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Making peace with parenting

Learn to be easier on yourself as you do the ‘hardest job in the world’

By Robin L. Flanigan

Minutes before relatives and friends arrived for her daughter’s second birthday party, Missy N. retreated upstairs to her bedroom and broke down. The stress from making the invitations, cooking, and cleaning the house to make this a special celebration for her first child had caught up with her. Still sobbing as people began filling up her house, she paged her psychiatrist, who posed this question: “What do you want to get out of this day?” That question not only turned things around on that important occasion, but in the years since has served as a guiding query whenever the mother of two from Massachusetts, is struggling to be the parent she wants to be. “It was such an effective way for me to reframe the situation,” says Missy, 53, who was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 1993. “Now whenever I feel like things are snowballing, I’ll just stop and say, ‘What do I want to get out of this?’ I slow down, start to breathe better, and feel more calm.”

Having both depression and children can be an immense challenge. Research over the past 20 years has found that although parents report having a greater sense of purpose in their lives, they also rate lower in marital satisfaction, experience more negative emotions, and have higher rates of depression than childless individuals. A 2005 analysis of data from the National Survey of Families and Households, covering 15,000 American adults, found that “no type of parent ... reports less depression than nonparents.” Not surprisingly, single parents showed more distress than married parents. What was surprising: there was no difference between men and women. Study co-author Robin Simon, PhD, a Florida State University faculty member and a mother herself, noted the “enormous emotional benefits” of parenthood in an interview with the news website LiveScience at the time. “But I think [those benefits] get clouded by the emotional cost,” she added. “We worry about our kids even when they’re doing well.” … [end of excerpt]

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