Her baby is upstairs, sleeping and safe. She’s downstairs, wired, pacing.
Husband and eldest child are out; they’ve given her a break. She’s here with a four month old baby boy; he has shrieked and arched his back for two protracted hours now.
She can’t see the forest for the trees.
Finally, utterly exhausted, baby sleeps. As she tosses her two-hour old, stone-cold cup of tea down the sink, the voice starts. Her own.
“Look at you. Pacing. Can’t even mother your baby.“
There it is. That voice.
“Useless mother. Waste of space.”
She looks up, and then sees them. The strong beams, which hold up the roof above her kitchen. Just missing the rope, which she knows is coiled on the shelf in the garage. Sling it over, with a noose. It would be that easy. And then they’d all be free from the terrible mother who lives with them. The joyless wreck.
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Post Partum Depression and anxiety is a buzz word. And well it should be. The impacts of a mother struggling with depression or anxiety are far reaching and can be intergenerational. Mothers passing their experiences on to daughters. Or sons. Depressed mothers’ attachment to their babies changes the course of how a baby and mother bond. Not only are spousal relationships deeply changed but there is a spillover with the symptoms occurring in other family members. What should be the most significant time in a mother’s life, is bleached of joy and whitewashed with trauma. But there’s another side to the coin and it’s called Parental Burn Out. This is the unpopular cousin of PPD and anxiety. Obtaining a diagnosis or label, is vital because without it, there is no name for what mothers (and their partners) endure and it desperately needs treatment. But this ignored cousin may be a pre curser to PPD. If we catch mums in this stage, we may be able to avoid escalating into PPD.
What are the symptoms of Parental Burn Out?
If you feel your child is a burden and your reprimand outweighs your nurturing, you can probably assume you’ve got increased irritability, which can be a key predictor for parental burn out, according to Dr Alan Kazdin.
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So you suspect may have Parental Burn Out- what can you do? Seek support. Support is the antidote. Commit to therapy, talk to friends, family, get outside. Find a tribe. And get your hormones, thyroid, Iron, and pyrroles checked by your health practitioner.
In my work with women we work together to raise the volume on an other voice, one who counter her vicious attacks. Its hard yakka and yet break-throughs occur. The tiny moments when a client hears their instinctual voice say more kindly, “You are depleted.” To others she may say, “It took a lot to get this baby. It’s a shock isn’t it?” Others still, ”You’re doing really well. It’s okay to feel so burnt out.”
Life can reveal shades of colours, deeper and wilder than you can imagine right now. And of course life will throw curve balls. You will lose it with your kids. You will feel mother guilt. You will fight with your partner. But it doesn’t need to rock your foundations. Because Puritanical is back in her box where she belongs, rather than running the show.
Your baby will eventually teeter out into the world, and so will you; making your way slowly to the park, marveling at the dew on a leaf or the squeals of delight as her outreached chubby hand feels pampass grass as she glides past in her pram.
Kimberley runs her practices out of Chatswood Neridah Practice and offers fertility, pregnancy and post natal support. Wherever possible she works with the families of women suffering post natal depression or anxiety or parental burn out.
She does not advocate ceasing any medication prescriptions or ignoring professional PND or Post natal anxiety diagnoses. However she firmly believe that it needs to be prescribed with professional support, not in place of it.