Monday, May 4, 2009

Daddy Post-Partum Depression

Browsing through the April 18, 2009 issue of Newsweek today, I came upon an article entitled, Slouching Toward Fatherhood, yet another father's account of how becoming a dad wrecked his marriage and to some degree, his life.

There are a couple of things I find interesting about this. First, the fact that more and more of these types of articles are popping up is intriguing. Do you think it's possible that society is starting to catch on that parenthood is unrealistically glorified? The fact that magazines and news shows are even touching material like with some frequency tells you something. Could it be that childfreedom is on its way out of the margins and into the mainstream? Do you think it's possible that in our lifetime we will no longer be counterculture?

The second thing I find interesting about this article is the ending. As I was reading it, I was thinking, yeah this is brutally honest but watch - it'll end with some sappy sentimentality about how when all is said and done, fatherhood is really wonderful, the best part of life and so worth it, and what a better man he is because of it. Well, I wasn't completely off - the ending does have bit of pro-fatherhood sentiment to it, but I was surprised at how understated it was. It left a feeling akin to a half inflated balloon - definitely a far cry from the resounding, affirming endorsement of parenthood we usually get at the end of articles like this.

Now, on a down note - if you can stomach it, read the comments posted below the Newsweek article and you'll get a harsh blast back to reality. Mean people suck.

15 comments:

WaterBishop said...

I usually like these sort of articles, but not this one.
This guy is either an idiot or had really unrealistic expectations of parenthood. Either way, if he was that clueless going in, he should not have had a kid. I have little sympathy for people who choose to have kids, and then end up miserable.
The fact that he claims to be happy and a good father NOW doesn't mean squat. He still couldn't hack it under the pressure of caring for an infant. And if he was that miserable why did they have two more kids?

Ellie said...

Funny. I've heard it many times that society lies about what parenthood is, yet when somebody dares to speak up, they are being told to shut up and suck it up. The only thing that can be told about parenthood is that is "so worth it, so awesome". Sad. Really sad.
ellie - the regretful, yet loving and caring parent

Mimi said...

The author of this article strikes me as a selfish and lazy parent who just discovers that it's not all about him anymore after having kids. I have 2 kids but have never had to have my husband drive them somewhere late at night so I can sleep. That is silly!! I trained my kids to sleep right from the beginning and they both sleep solid 10-11 hours a night! They sleep longer than I do. What a tool this guy is! I think some parents make it harder than it needs to be. Also, this website tends to focus on only negative stories of childbearing, as if to justify their decision not to have children again and again.

Megs said...

After reading the comments after the article, it's no wonder so many people have a warped view of what parenthood really is. "Children are a wondrous gift from god; if you aren't happy, then there's something wrong with you; suck it up and suffer in silence like the rest of us" - this kind of denial and derision is not the whole problem, but it certainly isn't part of the solution. This guy isn't a hero or a villain - he's just a guy...

Childfreeeee said...

I think the "parenthood is the joy of life" myth is similar to the Santa Claus myth. You better not go around announcing that Santa Claus is a sham because you will get a severe reaction. Same thing goes for the parenthood-is-joy myth. Keep up the charade or else be attacked for being honest.

firefly said...

Maybe I am utterly cynical, but this sounds to me like another "men suffer too" broadside. "Male post-partum depression" ?! Come on. Men don't have the hormonal response to pregnancy (much less a fetus counterattacking their immune systems and launching foreign proteins into their bloodstreams) that pitches some women into PPD.

I do believe that major life transitions can cause emotional storms, but still. "Depression" isn't enough?

I also think the trend in men complaining about children changing life forever is sexist as all hell (ok for fathers, not so ok for mothers). It reflects the fact that men get no training to take care of themselves or others and have no idea what it's like, because traditionally women take care of kids and Dad too.

When it's acceptable for women like Corinne Maier to speak up and say they've made a mistake, or that the whole middle-class nuclear family routine is a shell game, then I'll be comfortable with men giving their side of the story.

And Mimi, if you gave birth to a colicky child, you would not be able to "train them to sleep". This happened to friends of ours, and there is still little or nothing to be done to relieve colic except resign yourself to living with a screaming machine. Many parents who have a colicky first child stop there and don't have more kids.

SwissBarb said...

I agree with firefly, "male" and "post-partum" just don't belong together, just call it depression...

I think it's a good thing this dad spoke out about what he felt after his son was born, but when I read that in spite of everything that went bad in their marriage after that first child they still went on and conceived another one (that happened to be twins, tough luck), I couldn't help but roll my eyes very hard. If you don't like it, don't do it again!

Childfreeeee said...

Good observation.

They probably thought that the second kid would be the magic pill that would save their marriage.

I don't know why people think kids will save a marriage when all they do is add more stress into it.

Gumby said...

I haven't read the article yet but just feel the need to point out interesting (and very funny) thing #3 - the fact that the editors chose to use a pic of the guy (out of probably a dozen), which apparently features his dog taking a big shit in the background.

I wonder if that was intentional...

Perhaps a metaphor for what his life has become??
;)

WaterBishop said...

"I also think the trend in men complaining about children changing life forever is sexist as all hell (ok for fathers, not so ok for mothers). It reflects the fact that men get no training to take care of themselves or others and have no idea what it's like, because traditionally women take care of kids and Dad too."

I agree.

We see a rash of articles like this now because after centuries of having nothing to do with parenthood at all, men are finally being expected to step up. And finally realize it is not all sugar and rainbows. Boo-friggin-hoo.
While I do not think people should keep mum on the realities of having kids, it will always grate on my ears when they whine about choices they made.

Ellie said...

To answer your questions in the second paragraph: yes, yes, and yes!!

Wag the Dog said...

Yet another parent surprised that raising children didn't make him happy. Research over the past few years has consistently indicated that he is not alone. Children actually reduce happiness on average and pre-parent levels of happiness do not return until the nest is empty. Even this most recent of studies supports a now solidifying conclusion. Still there will always be parents who try to justify their choices by finding flaws with the research, or rebuking anyone who dares to be realistic about parenthood. Is this a form of confirmation bias in which battle-worn parents selectively remember the positives? Well, yes. That and more as psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains, by equating fatherhood to expensive bottled water, a transient win after a long losing streak, and heroin addiction -- I kid you not!

StayTheCurse said...

I'm a childfree male, and haven't yet read the article, but WaterBishop is right about people like this - male or female. But the irony of a guy whining about his 'lost life' is that, in our culture, one of the NEXT most sickening lies we get fed after 'children are why you exist' is 'mothers are the caregivers..dads provide sperm and money'. In a culture that combines mysogeny with it's mythology, parenthood is the only joint venture that results in one partner doing about 85% of the work. I'm not talking about the traditional dad-works-mom-stays-at-home deal, but the families where both parents work full time, but somehow mom is expected to do most of the time-consuming 'traditional female' home stuff ( laundry, cooking, give the kids nurturing affection, etc. )and dad somehow gets to log plenty of golf or TV in between sporadic bursts of manly interaction ( sports, rough housing, etc. ) So guys - if you cranked them out and don't dig it, remember it could be worse - you could be your wife!

Michi said...

Sorry for the late post here but I've starting reading several Childfree blogs over the past few weeks and stumbled across this post.

I'm not yet a mother (and frankly am beginning to think that I may never want to be), so I'm finding the topics discussed on this blog and others to be very good food for thought.

I have to wonder how much of the author's dilemma with parenting is because the majority of new parents (not all, but definitely a majority) have children without any sort of experience that might put what the stress and sacrifice of parenthood will mean for their lives in a proper context.

Some of that does have to do with the myths of parenthood prevalent in our culture ("It's hard but you'll love it anyway" "Becoming a parent is just what people do (and if you don't there's something wrong with you)" etc). But how many people would blithely enter into parenthood if they knew first hand what it meant to truly have to put someone else's welfare ahead of their own because that person can't care for him or herself, whether it's because they had a sick parent or sibling or even friend to care for?

Many of my own reservations about having children are because as a child and teen I had to take on caregiver responsibilities for a sick parent and younger sibling, so I KNOW what's involved with that level of caregiving - and it's still not as involved as being a parent would be. It's not that I doubt my ability to be a good mother should I choose to be one, but because I know firsthand what it means to sacrifice for the care of someone who depends on you that much, I'm much more circumspect about whether or not I'd be willing to go through that again voluntarily.

Perhaps if more people actually had more experience with such things - even if it's as simple as providing the occasional childcare weekend for a relative or a friend - before having kids of their own "because that's what people do," it would make it more likely that people would be honest with themselves about what they want from having children, what they're getting into as parents, and ultimately if parenthood is right for them.

Tangerine Lipgloss said...

He hated being a father, he felt overwhelmed. Ok I get that. But then he had twin girls after his son was born? Twins?? wtf.