In the famous novel East of Eden, John Steinbeck wisely wrote, "Perhaps it takes courage to raise a child." For parents who suffer from depression or another chronic illness, this statement might be more true of them than anyone.
While living with depression is difficult enough when you live alone, dealing with depression while living with children can be quite a burden.
A few simple tips can make parenting during a depressive episode easier.
Make it easy for yourself. When the laundry piles up, the dishwasher stays full, and the floors need to be mopped, you may feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. You may feel ashamed that you aren't able to do more, and that your child's environment doesn't reflect your concern for them. Just remember: If you clean just enough to get by until you're feeling better, that's okay. Make it easy for yourself - wash just enough clothes for the week, prepare simple meals, and leave the heavy duty housework for later. For now, just focus on getting through each day as simply as possible.
Forgive yourself. By nature, depression preys on guilty feelings. Any situation in which you may feel slight guilt can be blown entirely out of proportion when put through the depression filter. As a parent, you may feel excessive guilt for not being able to handle your parental responsibilities the way that you want to. Just remember: Your desire to be a better parent is a great indication that you're probably doing more than you're giving yourself credit for. Depression is an illness that you didn't ask to have. So forgive yourself for having it.
Don't hide the truth. When you feel that your children have reached an appropriate age, tell them you have an illness. Depending on their comprehension level, you may choose to keep it simple - letting them know that sometimes your brain gets sick and makes you feel sad, for instance. As time progresses, you may choose to add more detail - that depression makes you tired, or grumpy, or makes you forget things. Just remember: Children are pretty perceptive. Hiding your illness may just add more stress to your life. Don't hide the truth; at least share the basics with your child.
Recruit family and friends. Do you have a spouse who can pick up the slack when you need them to? Can you ask someone to help with housework or childcare temporarily? If you have resources available, use them. Just remember:Recruit family and friends when you can. Especially if they offer to help.
Following just one of these tips will go a long way toward helping you to do your best for your child, even while in the grip of depression.