The Challenge Of Parenting With Depression

The haze of depression and med changes as of late (or as is the norm) have impacted my parenting ability. She’s fed, she’s clothed, she gets affection and I read to her and play with her…But some things fall through the cracks. Like last Monday when we went out and I didn’t even notice her shirt was on inside out and her shoes were on the wrong feet. She had a well kids check up Wednesday and I was horrified when she stripped down and her socks were mismatched, stained, one inside out, her panties had a big stain on the booty. Even the bottoms of her feet were a little dirty and I scrambled to get a wet paper towel and clean her off before the doctor came in. I’d given her a shower the night before so I was aghast at how she’d gotten so dirty.

We had an impromptu lunch with Mrs R Friday. Of course, I’d let my kid dress herself and I didn’t even notice until the lunch proposal, with the playplace, was brought up, that Spook had failed to wear socks. Fortunately, I am a pack rat and carry bags of stuff in the car I forgot to take in at some point and I found her a pair that didn’t match her outfit and one ankle had a big hole in it. Slightly mortifying, but not fatal. Once we were there with the banshees running loose, Mrs. R pointed out a little toddler girl and said, “Look how dirty the bottoms of her feet are. There’s a mother who doesn’t care about her kid.”

Had I not doubled up my Xanax that day, I just might have started freaking out, burst into tears, and screamed I AM DOING THE FUCKING BEST I CAN, GET OFF MY BACK!

It’s true. When you juggle mental illness, things have a way of escaping your notice. Things others consider important, like appearance, become pretty low on your scale of importance. I’m at the point where making Nutella sandwiches is draining and yet, my kid is supposed to have every hair in place and not a smudge of ice cream on her face at any time? Yeah, it’s just not gonna happen. I fuck up. I miss things. But to my credit, she’s never spent a day in the hospital, never had stitches, never had a broken bone. I care for my child, keep her fed and warm and healthy.

What does polite society care about? The lopsided ponytail that mommy can’t get straight to save her life. The stain on the shirt mommy didn’t see because she has such a light sensitivity, she keeps the lighting at home minimal and doesn’t see things until in the light of day. Or God forbid I don’t stalk her as she comes out of the bathroom and make sure underwear and waist band aren’t all bunched together. THOSE are the sins in society’s eyes.

Never mind how hard I try. How well I have done, considering how many parents without mental illness just walk out on their kids rather than try. I don’t get credit for trying med after med and dealing with side effects, all in an effort to feel better and do better by my kid. Nope. Lopsided ponytails are a sign of abuse and the apocalypse. One of the harshest critics on the appearance matter is my own mother. “I never sent you girls out looking like a rag muffin!” Or when my kid got hair lice and I didn’t notice (because they were doing the checks at school and even they missed it) and my mom started screaming, “She has raw spots on her scalp, don’t you even care about your kid?They’re gonna take her away from you!”

I miss stuff. I admit it. I am flawed, imperfect, often apathetic or too goddamned depressed to see what’s in front of me. I get the important stuff right, or half ass right. She gets registered and put into school. Gets school pictures, goes to some of the functions provided mommy isn’t in her paranoid “can’t leave the house” state. I let her have friends over and go to playdates.

But lopsided ponytails and shoes on the wrong feet…I don’t think it makes meΒ  a monster of a mom. I think society is so hung up on appearances that it overshadows the important stuff. Her homework gets done. We write her letters and read together. We have our own silly little games we play, catch phrases we use. I am an involved parent. I’m just not PTA soccer mom. And it’s okay. I still feel like shit when I drop the ball, of course. It’s just not the end of the world like some think it is.

I remember my pre-mom days, when I was so arrogant and snotty and judgmental. I’d see a kid in public with a snotty nose or schmutz all over their face and think, “I’d never let my kid look like that, it’s just lazy.” And for some parents, perhaps it is apathy. For me…It’s just a juggling act and I do my best. Because I’m a single mom and I don’t have a choice but to do what I can and if it’s not all perfect and pretty…So be it. Provided she doesn’t have hair ferrets (inside joke) or smell like feet…I think I am doing okay. I just have more realistic standards than others.

My mother tells me my imperfection when it comes to my kid’s appearance is going to result in Spook being teased and treated like the poor scuzzy kid. Guess what? Growing up, WE were treated like the poor scuzzy kids no matter how clean we were because our parents couldn’t afford brand name clothes, we didn’t have a “good” last name, our house was ramshackle, our cars were old. Kids are going to be judged no matter how pretty they look. My mom, of course, has a different memory of the past and somehow thinks me raising my kid in a trailer park is the kiss of death for her socially. Oddly, at my kid’s age, WE lived in a trailer.

Obviously, insanity runs in the family because my mom is mad as a hatter.

I was watching a show and this white couple adopted an African baby. The dad thought people were staring because their baby was black and he went off on them. Turned out the other parents were glaring because the baby’s hair was a mess, lopsided pigtails and frizz. And I just sat here, shaking my head. It’s one thing to look presentable. But this insistence on high fashion even for grubby handed little kids who’d just as soon shampoo with their food than eat it…It’s so asinine it’s humorous.

I also get a little uncomfortable when I hear stuff like, “I’ve never even raised my voice with my child.” I raise my voice all the time. Sometimes because she’s down the hall and half deaf.Other times because the first six times I’ve spoken softly have had zero impact and the satan voice gets shit done. There are worse things than raising your voice to a child. Besides, I can’t help it if my authoritative voice sounds like I’m channeling satan.

There’s so much pressure, even for parents without mental illness, to be some kind of wonder parents who gets everything just right. Life isn’t flawless. Life is messy and ugly and full of lopsided ponytails and ice cream smeared faces and raised voices and stained clothes.

For me, each day I am able to drag myself out of bed, tend to her needs, and get done what has to be done even though I am drowning in depression or anxiety…I consider myself wonder parent. I wish society would stop with the parent shaming. There’s an enormous difference between your kid looking a little worse for the wear or your kid being filthy, sickly, and malnourished. I’m doing my best, even if some days it’s not good enough for me. I keep trying, no matter what my failures are.

I have depression. I am a mom.

And quite honestly…my own ponytail is pretty lopsided and I simply don’t give a damn. I brushed my hair at least.




17 Responses to “The Challenge Of Parenting With Depression”

  1. Hey I brushed my teeth! Win-win for us both! You do a damn good job Morgue!

  2. I’m glad you realize what is truly important. She is cared for and loved. My Mom was in a Tobagganing accident when I was a kid n developed Epilepsy a few years later as a result. Before that I was almost always perfectly dressed n hair done. But she had trouble getting up n I had to bring her her pill if my dad was at work or needed a ride to school. So for about 2-3 years I was a little messy n unkempt lol. Do u know I didn’t even remember or think about it til now?! Because my parents were kind, loving, fun n gave us everything they could. That’s what I remember and that’s what matters in the long run. So tell your Mom to stick a sock in it lol.

  3. I feel right now like I spend more time than anything else in the day pulling her trousers up so her undies aren’t hanging out. I’m pretty sure they’re just out at school, and oh well. *laughs*

  4. I was the immaculate kid. My mom has OCD (diagnosed) so there was never a time I was dirty. Ever. I wasn’t allowed to sit on the furniture or bed until she bathed me and I couldn’t wear my “going out clothes” at home. No shoes inside the house. No house shoes outside. My clothes were always as spotless as I was. It helped that I was a picky kid, didn’t like being smeared with anything, and wasn’t fond of any form of dirt β€” that helped her upkeep immensely. I contributed with my anti-filth by feeding that OCD monster more.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: only someone with my mom’s level of extreme OCD about cleanliness can manage the impossible state of perfection our house was kept in. And it took sooooooo much from her life. Grandma was the total opposite. Completely oblivious. Mom broke tons of bones and OTHER things, so I guess mom was trying to save me from her childhood.

    Thinking back, I view her as Mrs. Clean (Freak) but also mostly remember the important things: the time she spent with me. You’re a good mom. And it turns my heart squishy to know that you’re doing so well for your kid in spite of the things going against you. We were poor as fuck growing up, but at least my mom NEVER left me and today those are the details that matter. I’m thankful. Spook will be too. I also believe extreme tidy syndrome is bad. That one fucked me up too much as an adult now.

  5. I’d be giving those better than everyone/arrogant parents a mouthful of kissmyassitis & my sneezes would sound like *FUCKYOU*! sounds like Spook is very well loved & taken care of! Most every parent I know has done at least one thing you described, if not more. Screw ’em! πŸ™‚ ❀

  6. I am showering tomorrow and maybe brushing my teeth. No guarantees. It is chiro torturing day.

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