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A recent article in L.A. Parent Magazine ( asked, Is Motherhood Depressing? The article’s title was meant to be provocative – questioning whether the mere act of being a mother – supposedly the world’s most rewarding (and yes, the real oldest) profession, could emotionally debilitate even the most well-balanced woman. In reality, the story was about the difficulties of parenting while dealing with a psychological disorder, profiling one woman’s struggle with clinical depression. It cited a study which suggests that a growing number of women and men are finding that child rearing has sent them into a Prozac dependency, needing daily medication to survive from school drop-off to bedtime and every dirty diaper-, temper tantrum- and homework-induced meltdown in between. My personal belief is whatever it takes to get through the day without blood being shed is, to quote my favorite ex-con Martha Stewart, “a good thing.” My husband recently received very sad news which brought the message home. He learned an acquaintance from college who was married, had kids and was depressed, killed herself and her children while her husband was away serving in Iraq. All this got me thinking about the many parents I know who are not saddled with lifetime depression issues or even survivors of postpartum depression, but who still wonder aloud and often, why they feel their lives as parents have left them so frustrated, sad and often angry. Is motherhood depressing? Maybe it is, yes, but for reasons that we can change.

We live in a country that doesn’t support families. Despite all the shouting from the rooftops that both political parties do about family values, in the past decade, instead of making things easier, conditions for families seem to have stayed the same or even gotten worse. Yes, a few victories have been won - the family leave act being a biggie – but with so many issues of concern to parents and children still unresolved or unacceptable (How about 9 million children in the U.S. without health insurance?) it’s hard to rejoice in the small wins, when the larger battles already feel like defeats. Our social system lags far behind many other industrial nations and a few third world ones when it comes to our attitudes and policies about issues of maternity/paternity leave, breastfeeding, childcare, education and healthcare. And what parent hasn’t grappled with the question of whether it even makes sense to bring babies into a world where there are so many uncared for, neglected or abused children, or wonder what world we will hand over to our offspring when global warming and war have finished ravaging it. These are difficult and very different stresses hanging over the heads of today’s parents. It’s enough to make even the most optimistic of us put a therapist on speed dial.

I expected my motherhood experience to be like that of my mother. She seemed completely devoted to us, joyful in every act from making cookies to chauffeuring us from classes to games to birthday parties. She didn’t complain – at least not in earshot – nor did she rebel – except for that time she put all our junk laying around the house in a basket and said if we didn’t claim it, it was going in the trash. She didn’t make it seem like motherhood depressed her. She had other issues she struggled with, but being a mother didn’t seem to be the source of those troubles the way it does today. I often find myself wondering, “How did she do it?” It makes me chide myself even more harshly for my own parental lapses, certain she was a better parent than I am because I often feel I’m not up to the tasks of parenting, and wondering where are all the warm, fuzzy Hallmark moments I expected would fill my every waking hour of motherhood.

I think the trick of motherhood may be to set aside the expectations of ourselves that we get from family, parents, friends and the media. As much as possible, we need to reject poor conditions for children and families and continue to do what we can politically, raising our voices to bring about change. Personally, we need to accept more – accept help when you need it, accept yourself for the parent you are, not the parent you imagine or wish you were, and finally, accept whatever feeling you’re riding and learn to enjoy the bliss that comes from motherhood, in between the other moments, both insane and mundane.

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