personal experience that the break you will have from your kids, not to mention the opportunity both to meet new people and to utilize skills other than parenting skills, will be more than worth breaking even financially. Caring for young children is fucking hard. It’s also often boring and tedious. I, personally, consider the nine hours a week I employ a babysitter to watch Jackson to be sanity-saving. I pay the sitter with money I make from this site and, by the time I pay hosting fees, there isn’t much money left over at the end of the month, but it’s worth it. (On a personal note, if anyone wants to help with the cost of running this site, you can donate here, or make purchases through my Amazon affiliate link). My sanity is worth it.
You know what else has saved my sanity in this first year of motherhood? Surrounding myself with other new mothers who have provided support, friendship, and advice. I started a new moms’ group when I was eight months pregnant, and I don’t know where I’d be without the friendship that grew out of that group. The bonus is that Jackson has tons of playmates, too, which also takes a little pressure off me to entertain him nonstop. In addition to creating the moms’ group, I have been known to go up to women I see in the neighborhood with babies, introduce myself and basically ask them out. It’s not quite as weird as it sounds, though it is always a tad awkward, but the truth is, most new moms are equally stressed, bored, tired, lonely, and so eager for company and support.
Now, I know not everyone lives in a neighborhood like mine where there are more babies and pregnant women than singing competitions on network TV, but my point is that you can put yourself out there. See if there’s a Facebook page or Yahoo group for parents in your area. Check Meetup.com for moms’ groups, play groups for kids, or even – gasp – activities you’re interested in that have nothing to do with parenting. People need friends, and the older we get the harder it is to find them. But it’s not impossible, and with the Internet, it doesn’t HAVE to be as difficult as approaching people in person (though I still stand by that route as an excellent way to meet new people).
Something else that’s going on here that you didn’t quite articulate in this letter is your feeling
under-appreciated. I think for the parent who works outside the home, it’s easy to assume that the parent who stays home has things easier than she really does. Caring for a young child and being a housewife is not afternoon soap operas and leisurely naps. Do you know I actually had a working mom tell me the other day that she envied the “down time” I got by staying home. Fucking seriously? People who aren’t home all day don’t know what it’s like. Many of them don’t appreciate the hard work that goes into raising happy, well-adjusted kids, keeping a comfortable, clean home, and putting healthy meals on the table every night. It is a hard, often thankless job. Do you know how you get the message across that you need to be appreciated? Let your husband walk a day in your shoes. Some Sunday when he is off from work, schedule a “me” day – go to yoga, get your hair done, see a movie, peruse a book store, have lunch with a friend, take a kickboxing class, whatever – and let your husband get a taste of what full time, solo parenting is all about. I did this recently when I went out of town for the weekend. My husband already appreciated the work I do, but after spending two days caring for our baby all by himself, he was exhausted, and so happy to see me when I arrived home. Knowing that he “gets it” when I’ve had a bad day or I’m too beat to cook dinner gives me permission not to knock myself out being a superwoman.
Finally, you and your husband need to find time to COMMUNICATE with each other. You have to tell him how you’re feeling and what your needs are. Share with him your frustrations with his family and how belittled you feel when he seems to listen to them more than to you. Tell him about your fears of mothering two small children and potentially dealing with postpartum depression again. And on that note, talk to your OBGYN too. He or she can help you find a support group, recognize early symptoms, and prescribe medication that will help you better deal with the demands you’ll have caring for both a newborn and a toddler.
There are so many resources for you. This is a happy time and you have potential to have a wonderful life – a loving husband, two (hopefully) healthy children, and the luxury to stay home with them. Don’t squander your good fortune feeling sorry for yourself. Be proactive fixing the things you can and getting help to meet your needs. Good luck, and best wishes on the rest of your pregnancy and labor.