When my child was five months old, I gave in to common sense and made a visit to my GP where I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, prescribed medication and referred to a consultant psychiatrist for further care. This was not my first foray into the world of mental health issues, but this to me was progress; I was on top of my game and making sure that whatever was going wrong in my head was to be remedied so that I could focus on making life as good as it could be for me and my new little family. Almost a year on, things are better, mostly. They are being reviewed constantly by professionals who know what they’re talking about and I consider myself more educated about different mental health issues and the effects that they have, my triggers and effects of the medication on different parts of my life.
It has been hard work, but I am getting there.
So this morning, reading the Irish Times article by Kitty Holland on the effects of childcare on the developmental skills of infants and younger children, I was disappointed to discover that it seems to be all for nothing. The article states:
Children whose mothers had depression when they were infants had more social and emotional problems by age three.
There is no further context given. My first reaction was blind rage; how dare this journalist state such a hurtful assertion without context as to how this occurs? It, yet again, seems that mental health is something that people do tend to push in one direction; it is seen in black and white and never in the shades of grey which it tends to live in. I went looking for the report in question and after much hunting (unhelpfully, the report is not named in the article so it did take a bit of detective work on my part), I did find it and went to look for what context was given and what remarks were made about how this would be improved on. That is surely the point of these reports, to make positive changes in the way that our children are brought up and educated.
As someone who has conducted these kind of surveys in University; I’m aware that the results are a collection of the averages. It may well be that the average child growing up in a home where all other things being the same bar Mammy suffering from ill mental health does develop less quickly or efficiently than a child who has both parents with perfect health. It is the reporting of this which I have the problem with – there is no room for discussion left, just a statement which seems to place the blame of a child’s problems with social interactions or emotions to their parents mental health status, refusing to regard the steps and work a parent may or may not have taken to improve their health status.
I’m aware that I potentially came into this whole postnatal depression situation a bit more prepared than someone who has never suffered from depression before, I’d done my reading, I knew the signs, I knew the effects. It just feels like a slap in the face to me and other mothers like me that despite us trying so hard to get better and make life a great thing for our children and our families, that this blanket statement that our children are doomed to a future of social and emotional problems seems to deem this work and effort a waste.
Motherhood is difficult enough without parent blaming. While this report has been useful in certainly showing a need for increased funding for childcare services in Ireland (although I’m not sure who really needed a report filed to prove that, the proof is clear to see when you look at the issues being caused by the reduction/loss of the Lone Parent allowance and the difficulties faced by parents who do go back to work); it, and its reporting, does seem to place a lot of blame without much help at the feet of parents. Showing us problems is not helpful when you do not provide solutions.
I am normally in agreement with a lot of Kitty Holland’s work but this article left me feeling enraged and added an extra layer of Mammy guilt onto my day. Just after dropping my child to creche (where his verbal skills are coming on in leaps and bounds, as a matter of fact). Just a bit more thought about who will be reading your pieces would be nice; a little sensitivity towards your reader may turn a rather informative piece from one that enrages and pins the reader with blame, to one they can get behind.
Have you read this piece? Do you feel like it is placing a lot of blame on parents without presenting solutions, or am I being overly sensitive? Let me know in the comments.