I’ve watched parents raise children for 30 years (and raised four of my own), so I know how challenging it can be.
Here, I share a question that came to me as a pediatrician, along with my answer to this parent.
I hope that this will be helpful for other parents who may be experiencing the same issue.
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Hello, Dr. Meeker,
I am a husband and a father of three beautiful children, two girls and our son (ages seven, four — and seven months).
My wife suffers from postpartum depression and has after every pregnancy. I have stepped up to care for our three children and care for my wife in this difficult time, but I need my partner.
I feel I am caught between a rock and a hard place. I am trying to be supportive and loving, but find myself frustrated and tired.
Am I overlooking something? How can I be a better husband and father?
Dear Concerned Husband,
You are feeling frustrated and tired because living with a loved one who is depressed is very hard. Often, the spouse of the depressed person doesn’t get the much-needed support, and it sounds like you aren’t getting any.
Here’s what I recommend you do.
First, make sure that your wife is getting good treatment. Depression is highly treatable. Go with your wife to an appointment with her internist and tell him or her what you are seeing. Then, ask your internist for recommendations for a good psychiatrist. Your wife may be minimizing her symptoms to her doctor (many depressed patients do this) and she needs real help.
Second, studies pretty clearly show that the highest rates of success in the treatment of depression come when antidepressant medication is used in combination with therapy. The therapy can be either psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Your wife can get better. Keep pushing to find someone who will give her real help.
Third, in the meantime, you need to reach out to some male (not female) friends and talk things through with them.
You need support here, too. You might even need a session or two with a counselor to see how you can help yourself and your kids.
You can do this. I know that it is hard but remember, it’s hard on everyone — including your kids. You need to keep your marriage intact because the only things worse for your kids living with a depressed mom is having their dad bail. Then, they are left with their mom on their own, and this can be unbearable.
Your wife can get better. So keep pushing to find someone who will give her real help. Once she gets healthy, you will have a partner back.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing, May 2017), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.