Carolyn Hax: New mom needs support, expertise

Carolyn Hax:

June 9, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: Had a baby two months ago. I'd never do anything to harm him or myself, and I do love him, but I hate being a mom. I stay at home with him after a decade as a high school teacher, a job I loved. When he screams, I wish I was wrangling surly teenagers because at least that's something I understand and am good at.

I'm tired of getting up all night, of never having time to myself, of the house never being clean. Husband is helpful but doesn't understand how I feel like a failure. I get lots of support from my mom and mother-in-law (whose pushiness doesn't help things). I get out for walks, errands, and I take the baby to all of these things. But overall, I'm not thrilled that my whole future is full of nothing but him.

I don't think I'm depressed, as I can look at all this without passion. How do I learn to like my new role and "career"?

I HATE BEING A MOM

Please get screened for postpartum depression anyway. "I don't think I'm depressed" doesn't rule it out.

Still, just about every new parent feels desperate, because it's relentless, new and scary, and walking away is unthinkable. Desperation relapses are also common.

Partly to blame is our culture's ridiculous expectation that at-home parents fit the way we live now - house-centric isolation - instead of requiring what young families need and used to have: community.

Also to blame is the nature of child-rearing. As kids learn and change, parents must learn and change with them, which is rewarding in retrospect but disorienting in the moment.

You have many possible lifelines. You can decide you'd be a better mom working than not; or accept you feel stymied and frustrated by babies but will get progressively better with toddlers, tweens, teens. You can lean more on others without guilt; or be patient till your love kicks in, since it's not instantaneous for everyone; or see for yourself that nobody's house is clean! Connect with other parents, too.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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