Though we've still got a long way to go in acceptance, many moms know what to look for when it comes to postpartum depression. It can even crop up months after birth. What we don't often look at is how parenting can affect dads, and their depression, much like ours, often results in less positive interaction with their kids.
A University of Michigan study published in Pediatrics looked at over 1,700 dads of 1-year-olds and found that the ones who were depressed spent less time reading to their babies and were three times more likely to spank than the dads who weren't depressed. Forty-one percent of depressed dads spanked their 1-year-old in the last month.
I'm really not surprised. I know when I'm really down, and especially stressed as well, I want to retreat into some little hidey hole that unfortunately doesn't exist. Right now my family is going through a rather difficult time, and our attitudes become just an awful downward spiral. The less happy we are, the less we clean, the less we play with the kids, the less positive interactions we have with them, and in turn their behavior is worse as well of course. Which only makes the already-stressed parents even more stressed and upset. And even parents who hate spanking, and know the reasons not to spank, can find themselves challenged when they're feeling depressed and defeated.
But while moms have a lot of recognition for parenting struggles, dads often don't. My husband's mentioned in passing how at work, the fathers often play the "I'm a Hard-Ass Dad" one-up game, so support for guys who actually don't want to yell, "beat their kid's butts" (their phrasing) and instead want to cuddle, read, and play with their daughter's dolls when she asks can feel really alienated and not have a good outlet if they do need positive, uplifting advice.
Moms too, of course, need to really take a look at their hubbies -- is he not helping with the kids? Yelling and spanking a lot? Is there a reason HE is stressed out? While it's easy to just blame Sad Dad when the kids act up more trying to get attention (or because they're upset over the negative attention), it's worth looking into WHY your husband might not be acting like the World's Greatest Dad right then, as that's going to be the root of the problem that needs work -- the actions are just a symptom.
Amongst the dads found to be depressed, there was a positive -- 77 percent of them had been to their child's doctor with them in the past year, so for the pediatricians out there, don't just look for depression in moms, but dads, too! If they're there, it's because they care, but they need someone to care about them, too.
Is your husband (or you) more punishment and less bonding fun when depression kicks in?
Image via See-Ming Lee/Flickr