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Coping with Frustrations of Motherhood
Q: Am I the only mother to feel as though motherhood is 70 percent struggle and hassle, sorry make that 80 percent? I have a three-year-old son and I feel as though life is one long battle. I seem to be constantly pulling him away from things, saying "NO, NO, NO." I feel I am being constantly pestered to go here, get this, get that. Everything is a battle and a struggle and I'm tired of it. From what I can see it gets worse as they get older. I used to be a happy person. Is this what parenting does to you? I have my own business so my time at home can vary from a few days a week to less time although I try to make as much time as possible. My husband looks after our son when I'm not there. I honestly feel the joy has gone out of my life since I've become a mother. But then I'm probably a bad mother, too.
A: I am sorry that you have found parenting to be such an emotional drain. You are certainly not alone in being overwhelmed, frustrated, and saddened by the demands of motherhood. It's not at all unusual to feel inadequate as a parent. When we become parents for the first time, most of us experience some doubts about our capacity to be wonderful parents.
Since you have been so candid with me about your negative feelings, disappointment and self-doubt, I would be remiss if I did not answer in kind. I am concerned that you have been depressed, perhaps clinically depressed, for some time. Motherhood should not be experienced as 70-80 percent struggles and hassles. Moving dejectedly through your life as if it's "one long battle" suggests that you have been incapable of feeling optimism, joy, and a sense of mission and purpose in your life. It appears that you may have been feeling that way since your child was born, like you experienced post-partum depression that became a continuing, endogenous depression.
When you speak of your child's behavior (the behavior that's bothering you so much), it's the type of stage developmental behavior expected from kids at this age and stage. You also believe that parenting "gets worse" as kids get older. You seem to be saying that having this child has stolen your life and has left you with nothing but a struggle to get through each day.
I won't pretend to know what the underlying causes of your ongoing depression are but I will strongly recommend that you seek out individual therapy right away. A group such as Parents Anonymous would also provide ongoing, non-judgmental support and understanding. Your malaise, anger and lack of joy are not going to disappear on their own. You, your child, and your husband deserve better lives. You are not a "bad mother" because of what you feel. There are very good reasons why you have become overwhelmed and depressed about being a mother. You must discover what has robbed you of your former joy. I guarantee you the answer will not simply be, "Having a child."
Please take the first step toward getting better and get this professional help. It takes courage to face these demons but you know that you must. Ask your husband for his support, as I am sure that he has been worried about you for some time. Would you contact me when you have taken this step?
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.