The Dark Side of Parenting

I have a lot of kids. They absolutely push me to my limit some days. A few months ago I experienced a series of days that felt like a deep, dark pit. My patience was gone; I was sleep-deprived; I felt stressed; and it was making me angry and depressed. Throw in some other out-of-the-ordinary stressors, and I hit the darkest time of my life. Truly, it feels like I blacked out for two months. I can’t really tell you anything that happened in that time frame. I began to feel unstable and incapable. Everything in me was saying that my kids were better off without me and that I was the instability and potential source of unhappiness in their lives.
Mom life is already isolating by nature. It’s hard to get out of the house some days, and other days I’m so deep in the day-to-day grind that the thought of reaching out to friends is literal work. Even a simple “hello” text feels like tremendous effort. I’m not just on an island on those days; I am an island. But the next thought is the most isolating of all: I am the only island, the only one feeling this isolation. All other moms are fine, just look at their Instastories…
Some may not identify with these thoughts or feelings, and that’s fine. But I’m here to drag these thoughts into the light, to put them out there. Why? Because when I realized I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t the only one to feel these things, it changed something for me. 

It changed me.

I remember years ago reading about a mom who drowned her kids in a bathtub. It horrified me. I felt a pit in my stomach. I could not understand how she got to that point. I wondered if people around her saw any signs of mental instability. I wondered if she felt incapable. I wondered if she had ever loved her kids. I’ve read several stories of suicide in which moms left young babies in this world, and I’ve wondered the same. I’ve always judged them for it and then pitied them, never thinking I could be one to identify. But the weight of raising kids is enough to break you. I know that now, even though I never thought I would reach a breaking point.

The thought of potentially messing up your children, affecting the rest of their entire lives by your decisions, is such an unbelievable weight. In my mind, the only solution was to remove myself from their lives. I thought it through. I knew they would be well taken care of by my amazing husband and their many loving (and stable) aunts and uncles. It felt like the best thing for them. And for me, it felt like the only way to get off the island and rid myself of the dark narrative that plagued all of my waking hours.

I am here. I got help and am on the mend.

But my stomach turns when I think about what I could have done. My husband talked me through it, even-keeled and with an unfathomable amount of kindness and grace. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around deserving that kind of love. 

I constantly questioned my worth as a mother. There was no safe place in my mind that I could rest in, and the world of moms felt like impending judgment. I couldn’t let this out; I would either be pitied to bits or heartlessly judged.

And then, a friend came over. Bursting through the loneliness of my own cyclical thoughts, she parachuted down onto my little island and simply asked, “So what’s going on?”

Dare I hide again? I wondered if she would pity me or judge me, but her response completely surprised me. Her dark, inner narrative had matched mine at one point. We were united in our shared battles with despair and feelings of worthlessness. She had walked through it several years before, but it was like our stories were parallel and as if our souls had just met and hugged for the first time. I felt less crazy. Less alone. Less like I was on the fringes. We had suddenly been united by the dark side of parenting. That conversation was meaningful to me. It was life-giving. I felt air-lifted off of this island I had been on. 

It left me wondering how many other moms are sitting there inside a deep pit that feels impossible to climb out of. How many moms are facing a darkness so big that it doesn’t feel possible to be loved through it? How many of them, like the “monster” mom who drowned her babies, are at their breaking point and potentially mentally unstable? How many stories of suicide simply go untold? I don’t know that there are warning signs, but I do know this: life is meant to be lived together. No man is an island.


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