I Appear Successful, But Since Having Kids I Feel I’ve Lost Myself by Annalisa Barbieri (Letter from a Married Mother Who Has Depression, Low Self Esteem)
Before I get to the link and the letter, I wanted to say…
The article below – via The Guardian – doesn’t make it clear, but the following appears to be an e-mail or a letter from a married mother who has low self esteem, and she’s writing to this paper for advice, guidance, and help.
I’m sorry this lady is not doing well, but I want you to take away from this that being married and being a mother (having children) will not necessarily make you happy, or bring you joy, inner peace, or a healthy sense of identity.
I’m afraid that a lot of conservatives – especially Christians – keep promoting these false notions to women, from the time we are girls, that if we just marry (and/or have children), that being married and a parent will bring us permanent happiness and purpose in life, but clearly, that is not the case.
I am not “anti family” nor “anti motherhood,” but I figured out a long time ago that being a parent or married may not bring you fulfillment in life, and it is that expectation that a lot of “pro family,” “pro motherhood” type of conservatives continue to hold up – it is misleading, false hope and propaganda.
I’ve got other examples on my blog of women who married (or who are mothers), and yet, being married (or being a mother) didn’t bring them happiness, but they were still left feeling overlooked, depressed, or lonely – in some cases, because the man they married doesn’t meet their emotional needs regularly, but spends all his day wrapped up in his hobbies or watching television.
I have blog posts of women who admit that they regret motherhood!
I think if you’re someone who had hoped or expected to marry (or have children) it can be painful or very disappointing if that did not happen for you, but if you can accept it,
and permit yourself to go through a grieving process and determine to move on in life and determine to enjoy life anyway (in spite of life not turning out how you had hoped), that you can ultimately find joy, happiness, fun, and peace without a spouse and without children.
You can find other avenues of joy, meaning, and happiness in life that don’t involve being married or having children. I made that transition myself years ago, though it took me several years of grappling with unhappiness to get there, but it can be done.
But again, notice, that although the woman letter writer here married and had children, that she is STILL depressed, feels like a failure, feels like a “loser,” and thinks she is not enough.
Being a wife and a mother – contrary to what a lot of excessively pro-family, pro-natalism Christian conservatives bang on about – did not fill that empty void she has, nor increase her self image to a healthy level.
Squashing your anger down is exhausting. Try using your free time to do what makes you feel good, and see what shifts
May 20, 2022
by Annalisa Barbieri
[This appears to be a question from a writer to an advice columnist named Annalisa Barbieri? – the article doesn’t make it clear]:
[Dear Advice Columnist,]
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since my teens and have had therapy and medication on and off since I was 17 (I am now 37). I’m aware of deep-rooted low self-esteem and shame.
I feel worthless. I never want to draw attention to myself and have a paralysing fear of confrontation.
I have managed to maintain a few close friendships, have worked in the past, and am married with two kids. So I appear “successful” on the surface.
Things really spiralled when I had my kids, specifically my youngest, two years ago. My anxiety went off the charts and my thoughts went very dark. Covid likely had an impact, too. My world has become small.
I have moved countries three times in recent years, a result of my husband’s job (I’ve been a willing participant). I decided not to work when we moved again and instead focus on retraining. But I found the process gruelling and the work placement stressful and overwhelming.
I love my kids but feel the life has been sucked out of me. With my first child I was doing further studies, which was difficult, but it felt as if I had an outside purpose.
I believe my anxiety is rooted in fear of judgment, that people will think me a fraud, and not a real mother: I don’t really cook, am not crafty, and am just generally a bit of an all-round loser. My eldest is four and has always been quite happy-go-lucky, but my fear is my kids will inherit my anxiety.
Both start in daycare/school shortly and I will get some much-needed free time. But I just don’t know how to live any more. I have completely lost myself. I do have a professional therapist who is excellent, but I’d like a different perspective.
— end of advice seeking letter —
[Response to the letter]:
…I contacted Jo Stubley, a consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy. Stubley explained that many of us learn over time that how we might feel about ourselves may not be how everyone else views us. “You seem to think everyone else thinks you’re rubbish [because you do], but they have a different perspective to you.”
Your inner critic is so strong that you have set a narrative for yourself that’s incredibly powerful. I wonder where this comes from? Whose voice is in your head telling you you’re not enough? Honestly, your children don’t care if you’re not crafty or can’t really cook; they care that you love them and that you’re there.
Stubley and I wondered who knows how you really feel? When we feel we are an impostor, we present a “false self” to the world, a version we think is more palatable.
And it works for a while but it’s not sustainable, and it actually keeps people at bay, and stops them helping you. Do you present this side to your therapist? It’s really important that you are honest with him/her, maybe even show them the letter you wrote to me?
Use the time you have coming up to do what makes you feel good sometimes.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, or a big thing. Asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” when you feel overwhelmed is a really useful exercise: it’s honestly saved my sanity these past few years. …
— end advice column / article —
I’m sure there are times when being a wife or a mother has its wonderful, happy moments, but is being a wife (or a mother) a guarantee you will have more good days than bad? No.
Is being a wife or a mother a guarantee you won’t develop depression or feelings of doubt? No.
If you’re a never-married woman who feels down about never having been married, I think it can help to bear in mind that marriage does not end up being some kind of source of happiness and contentment for many people who do marry – as you can see, yet again, in this example by this married mother who wrote to that paper for guidance.
I’ve got other examples similar to that one on my blog, examples of women who admit on other sites or to advice columnists that marriage made them miserable (not happy), that they regret having had children, or that their husbands are lousy, cheating, or abusive jerks.
(Link): The Selfish, Lazy Husband Who Kept Blowing Off His Stressed Wife to Go on World War 2 Reenactments – Male Entitlement in Relationships: Why Women Divorce Men – and Churches and Culture Support This Male Entitlement
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site