A family friend of mine, Jamie, just admitted to me that she’s been suffering from depression for the last 2.5 years.
“BUT HOW CAN THIS BE?” my old-school parents said. “She has a husband, she has her own hair-care line, she has a beautiful daughter. HOW CAN SHE POSSIBLY BE DEPRESSED?”
Marriage and kids do not give you happiness.
Here’s the thing: Many people (some men and mostly women) rush into marriage and kids to alleviate the societal pressure of being single and childless. There’s this feeling of, “I am sick and tired of people asking me when I’m going to find a man and have kids. I just want to get married and have children so they could SHUT UP already.”
When you rush into just to make others’ happy, who — by the way — aren’t even living a damn waking minute in your life, how can you possibly be happy when you’re living a life mapped out by OTHER people?
Jamie became depressed about a year into motherhood. “I was fine at first. But then it hit me!” Not everyone can handle such a taxing transition. Here is why it took a toll on her:
- She realized that her bundle of joy is more than she could afford (it costs about $245,340 to raise a child to 18 years of age, excluding education expenses)
- She obsessively asked herself, “Am I doing everything I can to raise this child to be the best she can be?” The answer, she felt, was always a depressing “no.”
- She was hit with the realization that her partner has different parenting tactics and wanted to raise the child in another way.
- Sleep deprivation. ‘Nuff said.
- She finally grasped that motherhood virtually has no paid vacation time or holidays. Mommy is never “off duty.”
Jamie told me she was “naive” about motherhood. All she pictured was going through 9 months of a beautiful growing belly, a baby in hand, and one big happy family:
“Many people told me ‘oh my god, it’s going to be so much work!’ But most of the negativity was coming from single women or from women who didn’t even have any children, so I just ignored them and basically said ‘Yeah right‘!”
But unfortunately, Jamie told me, they were right.
I asked Jamie what she could have done differently to dodge depression, she said, “If I knew what I was getting myself into, I think I would have been more prepared. I had no clue motherhood would be THIS difficult. Not in a million years.”
Jamie continued to say that part of the reason why she was depressed is because she had her head in the clouds of how whimsical motherhood and marriage was going to be. And because everyone discusses how motherhood is such a blessing (which it is), but never seemed to talk about the disadvantages, she felt as if she was a “bad mother” for not feeling in good spirits for having this wonderful daughter of hers.
But little did Jamie know that what she was going through was common.
People just don’t like to talk about it. And so, she felt “alone” when others actually felt the same.
“From the outside looking in, people think that I am SO ‘happy’ and that I have it ALL together. HELL no! Yes, I am married. Yes, I am a mother. But people don’t understand that these are JUST milestones –not some sort of ‘key to happiness.’ Motherhood tested my marriage in ways I couldn’t imagine. And in ways I’m not willing to divulge.” Jamie said.
“My single friends were actually much happier than me. But I would never admit that,” she added.
She told me if she could do it all over again, she would have just taken her time to understand the nuances of being a mother and a wife. And not get caught up in society’s “happily ever after” bullcrap.
“And another thing I’d like to add – PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE SATISFIED. You get boyfriend. And they’ll say, ‘But when is he going to propose?‘ Now you’re engaged. Are they satisfied? NOPE. ‘Okay but when are you getting married?’ Now you have your wedding. Will they shut up already? HA! ‘Okay but when are you going to have a child?’ Now that you have a daughter, are they done yet? NOT A CHANCE! ‘Okay you when are you going to have another one?'”
Jamie’s point? “THEY” — whoever ‘they’ is in your life — will NEVER be satisfied. By the time they have pressured you to have a husband and 4 kids, they’ll say, “wow ok now you have too many children wtf are you trying to do create a whole football team?”
Happiness isn’t in marriage. It’s not in having kids. It’s not in getting “them” to shut up. It’s not in being single, either.
Happiness, rather, is in NOT allowing a single soul to tell you how and where to find happiness. YOU know what makes you happy. Maybe it IS in having children. Maybe it IS in being a wife. Or maybe it’s not.
But be introspective and ponder, “Am I doing this because I want to do it? Or because I want society to get off my back?”
Jamie finally adds that being a mother is indescribably beautiful – even though she was depressed, she now embraces that THIS is motherhood. Sure it brings upon sadness, frustration, and even despair, but also unconditional love, an unbreakable bond, and the virtue of patience.
Check out my “The Secret to Happiness” post.