Posted on: March 2nd, 2024

Parenting with Depression: The Rollercoaster of Guilt

By: Elizabeth Weer, BS

In general, we hear a lot about depression and its symptoms, but rarely do we hear about the hurdles that come with being a parent while trying to navigate through the trenches of depression. Once you have children, it can oftentimes seem like the expectation is that your problems now always have to come last, and when you’re dealing with a monster like depression, it can feel very isolating. The prospect of getting help for yourself mighteven make you feel guilty.

“I can’t talk about my problems because I have to be strong for my family.”

“I can’t go to therapy or spend time caring for myself because I’d feel bad for not spending that time on completing other projects/tasks instead.”

“If I get help for myself, I’d feel like I was prioritizing my own problems ahead of my kids.”

“People will think I’m an inadequate parent if they know I’m struggling with my depression like this.”

If you relate to any of those statements, you are not alone. The truth is that depression can affect you, even if you’re a parent, and that is all the more reason to invest time and energy into helping yourself. Being a parent is like riding a rollercoaster: lots of very high “ups” and very low “downs” with tons of twists and turns in between. If your goal is to make sure that your family is safe on that rollercoaster, isn’t it important that you also acknowledgethe need to ensure your own safety as well?

Depression in parents might present itself as feeling particularly tired, which can lead to a lack of motivation to get through your regular daily routine. It might also present itself as feeling less emotionally connected to others around you, which can cause feelings of intense guilt and low self-esteem. This can make even the not-so-chaotic days feel extremely difficult to get through. So what can you do?

Ways to deal with depression as a parent:
  • Seek social support by asking other trusted adults to step in and help when you’re having a really bad day.
  • Talk to your kids about your struggles in an age-appropriate manner to demonstrate healthy coping skills and foster an environment that is welcoming to these difficult conversations.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available 24/7) if you are having thoughts or feelings of suicide (1-800-273-8255).
Common depression coping skills you might consider trying:
  • Seek professional help.
  • Try journaling and other self-reflection exercises.
  • Consider mindfulness and meditation techniques.
  • Challenge your own negative thoughts.
  • Do your best to live a healthy lifestyle (choose healthier food options when possible, find an exercise you enjoyparticipating in or can involve your children in, and get enough sleep when you can).
  • Carve out time to participate in activities that you enjoy or used to enjoy (hobbies, self-care, sports, trips, etc.).
  • Stay connected with others who make you feel safe and supported.
  • Most importantly, give yourself grace and understanding.