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Caroline is depressed: ‘I should never have had a child’

“People without children are happier than people with. And parents become happier again when their offspring leave the house. That was a while ago in the Volkskrant. I read the message and could cry. I thought I was the only one who felt that way.

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I love my ten-year-old daughter so much that I can hardly enjoy her. My life is dominated by the fear that something will happen to Saskia. If someone could promise me that she will be happy later, I would jump in the air. That is of course because I find life itself so difficult. I suffer from depression. That runs in my family. One of my fears is that Saskia inherited that gene.

Depressed mother

I myself was also raised by a depressed mother. Not brought up actually: she was often in bed. Supposedly with a headache. I know her nothing but sad. My father stayed with her out of a sense of duty. He fled from work, was director of a large company. We lived in a closet of a house. I wandered through that on my own. I was sorry I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. In retrospect I understand that my parents did not dare to have more children.

sharp edges

Still, I was not unhappy. When you are little, you find everything normal. I had a little dog that I shared everything with, Jimmie. And I often went to play with friends. They did not come to our house, my mother was too tired for that. I felt sorry for her that she felt so bad, tried to cheer her up. It did not work. She once said that she thought life was the worst invention ever. Unfortunately, as puberty, I came to understand what she meant. When I was thirteen I wondered for the first time what is the point of life if you eventually die.

By the time I entered law school, I woke up desperate every morning. I fought the void by looking for kicks. Blow, drink, one boyfriend after another. When a boyfriend broke up after discovering that I was cheating, I attempted suicide. I’d rather not think about that. Basically, I was standing on a bridge and a sweet old man stopped me when I wanted to jump. Since then I have been taking anti-depressants. Thank God they exist. They remove the sharp edges.

Always happy

I met David at the criminal law working group. For him it was love at first sight, I needed more time. He had protruding ears and glasses, and I fell on hockey hunks. David was infectiously cheerful. He promised to make sure I was always happy. For a year I really believed that: falling in love is a kind of psychosis, you step out of reality together. Then I became my sad self again. I wrapped myself around David like a vine. When he started working as a lawyer, I called him five times a day, the secretaries were driving me crazy.

Anxious

I myself could get any job after graduating. I am good at job interviews, I see them as short distance competitions. But it’s hard to get a fresh start every day at nine when you wake up feeling utterly meaningless. Perhaps it would have been different if working days started at three in the afternoon.

Eventually I gave up my job and stayed at home. That was possible, because David earns well. I think every reader is now wondering why I had a child. How selfish can you be? Well, I think so too. Hence that millstone. Children are formed by talent and education, nature and nurture. I knew a child of mine was at risk in both ways. That’s why I was afraid of motherhood. But I was also afraid of childlessness. The idea of ​​never becoming a mother drove me crazy. A child seemed to me to be the only thing that could give meaning to my life.

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‘We went for it’

David also wanted children. As many as ten. I felt guilty about denying him fatherhood. There was also the fear that he would leave me if we didn’t have a family. One day David and I went cycling in the polder. While he was enjoying the lambs I could only talk about our dilemma; with or without children? When I almost started hyperventilating, we sat down on the verge. There we decided to go for it. I think David felt he could get the job done. He said, ‘Honey, we can take it together. I’ll make sure it works out. ‘

Panic

From that moment on we wore blinders. I threw the pill and got pregnant quickly. And then I became happy. Even happier than when I was in love. When you are pregnant, the balance in your head changes due to all kinds of new hormones, in my case in the right direction. I wanted to stop taking antidepressants, but the doctors thought that was too dangerous. Either way, David and I felt like we had made a top decision.

Until Saskia’s birth. Then panic hit. I felt like I had invited an innocent creature to a party that I knew was going to be a fiasco. I went crazy thinking that Saskia existed only because I wanted to. Architects build buildings with the idea that they should last for at least half a century. My building was Saskia and she would probably live for about eighty years. How could I have done that to her? The question of whether we wanted a second one never arose.

Unmanageable

I felt so guilty and responsible that I wanted to take care of Saskia all by myself. David was not allowed to come near her. When she cried I was standing next to her bed within a second. I hardly slept. Lack of sleep triggers depression. I became unmanageable for David. My demands were sky-high. Nothing he did was right. I only had eyes for Saskia.

Separation

In retrospect, I think it is an achievement that he kept it up for another four years. He found comfort in a colleague. She is everything I am not: happy, strong, sociable. I fully understood that he wanted a divorce, no matter how desperate I was. With his new wife, David is building the big family he always wanted: she is now pregnant for the third time. He is a top dad. Fortunately for Saskia too. That compensates for not being able to rely on my family.

My mother is still depressed. I rarely visit her. It feels like I am being sucked into a swamp of misery when I cross her threshold. My father is still out home. He travels, he plays golf, everything is fine as long as he is not at home.

Play

I want to do everything I can to prevent Saskia from being as I am with my mother later on. That’s why I bite myself and try to be sociable. My guideline is simple: I think about how my mother used to be to me and do the opposite. Friends are always welcome here to play, eat, stay. I bake pancakes, take them to theme parks, organize games and do some tinkering.

Two months before Saskia’s birthday I start preparing ingenious treats. I go with all school outings. Paint scenery pieces for the musical. Am best buddies with teachers and other parents. In the schoolyard, my jaw aches from smiling, even though I cringe among all those mothers who enjoy parenthood. Then I think: if only Saskia had such a mother, how sad that she has me. Nobody knows that I am putting on a play that makes me very tired.

Saskia’s puberty

When I am home alone I dive into bed, just like my mother. The difference is that I come out for Saskia. The most difficult for me are the moments that should be the most beautiful. Then I feel all alone. For example, if everyone is happy because the weather is beautiful, I think: now we also have to go to the beach.

And now puberty is coming. The period in which I myself became depressed. For the first time my daughter is busy with her appearance. “Mom, I selected all my earrings by color,” she says. And when I put her under: “Watch out Mom, you’re shaping my eyebrows.” I can’t even laugh because I’m bracing myself. I’m terrified that the same thing will happen to her as me. I study her all day to see if I see any omens. That is not good for Saskia and I am going through it myself.

Decision

That is why I made a radical decision. I asked David and his wife if Saskia could live with them during the week after the summer vacation. They thought it was a great idea, but Saskia’s first reaction was, “But Mom, you’re alone and I don’t want that.” Then I added the last act to my play: I said I wanted to go back to work and it would be better if she was alone with me on weekends. From that moment on she became enthusiastic. I know she loves it with David. She is not an only child there, she has two half-sisters and soon a baby brother. There she has parents who are naturally cheerful and don’t see bears on the road. Saskia will grow up differently from me.

I am now one of the happier parents when their child leaves home. I feel less concerned, less selfish, less guilty. As a result, I start to enjoy Saskia a little more carefully. Recently we watched Gooische Women together. When Tjitske Reidinga desperately threw herself on her husband’s grave, Saskia said, “Nice coat.” I burst out laughing. Simply, without any nasty afterthoughts. Almost like a happy mother. ”

This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.

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