This week's big controversy in parenting: Moms on Meds! As in, Why are so many moms on psychiatric medications and how can we make them feel guilty and ashamed? It's not a new controversy, not by a longshot: "Mother's Little Helper" by The Rolling Stones came out in 1966, and the Valium-inspired lyrics are perfectly relevant 40 years later:
Kids are different today, I hear ev'ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day
Times haven't changed that much, except now we have more choices -- it was a recent article about how Xanax helps one woman to "be a better mom" that re-ignited the "moms on meds" debate.
A debate which is, in theory, born out of some concern that we're suddenly, needlessly over-medicating moms for a range of unpleasant but normal maternal emotions: Sadness, anxiety, pessimism, insomnia, irritability, fatigue. A debate stemming from the belief that moms should be able to "pull themselves out of it." From the implication that mothers who "fall back" on psychiatric meds are either lazy or addicted or unstable -- unfit.
More from The Stir: Mothers on Meds Don't Need Your Judgment
Not only is this a dangerous, irresponsible argument for any medical professional to make, in my personal opinion, it's completely untrue. I know from experience that post-partum depression is real. So is post-post-partum depression tinged with anxiety and the occasional panic attack. So are maternally-induced insomnia and melancholy and a whole host of other motherhood-related emotional disorders that go beyond "unpleasant but normal" into "I can't function like this" territory. And I also know from experience that medication can help. A lot. So rather than question the validity or judge the morality of moms on meds, let's just look at a few ways psychiatric medications truly can help some of us to be better moms.
1. Help make the oftentimes terrifying world seem like a less terrifying place to raise children.
2. Lessen out-of-control mommy guilt (which, left unchecked, can lead to/aggravate depression).
3. Make it easier to manage the stress of juggling more work/family/life responsibilities than human beings are meant to juggle at one time.
4. Help regulate sleep patterns/avoid crippling fatigue.
5. Help keep the everyday emotional ups-and-downs of your children in perspective.
Obviously I'm not saying that every mom should be on meds or even that every mom currently on meds should be on meds, but I am saying some of us do need to be on meds, and that today's medications are a far better option than the methods of self-medication mothers (and others) were forced to resort to in the past. The stigma needs to go.
Do you think meds can help some of us to be better moms? How?
Image via the_stir/Flickr