Is Post Toddler Depression A Thing?
It’s really hard to write about something when you don’t know what to call it. I’m not a medical professional so the best I can do is call it what I feel it is, post-toddler depression. I’m a mother to three and I’ve been so thankful to have had healthy children. My middle one was a preemie but other than being small she was perfectly healthy. I experienced four pregnancies and three births, I did not suffer from postpartum depression with any of my kids. Even after the loss of my tubal pregnancy, I felt as though I survived the experience without suffering from any major emotional setbacks. Often times, I reminded myself to be thankful for this and my heart went out to any mother who suffered from PPD,
Then my youngest turned 3, I’m not really sure why or how things changed during that time but they did. Emotionally I felt myself being more overwhelmed with feelings that I was unable to suppress. Sadness crept in often and no matter how hard I tried to excuse it or wish it away, there it was waiting on me.
For years I’d been pregnant, breastfeeding, and taking care of my little ones. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. The busy chaos that filled my days was hectic but it was my new normal and I had adjusted to that. I became a mom at 20 so my life as an adult had been filled with the ups and downs of motherhood. It was honestly all I knew…
They needed me and I was there. At one point I had 3 children under the age of 4 and my days were consumed by their wants and needs. Like I said before, it was my new normal and I had adapted, adjusted, and fit into this lifestyle.
Then one day, it changed. They were older and the midnight feedings and potty training stopped. All that I had ever known as a mother was changing. The little humans I worked so hard to bring into the world were now walking, talking, and being able to care for their own needs to an extent. Suddenly, I found myself trying desperately hard to adjust to this change. For years I had sacrificed my time, sleep and body to the best of my ability for my children and what seemed like overnight they were no longer babies and toddlers.
I remember once during a particularly chaotic time when they were little, I thought to myself, “everything will be so much easier when the youngest is 5”. No sooner did I say those words and here I am…my youngest is now 5. What I didn’t realize is that yes, it would become easier, but I’d also now struggle with the feeling of being lost.
Lost is the best word I can come up with to describe what it feels like. I was young when I had kids and I’d barely figured out who I was and then BAM, now I’m no longer the mom waking up all hours of the night, scheduling naptimes and wrestling with car seats. I’m the mom with more freedom and older children that are a joy to have a conversation with and who can wake up and make their own bowl of cereal!! I’ve arrived at a different phase in my life. However, unlike the other phases, I’m not falling into or adjusting to it very well.
Where am I?
There is still chaos, it’s just of a different nature. Now I’m balancing rediscovering myself and being the mom to children 5 and older. I’m unable to have any more children and I’ve come to terms with this. In fact, I’m really content with three and I don’t feel any sadness over not having the four I had originally planned to have. Rather, the sadness I previously mentioned is deeply rooted in the fact that I’m finally stopping to breathe and I’m looking in the mirror and I’m seeing for the first time in years someone other than the exhausted mom that I was.
How do I allow this new me to grow without feeling the guilt of being less present then perhaps I was? Adjusting to the fact that my kids can now play with each other and they can sit and read books and I can enjoy a quiet moment to myself is both exhilarating and confusing. I finally have time to do the things that I enjoy doing but for some reason, this has come at a cost.
This is why I call it post-toddler depression. I’ve arrived at what seemed like a much easier time in life and yet here I am, feeling sadder than ever. Why? Perhaps it’s the struggle between rediscovering myself and balancing motherhood. Maybe, it’s just a delayed reaction to scary pregnancies and the loss of a baby. Whatever it is, I want you to know if you’re feeling the same way, you are not alone. I feel it and it’s very real. This article was very interesting, it states that “mothers are more likely to suffer depression when their child is four years old than when they are babies.”.
How long has this been going on? The same amount of time I’ve been blogging. My way of coping is to keep my mind busy and writing is truly an outlet that I’m thankful to have. I feel as though I’m coming out of this uneasy time in my life. I’m feeling like once again a new normal is coming into play and I’m slowly catching up to it. So if you’re reading this and you feel like you too are suffering through the same feelings, please know you’re not alone. Hang in there!