Depression and Motherhood: How the Kids Can Help

Jeanne Sager

Photo by Jeanne Sager
When I read a study had linked the number of kids you have to your mental health, I doubt I was the only one who thought the fewer the better.

This is not a knock on big families -- and I can certainly see how not being able to conceive as many kids as you have dreamed about would induce a depressive state.

But let's face it -- how many parents do you know who say their stress level climbed with each additional child? So what was the surprise in this bit of research?

The more kids you have, the folks at the University of Miami say, the less likely you are to commit suicide. Not because of an overall healthier mental state necessarily, but because their kids need them.

It sounds like a chain reaction -- the more kids you have, the longer they're at home, and the longer they're at home, the longer you put off suicide until (hopefully) you lose interest.

I admit it's an oversimplification. Suicide is a complex matter, and one I can't profess to understand. I have neither a medical degree nor have ever been suicidal. My depressive state has fortunately never taken that turn.

But I can attest to the power of motherhood for a depressive, to knowing on mornings when I have no energy to get out of bed that I simply have no choice -- there was always someone else there who needed a diaper change or a bowl of cereal.

It's not a cure, and I confess there have been days when I've gotten her situated with a bowl of cereal and a cup of half-water/half-orange juice, then curled back up on the couch to half sleep (one ear out for her across the room).

Studies have long posited a link between feeling powerless and depression. But the early days of parenting can be approached as the ultimate power trip. Sure, we're helpless to figure out why they are crying, but we are also the only ones who can figure it out.

Does being a parent empower you?

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