Is My Sister a Bad Mom?

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Dear Robin:

I’m really worried about my sister and her daughter.  She had her first baby 3 months ago and has not become the mom we all thought she would.  Her behavior is erratic, she is extremely moody and she does not seem attached to the baby.

Last week she announced she is going back to work in a month, even though she and her husband agreed she would take at least two or three years off.  I am concerned she will become even less attached to the baby if she goes back to work now, because as an architect she has a very intense job with long hours.  I also think it is just wrong for a baby that young to be in daycare all day.

I think she is suffering from postpartum depression.  I’ve spoken with her husband about doing some sort of intervention and he is on the fence about it.  What do you think?

Worried Sister

Dear Worried Sister:

Not everyone is meant to breed and stay at home for several years being milked by a miniature asshole.

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This is not to say your sister should not have had a baby, because she may very well grow into her role as a mother.  Also, that question is pretty damn moot at this point, since even the most liberal pro-choice laws can’t put that horse back in the barn without felony charges.

I don’t think your sister is a bad mom.  Click here for some stellar photos of bad parenting: Bad Parents.  Now those people are bad parents.  So are the people who made this happen:

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Your sister is either suffering from postpartum depression or maybe she simply discovered as many women do that staying at home and putting her career on hold to have children was a bad decision for her.  My expert opinion is it may be a lethal combination of both.

I put your letter at the head of the queue this morning because it brought memories back from nearly 13 years ago – memories I would choose to erase if I could.  If only aging destroyed long-term memory instead of my ability to remember why I opened the refrigerator or got in the car.

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When my son was born I did not have the experience I expected.  Not by a long shot.  In fact, I think you could safely say I lost my fucking mind.  Unable to effectively breast feed because of a previous reduction, I sobbed every time my son attached and tried in vain to get some grub out of my broken-down titties.

The depression after Jake’s arrival was unlike anything I had ever felt, and I’ve had some really dark days.  It was an overwhelming physical weight on the center of my chest that nothing could alleviate.  I cried until there were no tears left every day, and then I cried some more: dry, heaving sobs of despair over my failure as a mother and my fear I would break the baby.

I wondered often if he and his dad wouldn’t be better off without me.  I considered getting on a plane and leaving my life.  I considered worse.

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My employer had generously offered me 4 months paid maternity leave.  Amazing, right?  Guess when I went back?

Eight weeks after my precious baby was born.  Only eight weeks.  And over time, the depression subsided and I was able to properly bond with my little bundle of shit-covered, spitting-up-on-my-cashmere-sweater joy.

Worried sister, what are you doing to be helpful to this new mommy?  Have you offered your support?  You told me you are a stay-at-home mom and honestly, you seem a bit judge-y about your sister’s decision to go back to work.  It’s not your call to make and it’s not your life to live.

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As for an “intervention,” that sounds rather confrontational and negative.  It’s not as if she’s mainlining blow in-between taking tequila shots and dancing topless on the bar on a nightly basis, unless she is more like me than I surmised…

What I suggest instead is sharing this blog with your sister and asking her what you can do to help.  You can help take care of the baby, you can help her find some work clothes that fit her swollen fucked-up post-baby body, you can research day care, and you can offer to take the baby when she visits her doctor to discuss what sounds like a difficult mental health time.

Obviously, her husband should be doing the same, but I understand he too has a very busy job and little time for child care.  I guess he should have thought of that before he rode that filly bareback.

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There are many great resources on the web as well.  Send her here: Postpartum Depression/Mayo Clinic for some good information but with the caveat that it is no substitute for a visit with her doctor.

You sound like a loving and caring sister, but you told me this morning you have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mommy and even after three kids in five years you never had postpartum depression.

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Your sister spent a good deal of time, effort and money becoming an architect and you said she loves her work.  It may be just the thing she needs right now, so don’t lecture her about your opinion of working moms.  Say nothing, lest it be nice.

In summary: express concern in a loving and supportive way, offer help and don’t assign your parenting paradigm to her.  I was subjected to a lot of that when I decided to go back to work, and the guilt and anxiety were a nice little addition to my plate of depression, regret, sadness and fear.  Yummy!

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Tell her I’m here to talk if she needs some perspective from one who has walked in her shoes.  Please keep me updated and thank you for your letter.

-Robin

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Tamsen

    I couldn’t agree more. I think what she needs is to go back to work, where presumably she feels competent, has some semblance of a social life and can begin to feel like a human being again. She’ll develop a bond with her baby, we all do, but some do it differently. Frankly, I made a much better mother being a working Mom, than I would have being a stay at home one.

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