A parent. Go hug a parent. Even if it's you.
Parenting is hard. It's the hardest and best thing you will ever do. It hurts my heart to see someone's parenthood end too soon.
Nick Steward took his own life two weeks ago. The search ended late Thursday night. Since May, this is the second father that my hometown has lost to suicide.
So wrong. So sad. So unfair.
Why is this happening?
Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. While most people will say that having children is the number one blessing in life, it is hard work. You will never worry or feel as vulnerable as you do when you're a parent. Something about bringing that little being into the world suddenly makes life all the better and all the scarier at the same time.
Can I afford a kid?
Can my marriage survive kids?
Can I still be "me" with kids?
It's taboo to ask these questions because they're givens. Hey, you chose to have kids, so you should know if you can afford them, what it might do to your marriage, and how it will cut into your "me" time.
But you know what? These taboo topics are what make it so hard. Seventy six percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Many parents give up their hobbies when they have kids, due to time and (let's be honest) energy constraints.
Did Nick feel financial pressure? Was his marriage on the rocks? Could he have felt smothered by his newfound family life? I don't know. Nor will I ever know. It's not my business.
But do you know that the woman who just drove her car into the White House gate was suffering from post-partum depression? Depression = stigma. Mismanaged finances = stigma. Couples' counseling = stigma. Wanting "me" time = stigma.
There is no room for these stigmas with people who choose to be parents. It is the hardest, most thankless job in the world. Every job out there requires its employees to participate in training and professional development. How is it that we have no such support network for the most important job that anyone, in any culture, in any society will ever have? How is it that we assume financial security, marital harmony, and all around got-it-together-ness comes with the territory?
It doesn't. You know why? Because it's fucking hard.
Please, follow these four steps:
- Hug a parent.
- Tell him that he's doing a fantastic job.
- Ask him if you can buy him lunch, if he needs a babysitter for date night, if he needs a break.
- And when he refuses the third time, ask a fourth time. We parents are terrible at asking for and accepting help.
Asking for/accepting help = stigma. Proceed by telling him that this stigma is bullshit and repeat steps 1-4.
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