Only I'm not so sure.
Is it truly supportive and helpful to, on the basis of ten months of blog posts (I began writing for MotherVerse in October, 2007, when the reader said she first discovered me), diagnose someone you don't know and have never met with four years of untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Is it kind and empathic to inform me that I do not like being a mom ("and that's OK!"), that I've probably never liked being a mom ("the problem was exacerbated further since the birth of your second daughter") and that my toddler misbehaves because she knows I don't want to spend time with her? Really? That's what you'd say to a stay-at-home mom client in the early years of baby parenting? Really?
Huh. 'Cause I was thinking more along the lines of recognizing that hating nonstop toddler screaming is a normal reaction, not a DSM-IV diagnosis. That having a tough summer due to UNBELIEVABLY TERRIBLE TWOS and a ridiculously stressful and unexpected series of events at one's unfortunate volunteer job does not mean one has been miserable since having one's first baby four years ago and that one truly wishes to be a career woman rather than a SAHM. (Read the archives a little more deeply. Find a copy of the Summer issue of MotherWords, and read my published essay entitled, "Confessions of a Contented Mom," written approximately one year ago.) That disliking nightly hour-long screaming fits at bedtime and daily screaming fits at naptime does not mean one does not like being a mom. I was thinking more along the lines of this kind of knowledgable, empathic reaction. Or of this blog comment (scroll down), the one by kind and astute Squab.
I have a problem with assuming that the solution to a challenging toddler stage is medicating the mama. Don't get me wrong; I totally respect the need for psychotropic medications as appropriate. I've been on them, during my long-past disaffected youth; most everyone I know has, too, at one point or another. I advise my clients on them. But I personally know that I don't need a prescription for Prozac; I need a baby who moves on from the nonstop tantrums, the sleep rebellion, the CONSTANT SCREAMING. I also need my free time back; in the past five weeks, most of my precious down-time--the hours I used to fill with self-nourishing activities such as reading, writing, running, and indulgent cable TV--has been suddenly and unavoidably eaten up by unexpected needs at a volunteer job I didn't know would turn into a giant time-drain.
All of this armchair-diagnosing, this "mama is depressed because she's oppressed and thwarted in her true desires to experience career adulation," this "mama is miserable and her children can tell she doesn't like them and that's why they cry at night," this "you need therapy or medication" business, has a strangely anti-woman air about it. I'm not really feeling the love and support; I'm actually feeling some crazy-off-the-wall criticism. (The idea that I have ANY DESIRE WHATSOEVER to resume my career--at present, anyway--is so incredibly inaccurate as to trigger a chuckle from anyone who truly knows me. As is the idea that my sixty-something, partially disabled, raising-three-grandchildren parents are in any position to help me more with my children.)
I completely, 100% realize that I ask for this kind of thing when I author a personal blog, so I take responsibility for that. My blog IS my therapy, like it or not (you're totally welcome to not like it; I don't care one bit if you read here or not). It's annoying, negative, and complaint-filled at times; for the past 6-8 months, perhaps most of the time. But that's how I write myself better; that's how I move on and fill the rest of my hours with sunny walks, art projects, sidewalk chalk. It's not an ideal set-up; it's not an ideal life. I'll be the first to admit that this summer has been HELLA CHALLENGING for me. But honestly: being sad about zero free time, screaming babes, and a tight budget is pretty normal. And if I were in session with a harried, exhausted, young mom, THAT'S what I'd say.
I'd also say that we should ALL feel sad about world events over which we "have no control." THAT'S not clinical depression; that's a discouraged Democrat, waiting for Obama salvation.
I've been considering, off and on recently, closing down Mama in Wonderland. This recent comment makes me feel even more that I should. I don't mind my babes growing older and reading that their nonstop screaming drove me to fantasize about a playdate with myself and a bottle of wine; I hope they do read that, and know, when they themselves are new, overwhelmed mamas, that they're not the only ones to feel that way. What I don't want them to read is that their mama dislikes being their mama, that she doesn't want to be around them, that as babies they knew this and cried. It might be time to shut the doors.
No matter what I decide, I will continue to receive notice of comments via my e-mail, so I will know if any readers leave a message here for me. Please do, if you'd like. I have made so many wonderful, genuinely supportive friends via this blog---friends who have been my saving grace during these baby years. I will always, always be grateful for that, and continue to read their blogs. THANK YOU. You know who you are.
********[Edited to add: a million thanks to good friend Donna, who actually called me from Hawaii this afternoon to express her support after reading this post. Once again proving that true friends--real-life or virtual--don't roll their eyes and think, "GOD. More complaints?!" when they hear about one's struggles, but instead say, "Been there, sister; you're doing fine. Hang in."]