Monday, August 25, 2008

Vacation Fade

I never did get to that relaxing on the patio thing I was talking about yesterday, because I got caught up in cooking and laundry and returning phone calls. Then I was up until after 11 last night doing the nursery school work I didn't get done earlier (no, not because I was sipping a Diet Coke on the patio, either, but because my girls were up until all hours and Genevieve has resumed her bedtime screaming fits, and, you know, there's so much hair-pulling-out and eye-rolling and heavy sighing to be done when all that gets going; who has time to get work done?). Overnight, Genevieve also resumed her several-times-a-night waking and crying pattern, which jolted me right back into my usual routine of getting no sleep. And then this morning she woke up at 6:30, Julia woke up at 7, Christopher deemed himself sick, and yet we all had to drive him to work. Right now Genevieve is refusing to nap, even though she is dead tired from a morning playground playdate, and is instead screaming in her crib.

I'm JUST A LITTLE TIRED. (Poor Julia: Mama's tired again already!)

It's tough, coming home from "vacation."


donna said...

Getting back to 'life' after a vacation can be hard, I know. (We got back from vacation last week.)

Oh, and ADORABLE pics. But you know that already. :)

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon,

I have been reading your blog for several years, since one of your first posts for MotherVerse. As a fellow psychologist (and mom), I have often been tempted to comment, but have refrained until now since I don’t know you personally and didn't want to seem critical or judgemental (which, honestly, I'm not-- at all!).

However, now it does seem like you're in so much pain, I felt I couldn't stay quiet any longer.

Shannon, please don’t take this the wrong way, but it does seem that you’re at the apex of what seems to be a depressive crisis that may well have started with the birth of your first child. Considering your harrowing story of her birth, you might well have had some PTSD that was never resolved, and now the anxiety, sleep deprivation, and constant pressure of parenthood has sent you into an abyss that you seem to be unable to see a way out of. At this point, you’re just getting through the day, you don’t seem to be experiencing any joy, and you must know that your family is feeling this. The sleep problems, anxiety, and constant focus on the negative (even focusing on things over which you have no control, like world events) are classic signs that you are in turmoil, and you owe it to yourself and your family to get some help. Surely if you were the therapist who was seeing you for the first time, this would be your diagnosis.

Your most recent post indicates that even though there are good things in your life, you are now so overwhelmed by the bad, you are drowning. No matter how many times your friends and family list off your considerable attributes: healthy, disability-free children, your own health, your loving husband, your safe place to live, your education, the fact that you live in the United States and have its civil liberties working on your side, the fact that you have a wonderful school for your daughters to attend, your family (who, although they are far away, seem to care enough to give you a getaway weekend and watch your children for you), and countless other things. Really, it doesn’t matter what you put on the list, if your baseline is always “overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed.” In the face of this, a list of the good things in your life is just stones in the Grand Canyon, because it does nothing to take away your depression. All of your posts now just seem like you’ve been sentenced to this life, and if you could, you’d run away and leave it behind (or at least like you have to stop yourself from crying and/ or screaming many times throughout the day).

Your blogging, which probably originally just served as a “venting outlet,” has just become a non-stop torrent of complaints and ingratitude and is actually painful to read now, which would also explain why your readership and comments are down. You have reached the point where the well-wishes and support of your online community (as well as those of your husband) are not even coming close to touching the well of depression and frustration that you seem to have.

It seems that one of the problems could really be that motherhood is just not what you thought, and that you don’t like it a lot of the time. You were a successful, highly-educated, well-regarded professional before, with all of that professional and societal validation, and now you feel (consciously or unconsciously)you’re relegated to the job of stay at home mom—-a job of no pay, no sleep, and not nearly enough ‘thank yous.’ This problem was exacerbated even further since the birth of your second daughter, who is (by your own admission) demanding and difficult to handle. But, as a therapist yourself you must realize that the children are emulating your behavior, or at least the behavior that you’re stifling. You are trapped in the house with them, and they can feel that you don’t want to be there.

Bottom line—there’s nothing wrong with your not liking being a mom. There’s no shame in admitting that you need some time to yourself, or that being a stay at home mom is just more than you bargained for, and that you don’t like it. Modern society just implies that stay-at-home moms are supposed to love it. But—what if some people are cut out for this job, and some aren’t? There’s nothing wrong with saying this in the regular workforce, and there’s nothing wrong with it here. What’s distressing is that you seem to be trying to force yourself into a position that doesn’t fit for you, and it’s making you totally miserable. Looking at it as objectively as possible, you might want to ask yourself—would you stay in a job that you absolutely loathed? The answer is, “probably not.”

If I were in session with you, I would ask—Why do you feel like you have no options? What if you were you to build your practice back up, say in the town where you live now, thereby allowing you the money to hire a sitter a few times per week, get your professional life back, and at least feel like you were breaking the non-stop pattern of stay at home parenthood that is dragging you down? Sure, you might come up even financially, but that time away from the home might be really invaluable to your peace of mind, and ultimately, your well-being. What about a mild anti-depressant to get you sleeping again, or some talk therapy (even on the phone) with a former colleague or someone you worked with to at least offer you a sounding board? This blog doesn’t seem to be doing that.

More drastically, what about moving to be closer to your family? Your husband is likely willing to do whatever it takes to help you be more happy in your life. Your family seems to be willing to help you—is there a way to move them closer to you? Obviously, I don’t know you or your family situation, but it really does seem like you feel you’re up against a wall and are out of options. Is there any way for you for you to just ‘think outside the box’ for a moment? What if you built your practice back up, then your husband left his job and stayed at home full time until both of the girls are in school? What about a cooperative agreement with another mother in your neighborhood or from your daughter’s school, so that you can at least have an afternoon completely to yourself?

These ideas might seem absurd to you, and again, I don’t know you. But, I have been reading, and I can see a person in pain. And this, most of all, concerns me.

I do not believe that every stay at home mom feels these same levels of anxiety, depression, and misery. Yes, it is a hard job (perhaps the hardest), as most of your readers have validated, but most people do experience at least little windows of joy throughout the day, and I'm not seeing that with you (at leat through the limited world of the blog posts).

Take good care, Shannon. I do hope that your life gets a little more managable. I hope that you can at least move in a direction of feeling better, sooner rather than later. You deserve it. You really have alot to offer the world.

And yes, of course, I know this is all none of my business, and that you don't want anyone's opinion. But, you've chosen to put your feelings out there in a public forum, and so I felt at least a little bit okay about saying something. Again, feel free to disregard everything I've said-- I'm just one of your readers who cares, and is concerned.