Depressed Moms Need Solutions Not More Guilt

Jacqueline Burt Cote

depressed momDepressed? Here's something to make you feel, um, worse: Toddlers with depressed mothers are more likely to develop behavior problems as they get older. But wait! There's a silver lining, apparently, because studies show that toddlers of bummed-out moms who spend even a couple of hours per day in day care are much less likely to become aggressive, withdrawn, anxious, or likewise depressed (you know what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree). This way, supposedly, kids get social time they might not otherwise get (if mom is too down to organize a playdate, for example), and moms get a couple of hours to relax and take care of themselves. Sounds like a win-win, except it's kind of not.

The solution proposed by this study sounds like a good way to help families get through a challenging time, but it doesn't take a close enough look at why moms are depressed in the first place and how we can really help them. Instead, it's a sort of cut-and-paste approach to a family's overall mental health: Let's just outsource a toddler's social life to the pros and give mom some time to sit around and be sad because that's all she's really capable of right now. Really? How about day care at a facility where moms can spend the time away from their toddlers in therapy? And how about we offer both the childcare and the psychologist sessions on a sliding scale so they're truly affordable for all moms? (Because guess what? One major contributing factor to mommy depression is money worries.)

It just concerns me that our thinking on this topic is going in the direction of "those poor kids with depressed moms, at least if we can get them in a safe, happy environment for a few hours a day, they won't be too terribly scarred," rather than, "let's help these women to be the best they can be for their child's sake, and nurture one of the most important relationships he/she will ever have." Yet again, we're looking at moms as the diseased portion of our society, rather than as one of the first groups to show symptoms of our society's collective disease.

What do you think depressed moms need the most?


Image via Bryan Gosline/Flickr

Read More