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Being a depressed parent doesn’t make you an “ungrateful” one

If you haven’t seen the results of the recent survey on parental happiness, perhaps you’ve been sleeping under a rock (or under a mess of children) for the past couple weeks. The study, which no one can seem to stop talking about, looked at over 2,000 Germans before they had children until two years after their first child was born. The researchers found that on average, parenting was not only more stressful than divorce or unemployment, but also than the death of a partner.

The internet erupted, and continues to erupt over the findings. Parents are at odds with one another about the study. Some feel it’s ridiculous, proclaiming they enjoy absolutely “every moment” with their kids. But others aren’t surprised one bit that the first two years of parenting are monumentally draining, emotionally taxing and, yes, depressing, some commenting to the tune of “did we really need a study to tell us that?” It’s okay that all parents aren’t on the same page here. But then the word “ungrateful” starts to get thrown around a lot and that’s when I get all revved up and start typing.

What rubs me the wrong way is the name-calling and trying to speak to someone else’s experience when you haven’t walked one day in their shoes. If someone isn’t enjoying every moment of parenthood or is going through a rough patch with a newborn (or, hell, a teenager!) they are instantly pegged as not being grateful enough for their children. The minute a parent admits it’s not all roses, it seems the mud-slinging starts and it’s not okay.

Opinions about whether the study is a crock or not aside,  lets get one thing straight- depressed or unhappy parents are not necessarily ungrateful parents. So can everyone please stop saying that? Being exhausted, overwhelmed, lonely, financially strapped are things a lot of people have to go through and no, it is not always easy and enjoying every moment is not always possible.

Sometimes, you’re just trying to keep your head above water. Sometimes, you have to go through really, really difficult things that you didn’t expect, like an infant who doesn’t sleep more than ten minutes straight for a whole year, or a partner who travels constantly for work.  Sometimes parenting is so much damn harder than we expected it to be and we have no idea where to turn or what to do to make the carousel stop turning.

Yes, I’m speaking from experience. And yes, I can tell you, after the last chaotic and exceedingly overwhelming year of my life, that is it entirely possible to be mind-numbingly depressed and still completely and utterly grateful for the lives and health of our children. In fact, it’s the only thought that kept me going after the birth of my second child. I am so grateful for this baby. I thought it, said it, felt it when I stroked his cheek on the rare occasions that he slept. I cried and cried and held him and said “thank you” a hundred times a day because I was so grateful for him even in my darkness. Sometimes I even felt my immeasurable gratitude exacerbated my anxiety that something could one day happen to him. That he wouldn’t always be okay. That there were a million things , scary things, completely out of my control. 

grateful

While the study didn’t shock me as much as it did some, it did make me realize one thing- as a community of parents, we need to do more to help one another because most people feel very alone at some point during their parenting journey, but especially during the first two years. I’ll admit, the results of the study aren’t easy to digest. How can parenting be more stressful than death? But even if it’s a little rough around the edges, it seems to me that there has to be a kernel of truth there, and that is, that parents are struggling.
As a community, we need to realize that not everyone walks the same path. Just because parenthood has been kind to you, don’t point fingers at someone who is struggling and say “how ungrateful you are! Why did you even have kids in the first place?” Because sometimes it’s the parents who are giving absolutely every bit of themselves to their children that struggle the most.

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Mom who smokes pot to curb anxiety is doing her best, just like you and me

Mom-blogger, Lea Grover, recently won the hearts of honest moms all over the globe when she admitted in a piece for Cosmopolitan that she smokes pot. Not only that, Grover said she believes smoking marijuana to curb her anxiety makes her a better parent because she can relate better to her kids, break up disputes without getting angry and still feel in control. She also said she never drives her children anywhere after smoking so she doesn’t feel she is putting them in harm’s way.

Grover, who writes the parenting blog “Becoming Super Mommy” says she also has a prescription for anxiety, Xanax, but it typically makes her too sleepy to take good care of her kids. So she prefers marijuana and feels more competent in her ability to parent her 3 kids that way. Even though Grover is upfront about her anxiety (bravo, mama!), she of course is still going to be questioned for her outspoken “drug” use. (Notice the quotations. I’m using the term drug here very lightly). Even though marijuana is medicinal and is often prescribed for the treatment of PTSD and other anxiety disorders, Grover is still being questioned about her intentions and her capabilities as a parent.

Source: Lea Grover's- Author Page via Facebook
Source: Lea Grover’s- Author Page via Facebook

The popular mom-blogger has dealt with her fair share of criticism over the Cosmo piece. Family Safety Expert, Alison Jacobson, said on Fox and friends that she believes Grover’s pot smoking sends the wrong message to kids. She also expressed concerns about what would happen in the case of an emergency. Likewise, parenting expert and physician, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, “Dr. G,” told Yahoo Parenting that her biggest concern was about reaction time, which marijuana is known to delay. “When you are taking care of kids, sometimes reaction time and coordination really matter.”

While in some cases that may be a valid point, ya know what else delays reaction time, Dr. G? Struggling to parent through a deep fog of depression or anxiety. Secondly, the amount of marijuana Grover is smoking is quite small, just one or two hits to better cope with her anxiety. And, by her own admission, she is more capable when under the influence of marijuana than a prescription medication.  She personally feels safer, and that her kids are safer, when not taking a prescription drug. It seems that the women arguing against Grover must not have that much experience with treating anxiety because if they did they would note that it is perhaps the most distracting thing to deal with when it comes to taking care of kids, far more than a puff of a “one-hiter,” which is what Grover uses to smoke.

I would also make the case that while prescription medication is way more socially acceptable (I have many parent friends who openly admit to using anxiety medication on a daily basis) it is equally, if not more powerful, than a couple hits of pot. Likewise, that many friends or more take a nightly sleeping pill, like Ambien, to get a solid night’s rest. No one tells these moms they are doing something wrong- and I’m not going to start. These drugs are prescribed by a doctor and being used appropriately to treat depression, anxiety, or sleeplessness. But in many cases, they are also over-prescribed and when they are used without adequate need, they can cause harm and dependency. While marijuana can no doubt be “habit-forming” it doesn’t possess the same highly addictive qualities that many prescription pills do.

I applaud Grover for doing what feels right to her and having the guts to admit it. As a long-time sleep-struggler, I have sometimes smoked pot to get a better night’s rest. My reason for doing so is that I can be easily awoken if I am needed in the night (I almost always am) and I don’t wake with a “hangover,” like many prescription sleep-aids leave behind.  Smoking a small amount of pot before bed helps me to wake feeling refreshed instead of completely exhausted due to sleeplessness. If something genuinely helps me to take better care of my kids, I have no reason to feel bad about it. Neither does Grover.

While many parents struggle with anxiety and depression and need a bit of help either daily, or once in a while, there aren’t that many parents out there who don’t have a drug of choice, whether or not is it truly a need. Grover contests that she is using pot medicinally, when her anxiety is too much to cope with on her own and I believe it’s a responsible choice. But how many of us don’t have a couple of glasses of wine after a day of one meltdown after the next, or even on our best day? It is completely socially acceptable to drink beer, wine or even whiskey in front of our kids, as well as take prescription medication. Mention marijuana, even being smoked privately, and everyone loses their minds. I guess I just prefer sanity, even when it comes from a weed.