The Trauma of Parenthood

Posted on July 1, 2014

EVERYONE knows that being the parent of an infant is hard. There's the sleeplessness, the screaming fits to tend to, the loss of autonomy, the social isolation and the sheer monotony of it.

Everyone also knows that there is only one socially acceptable response to this predicament: a dogged insistence that the adoration you feel for your child makes all the sacrifices worthwhile. It's "the toughest job you'll ever love." The only valid excuse for feeling sad or despondent is a postpartum hormonal crash. What other justification could there be for greeting your bundle of joy with despair?

This is the ideology of modern parenting, and it can lead to unnecessary feelings of guilt and shame, for it ignores an inconvenient truth: that many women and men experience significant psychological distress in response to becoming a parent and that much of this distress isn't caused by a hormonal epiphenomenon of the birth process. It is driven instead in large measure by the objectively bleak circumstances new parents often face. That you love your child is not always sufficient to counteract this reality.

Although many parents happily take to their new role, millions every year respond with despair. According to a 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, among new parents - three to six months postpartum - 42 percent of mothers and 26 percent of fathers exhibit signs of clinical depression. In a longitudinal study reported earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics, men on average experienced significant increases in depressive symptomatology across the first five years of fatherhood (if and only if they lived with their child). Indeed, in the years after becoming a parent, both men and women experience significant reductions in their overall level of satisfaction with their lives, according to a 2008 paper in The Economic Journal.

Click on the link below to read the full article


Category(s):Parenting

Source material from New York Times


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