How To Be A Good Mom When You’re Depressed
The overwhelm of parenting is real. Your personal time is significantly diminished. You are being pulled in 20 different directions every day and there are a million different decisions you make every day. You are having trouble communicating with your partner before it turns into frustration, yelling, or just complaining sessions. There seems to be no connection with them when you are together, and perhaps they view you having depression as a “project” and try to help you fix yourself. You never feel “good enough” for your kids. Maybe you even remember how your mom held it all together--so why can’t you? Worse, your bad days seem to rub off on your children, leading to more defiance, anxiety, or depression for them.
Point blank, being a good mom and a good partner is impossibly hard, especially when you suffer from depression that tells you that you are unlovable and unworthy of help.
Yet, you clicked on this article which shows you still want to be the best mom you can be and try your hardest to fight depression every day--please give yourself a pat on the back for that.
Depression affects 1 out of 10 women, whether it is seasonal depression, postpartum depression, or bipolar disorder. You are not alone.
Somewhere along this journey of motherhood, you’ve forgotten your own needs, and how to take care of yourself--not just the little people who need everything from you.
Find a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist who will listen to you and help point you in the direction of tools to cope and to grow. Please find someone who takes it seriously and advocates for ways to help you through these difficult times, not someone who brushes it off or says “all moms go through this.”
Talk To Your Kids About Mental Health And Depression
This can also be a great place to tell your children about mental health and depression. You can explain what depression is, and what’s going on with mom. When your kids understand that even moms get depressed, they will know that it’s okay if they ever go through a period of being unhappy and also why mom may be acting differently than normal and that’s okay. One great way to talk to your kids about mental illness can be through kids books, such as Can I Catch It Like a Cold? Coping With a Parent’s Depression, Written by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, illustrated by Joe Weissmann
Model Healthy Family Habits
This is a big deal and a great example to model for your children--how mom sets limits and takes care of her body and how they can too. Your body cannot survive on less than adequate sleep, food, or water. It cannot survive and keep you happy or energetic if you aren’t sleeping enough at night, drinking 8 hours of water a day, or eating enough food to survive.
Sometimes we all try to have “revenge sleep procrastination” where we stay up later to feel more in control of our day or have more time to ourselves. However, this hurts us the next day. This can be a great place to model good sleep hygiene with your children and yourself. If you normally wake before your child to get things done around the house, consider pausing this for a few weeks to get extra sleep. This can be a great place to explore sleep hygiene with a therapist.
To combat dehydration, carry around a water bottle and routinely try to drink from it. This can be a whole family challenge where everyone has a water bottle and works to drink healthier drinks.
Unhealthy eating habits: studies have shown that people who eat a poor diet (think sugar, fried food, processed meats, high-fat dairy) are more likely to have depression.
People who tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, and fish who tend to limit meat and dairy products have lower rates of depression. This can be a great place to teach your child how to cook healthy meals, to learn about the food pyramid or healthy eating or to involve your child in grocery shopping.
Find Fun Ways To Exercise With (Or Without) Your Child
A crucial part of beating depression can be getting up and getting moving. Exercise is as effective as anti-depressants in some cases. Exercise doesn’t have to be just running to get a “runner’s high,” it can also be walking or other low-impact forms of exercise. Exercise changes your brain to help you feel happier. Fun ways to exercise with your child could be the local pool, daily walks, bike rides, dance parties, or mommy and me yoga. Bonus points, these could be ways you meet other moms too.
Be Present--Find Joy In The Small Things
Oh mindfulness, that buzzword that everyone talks about. Guess what? Mindfulness isn’t always about sitting down and meditating in pure stillness for an hour. Mindfulness can be mindfully eating a piece of chocolate, mindfully going on a walk, mindful hand washing, or even tuning into your five senses. Mindfulness can be taught to your child and something you practice with your child. Mindfulness helps us tune out the negative thoughts and feelings of depression and focus on the moment right now and finding joy in it. The more we use mindfulness, the more control we have over our thoughts and feelings.
A great book on mindfulness and kids: Mindfulness for Kids: 30 Fun Activities to Stay Calm, Happy, and In Control
Get Socially Connected Both Of You
Talk to a friend, get to know people outside of your age group who may have more time than young moms, join something weekly or biweekly, or just get real with friends about the struggle. As humans, we need social connection to thrive and when we are without that social connection--we suffer. Check your social media and see if there are any local moms groups you can join, volunteering groups, or mom’s night out groups. This can be a great place to meet other people and begin to realize you are not alone in your struggle.
Check Your Standards: Are They Unrealistic?
The world convinces us great moms have it together all the time and that kids never misbehave. Houses are always clean and kids eat all their vegetables at a loving, calm family dinner. The truth is, none of that is realistic. This can be a great place to check in with others such as other moms, older parents, and your partner about your standards and realize what really matters. It is okay if your baseboards have dust on them or your child refuses to eat green vegetables, that is a part of life. Once you check in with these people, you may be able to give yourself more grace and love in the journey of being a good mom while you are depressed. You may realize places you’ve held yourself to a strict standard or strategies to decrease some of your burdens. Or you may get a laugh and realize--other moms struggle too and that’s okay.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way Forever--There Is Hope
There is hope. Being depressed doesn’t have to last forever, and there can be good periods in depression. You can be a good mom while you are depressed and you can teach your child how to have a healthy, happy life.
Imagine six months from now when you have more energy, both you and your child know coping skills to help in hard moments, and the hard days don’t feel as hard. In therapy we can guide you toward your goals of being a good mom while you are depressed and work through that depression.
If you are struggling from depression and finding it hard to parent in the way you want to, check out our page on moms in therapy or reach out for a free consultation at 757-296-8794.
Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.