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Depression & the Stay-At-Home Dad

Feb18

by

Amy,

So you probably get a lot of email titled “I don’t know what to do” but I’m lacking the brain power to be more creative right now.

Here’s the background. My husband and I are 38. We’ve known each other for nearly 13 years, we dated for 2 1/2 years, and have been married for 2 1/2. We took our time getting to know each other, our families, and making sure we were ready before taking the “big plunge” so we didn’t end up like so many people we knew who were divorced. I knew him well, very well. I knew his family, very well. And I knew that with him I got a crazy MIL and a family history of quick and heavy tempers. We were lucky enough after fertility issues and a miscarriage to have an amazing son (he’s 15 month old), let’s call him Wiggles.

My husband, let’s call him Hashbrown, was from another state. After graduating from college 3 years ago, he moved to my city (where he has some relatives). He looked for a job but was unable to find anything. We made the decision while I was pregnant that Hashbrown would stay home with Wiggles, at least for a couple of years or until the job market opened up in his field because I have a great, steady job, with awesome benefits. This was not the ideal situation but he seemed eager to do it and who was I to say no? We don’t have to fork out tons of cash for daycare, deal with a constantly sick child, and who can take better care of my baby than his co-creator?

Last year, shortly after I went back to work (after 13 months of paid maternity leave (woot woot)) my husband had his first “episode”. It starts with a migraine and a sick child. My mild mannered, loving, compassionate, sweet husband turns into….something else. He flies off the handle. He’s easily set off. He yells, a lot. He punches holes in walls or breaks things. He feels trapped, stuck, isolated.

He’s mad at my parents because they are bogged down with caring for my sister’s (single mom) 3 young boys and he feels like he can’t ask them for help (which he could). He’s mad at his mother because she: lives out of state, won’t answer phone calls most of the time, won’t come visit and take some of the load off unless it’s convenient for her. He’s mad because he doesn’t feel like he can ask the few relatives of his in town to help because they are busy. He’s mad at me because I go to work. He’s mad at Wiggles for not sleeping, being sick, not eating well, whatever it is. It lasts for a few days, got better, came back a few weeks later, got better, and with only minor hiccups we’ve had pretty smooth sailing for several months (as smooth as marriage and toddler-raising can be).

Now we’re back in an episode similar to last year’s. Same problems, same behavior. I understand, or I think I do, what he’s going through. He feels and is isolated, trapped, stuck at home with only sweet Wiggles to keep him company. I try to be as empathetic as someone can be who hasn’t walked a mile in his shoes. I offer to pay for Wiggles to go once (or more) a week to a “Parent’s Day Out” at a local church. No, we should save that money for an emergency. Or No, he would feel guilty about sending Wiggles away for the day just so he could get some sanity back. I offer to ask my parents (or his cousins or niece) to take Wiggles. No, they have enough burden, we can’t add to that. I offer to take Wiggles and go spend an evening, day, whatever with my family. No, then they will know something is wrong and judge him. I ask him to talk to the Doctor. This usually happens in the winter, maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. No, he doesn’t want a bunch of prescription meds and he doesn’t like our Doctor anyway.

Keep in mind, I do not believe for one minute that either my son or I am in harm’s way. As upset as he gets, he manages to maintain control of what and how he’s expressing his emotions. I also don’t think he will do anything crazy to himself.

The first time this happened, we had a big blow-out. He said some really hurtful things, I cried…a lot. He told me that sometimes he just needs to go away but he can’t ask us to do that. So I offer, or just tell him, that Wiggles and I are going out for a bit, and he gets angry because the only places I have to go to do that involve the people close to us that he doesn’t want involved.

I stay calm, I try not to yell back or cry. I quietly take care of our son, cook, do whatever else needs to be done to help take the load off of him. I tell him I love him. He says “I don’t know why”, “You should be sorry you married me”. I say, “I’m not sorry”, “Everyone has times like these”, “How many reasons (why I love you) do you want? I can think of 32 off the top of my head”, “Please tell me what I can do to help.”

So I wait for the episode to end. I try to take the burden off where I can. I dread getting up in the morning. I feel terrible about Wiggles going through this with his dad (my mom did something similar when I was young and she was a SAHM). I dread coming home because I don’t know what I’m coming home to. Was it a decent day or will there by a hole in my wall or a broken piece of furniture laying on the floor. I am hesitant to share this with those I’m close to because he’s close to those same people. I don’t want them deeply involved and I don’t want them to judge him either. So far, I’ve been unable to find the right thing to say or do. I wait, patiently, for the episode to end, for my sweet, loving, funny Hashbrown to come back to me and Wiggles. I tell myself that this too shall pass. But in the meantime, I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I want to cry ALL of the time (and I’m not a crier). My head pounds from the stress. My stomach feels like it’s taking a job interview on a roller coaster at a funeral.

I, quite honestly, don’t know what to do. I know married life is not all rainbows and kittens. We knew adding a tiny human to the mix was going to create conflict and stress. I love and adore my husband, despite all of this. I accept him for who he is. The other 50 weeks of the year that he isn’t like this are wonderful, truly wonderful. And if I could go back, knowing what I know about this behavior, I would still marry him and I would still have a baby with him. So I don’t know what to do.

The Patient Wife

Oh honey, I’m so sorry. Getting through your email without my chest tightening and my eyes tearing was hard enough — I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have that be your reality every day.

Your husband is DEPRESSED. Like seriously, majorly depressed. I’m not a doctor, obviously, but the signs and symptoms you’re describing are shooting off so loud and clear they might as well be fireworks. So let’s drop the language like “episodes” or “seasonal” or “we just need to grin and bear this and pretend everything is fine until eventually everything WILL be fine, thanks to the power of magical thinking.” Your husband is depressed.

Your husband is also not alone, or unusual, or a bad person, husband or father. Depression among stay-at-home parents (moms AND dads) is very, very common. There’s an acute loss of identity, of “value” — and not to mention some pretty terrible isolation when it’s just you and a small, needy child stuck in the house, in a new city.

His depression is the reason he can’t/won’t accept the solutions you’re offering. If you’ve never experienced depression, it can be extremely frustrating to deal with a depressed person, because they won’t deal, period. “Why don’t you go to a parents’ group? Why don’t you let my parents take the baby today? Why don’t you at least try to leave the house every day?” It’s just not that simple for the person currently stuck under a soul-crushing cloud, where every little detail of life can be spun into an out-of-control crisis. “Because I don’t want to talk to other people because I’m miserable and they’ll see that I’m miserable and therefore failing my child and failing my family and failing at life.”

His depression is the reason he can’t/won’t accept the love and patience you’re offering, either. Because he is very ill and needs more than a night off, a day in bed and 32 reasons why you love him. And he definitely needs more than you skulking around quietly, tiptoeing around his emotional minefields, clenching your teeth and waiting for the “episode” to end once the weather gets nicer. Real talk: Without professional intervention, things are going to get worse. Not better. Think about all those holes in your wall and try to imagine what the inside of your husband’s brain and emotional state must look like right now, because I guarantee you that he’s beating himself up inside far worse and far more often. He needs help before his thoughts turn suicidal, if they haven’t already.

He is wary of prescription medication. That’s fine. Understandable. I once encountered a terrible doctor who over-medicated me to the point that my original diagnosis (anxiety) was swallowed up in a sea of side effects that my doctor then treated with more drugs that essentially left me with the mental state of a plate of scrambled eggs. So I feel him on that. But I’m also not gonna let him off the hook for that, either. He needs to find a therapist, a psychologist, a licensed social worker — SOMEONE. Even a someone who can’t prescribe medication. In fact, he might be more comfortable starting there, at least. Then after he establishes some trust, that person could recommend that he supplement his treatment with a prescription. And if you need to make the appointment for him, do it.

That professional should also be there for you — or recommend a support group or other resources for you — and be the one to give you any additional advice re: your childcare situation. It’s tempting to simply say “find other arrangements or daycare and let your husband rejoin the workforce ahead of schedule,” but he’s really in no shape for the inevitable ups and downs (and rejection) of a job search right now, and even if the depression SEEMED to dissipate, it would eventually come raging back. That’s just how clinical depression tends to work, and it can return without provocation. Even when things are “fine” and the patient feels like he “should” be happy, but isn’t, the spiral can begin all over again.

I also worry that taking your son away from him during the day would leave him with nothing to ground him or keep him from self-harming during his hours alone. (Or self-medicating with alcohol.) But obviously you don’t want to leave your child in a situation where he isn’t being cared for properly or being yelled at all day for simply existing and needing things. (Isabel of Alphamom: I suggest you read some of the comments below that are expressing much concern about your son in your husband’s care right now. I personally agree with them.) So again I would HIGHLY recommend you talk with a mental health professional ASAP about your situation. Here are some articles on dealing with a depressed spouse to get started — as usual I’m hoping the commenters will also leave other resource recommendations for you (books, blogs, support networks, etc.).

But every article will likely say the same thing: GET HELP. You cannot (and should not) face this alone. You cannot cure him, or fix him. There is no magical thinking that will simply make everything “go back to how it was before.” He is sick and needs a doctor.

That said, you CAN get back to how it was before. Oh, you CAN. So can he. Depression is treatable, curable. It is not a personal failing or a reflection on who he is as a husband or father. There IS light at the end of this tunnel. Pick up the phone (and your healthcare provider directory from those awesome benefits) and start moving towards that light.

Editor: please consider contacting Postpartum Support International as they have specialized coordinators for dads and recognize that a percentage of new fathers also develop mood issues (though technically PPD shows up within the first year post birth). They have volunteers organized by region and will contact you within 24 hours. If you need more immediate help, they can help you find emergency services.

UPDATE: please scroll down to the bottom of the comments to get an update from “The Patient Wife.” Thank you all for your smarts, insights, thoughtfulness and care.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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44 Responses to “Depression & the Stay-At-Home Dad”

  1. Mnt Mama Feb 18 at 12:08 pm Reply Reply

    I am not an expert by any means. But I have a history of depression and have since I was about 10 years old. This is not just depression. He needs to see a doctor immediately. I can’t say exactly what might be going on but my first guess is bi-polor disorder. Some people who have mental health issues, especially bi-polar, start to come out in their 30s. He could have never experienced anything like this before now. Does mental health issues run in his family? People can ride highs and lows for MONTHS, especially in the on-set of the disorder. At some point, the cycle of highs and lows may not be as drawn out. Depression does not make you rage, break things and destroy your house. I’m not saying you should be afriad of your husband but you should be *extremely* concerned about this rageful behavior around your son. I am personally very close to someone who had a on-set of bipolar in his mid-30s. He is not someone who ever hurt anyone in any way. Until he did. After some signifigant destructive behavior to the house hold – then came some physical violence. Then came the self-medication. Then the hospialization and his diagonsis.
    I urge you to do whatever you have to do to get medical care for him immediately.

    • laura Feb 18 at 2:17 pm Reply Reply

      First of all, I take issue with the phrase, “not just depression.” Depression is a serious medical condition that needs medical attention. Second, there is nothing in this piece that suggests manic episodes consistent with bipolar disorder. It does sound like Seasonal Affective Disorder/major depression. If he is averse to doctors care, there is some effective self treatment (as per evidence-based medical research, not some hippy crap; it is equal or greater than medication). exercising regularly and using medical grade SAD therapy lamps. That said, I do think dr is the ideal treatment, but I know how guys are. cognitive behavioral therapy would be great too.

      • cmhd Feb 18 at 2:47 pm Reply Reply

        Knowing someone close who suffers from both depression AND bi-polar disorder, I thought the same thing Mnt Mama said. Bi-polar often manifests in adulthood. No, it’s not “just” depression, but having multiple issues going on can complicate the diagnosis problem, the solutions, and the situation in general. The good news is that with the proper diagnosis (whatever it may be), things can and DO get better.

        • laura Feb 18 at 6:59 pm Reply Reply

          not to nit pick, but you can’t suffer from both. major depressive episode(s) is/are a prerequisite for a Bipolar I or II diagnosis. And age of onset has nothing to do with meeting diagnostic criteria. He would need to have manic episodes, marked by the following:
          Grandiosity
          Decreased need for sleep
          Pressured speech
          Racing thoughts
          Distractibility
          Tendency to engage in behavior that could have serious consequences, such as spending recklessly or inappropriate sexual encounters
          Excessive energy

          • Isabel Kallman
            Isabel Feb 18 at 7:10 pm Reply

            Thank you all for your care and thoughtfulness.

            I think we can all agree that her husband should see a professional who is the only one who will be able to give an accurate diagnosis after proper questioning and evaluation.

  2. Allison Feb 18 at 12:16 pm Reply Reply

    I completely agree, get that poor man into a Dr! My dad suffers from depression, and for years just tried to deal with it by himself. He finally, after i went to college, went to a Dr and oh man what a difference it made! He was the happy dad so much more, he laughs easier, and does more things. Your husband might resist going, or think it is like admitting to the whole world he has a weakness. But it isn’t. Depression is an actual disease and he does not need to be ashamed. Millions of people fight this fight. Tell him to go and get his life and happiness back.

  3. Kacie Feb 18 at 1:08 pm Reply Reply

    Whoa. I felt the need to respond because my dad was a stay-at-home-dad, and he had a lot of what you’re describing. Sometimes things would be all fine, and out of absolutely nowhere (or maybe something happened to set him off), he’d be a different person. Violent. Mean-tempered. Breaking things, etc.

    I never knew if he struggled with depression or if he had bipolar disorder, or maybe a bit of both. He never would go to a doctor for that.

    I really hope that you can get some professional help for him, and make him see that it is the ONLY thing that will make this better. Otherwise, you will be walking on eggshells for the rest of your life, realizing “hey things are great!” and then BOOM. Another episode.

    If this doesn’t get resolved quickly, it WILL affect your children. I had something that resembled PTSD for a few years after I moved out to go to college. My younger sister has a terrible relationship with our father, and she still has nightmares. She’s now 22.

    My dad never did “go back to work.” My mom’s job paid enough, and he never felt he had the skills needed to get something respectable, since he had been out of work for so long. I do think it really affected his self-image for the worst. 

    On one hand, it is nice to have a stay-at-home-parent. On another, it is horrible to have that parent have a serious mental disorder that is left untreated.

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I really hope your family can get the help you need.

  4. JenVegas Feb 18 at 1:38 pm Reply Reply

    Also not a doctor but have a stubborn and sometimes depressed husband and maybe it would help you/Hashbrown/Wiggles if you took some action and then apologize for it later (if necessary) instead of asking Hashbrown if he’d like it. For example maybe just come home and say “hey honey, you do so much around here that I feel like you could use a day to yourself so I enrolled Wiggles in That Church Thing. It’s not a big deal money-wise and I thought you’d enjoy a day to do what you need for yourself for a change so ENJOY! ” 
    But also yes, he needs some help. It’s not a big deal…who HASN’T been to therapy. I mean they write entire TV/Cable shows about people’s relationships with their therapists these days. Talk therapy can be SO helpful! Or maybe start small and join a SAHD neighborhood group to meet other dads who can give him some non-judgmental outside feedback as peers.

  5. Bethany Feb 18 at 4:55 pm Reply Reply

    He doesn’t have to have Bipolar disorder to be angry. Anger is THE classic symptom of depression in men. Men aren’t allowed to show depression the same way that women are because of our culture’s approach to masculinity.

    Internalizing behavior (being sad, quiet, weeping) is for girls. Externalizing behavior (acting out in rages, angry thoughts) is for boys. It’s scarier when you’re watching an angry rampage, but can easily have the exact same root as a woman sitting on the couch and staring at nothing: depression.

    Don’t delay. I get rage-y when I’m depressed, like wanting to scream angry obscenities at my husband for putting my cup (that I was going to use again!!) in the dishwasher, and I noticed relief starting within two weeks of starting meds. I was relatively mild, though, and he might not be so quick.

    The sooner he gets help, the sooner he can stop feeling so powerless, frustrated, confused, and angry. I’m sure he realizes that punching walls doesn’t do anything useful, but he has no other way to cope. So he feels stupid on TOP of everything being horrible and awful.

    Help him get tools. Life is so much better with the right tools. Then you can fix the problem together and it will be so good. So, so good. 

  6. Liz Feb 18 at 6:06 pm Reply Reply

    If he is punching holes in walls or breaking furniture in front of the baby, then the baby is not safe at home with him. Idk if he will escalate to physically harming the baby, but kids are emotionally scarred by seeing that kind of out of control behavior. It is tempting to minimize this kind of thing, but you are better off in the long run to acknowledge the seriousness and act accordingly. Good luck!

    • Kate Sep 23 at 6:03 pm Reply Reply

      I completely agree. Just think, Wiggles could experience collateral damange due to one of Daddy’s outbursts some time- be hit by a flying chair leg, etc. NOT cool and not safe.

  7. IrishCream Feb 18 at 6:54 pm Reply Reply

    Agreeing with all other commenters — your husband needs medical assistance. He’d need a doctor’s care if he had diabetes or hypertension; mental health issues are no different. I am concerned that things will only escalate as your son gets older. My 2.5 year old can occasionally make me rethink my position on corporal punishment, and I’m in a good place overall. I’m concerned for everyone’s safety in this situation.

    Best wishes for your family, and share an update if you can!

  8. Anna Feb 18 at 8:17 pm Reply Reply

    Amen to all of Amy’s suggestions. Just wanted to add that I went through this with my (now ex) husband, and for a long time didn’t recognize that he was suffering from depression. Depression in men quite often manifests as anger, and women sometimes don’t recognize it (especially when living with the person), because it can be so different from how we think depression should look.

    Also, please be on the lookout for any self-medicating – alcohol, gambling, etc. You’d be surprised what people will do to feel better when they’re feeling that bad.

    It’s such a tough thing to deal with, I wish you guys all the best.

  9. Jeannie Feb 18 at 10:08 pm Reply Reply

    Just wanted to chime in with — my spouse also suffered from depression a few years back. We got him help — doctor and meds as well as some therapy. I was lucky that he recognized it and made some effort to get that help himself, but it is hard. It is SO VERY HARD to watch someone go through that and to deal with it yourself. So I’d say — if you can’t get him to recognize he needs help, go with him to the doctor. He needs help, one way or another. 

  10. Lauren Feb 18 at 11:35 pm Reply Reply

    I know from personal experience what it is like to watch our husband suffer, to watch him spiral out of control while you are trying to keep your family together and your head above water. I get it. I think it’s huge that you wrote this letter- writing to Amy was the first step for me getting help for my family too. I actually printed out her response and all the comments and would read them over and over again to help keep me on track, so good for you! However: please, do not keep this a secret! You’ve got to tell some IRL people what is going on. You do not need to handle this on your own. I don’t beleive it is a breech of trust against your husband to talk about this, it is your right and a way you can keep your sanity and help him back to his. Get a therapist for you if he won’t see one, suggest acupuncture, therapy, anything to get him some help. Try al-anon – even if he’s not an alcoholic it can be emensly helpful for dealing with a spouse who is in a dangerous and toxic place. Try NAMI too, it is support for families of people with mental illnesses. They can help you figure out options. You need support, as much as he does! It is so easy to get caught up in his breakdown and forget to take care of your needs, and take steps to maintain your sanity.  But lastly, and most importantly, your child is the most mportant person in this equation.  I get wanting to stand by your husband, I desperately wanted to stand by mine, but when I realized that our child was at risk I had to put her first. Your husband needs help.  Your child should not pay the price of him not getting it. I strongly disagree with Amy that your child might stop him from hurting himself. Even if he doesn’t hurt himself, he is not providing  the loving warm environment your child needs if he is battling suicidal thoughts. You need to get your kid out of that situation. That feeling of dread you have about coming home from work? Your kid is living with that all day. When your husband gets better from whatever it is he is dealing with he can be a good father, but the best thing he can do now is get help. You need to watch out for yourself and the baby.  I really hope he gets help and that you all come out of this stronger.  My husbands breakdown was ultimately the best thing that ever happened to our family, we are all healthier, happier and I wish the best to you. Please update Amy about whatever you decide to do.

    • roo Feb 20 at 1:30 am Reply Reply

      “Your husband needs help.  Your child should not pay the price of him not getting it. I strongly disagree with Amy that your child might stop him from hurting himself.”

      I want to second this.

      If there’s any way to take the burden of caring for your child off your husband’s shoulders for a while, even if it can’t be full-time, both your husband and your child will benefit. 

      There can be a lot of shame, being confronted with a psychiatric diagnosis. Your husband’s going to need some responsibility-free time and space to process it. And your kid needs a safe place to go so he can do that.

      Good luck. If it’s any comfort to you at all, I can tell you treatment helps. Treatment saved me.

      • Christina Mar 11 at 1:52 pm Reply Reply

        YES! Agree.

  11. Lisa Y Feb 19 at 10:15 am Reply Reply

    I have been where you are. My husband moved when we got married and didn’t have anyone near us that he was close with. When our daughter was born, I had the stable job with good benefits and he was wanting a career change, so it made perfect sense for him to stay home and try to prepare to change careers. Except that it was a huge mistake. HUGE.

    My husband was isolated, lost his feeling of self-worth and identity, became angry with my parents for not offering to help, and hopeless that his future could be anything but years of the same. He stayed home for a year and a half, during which it became clear that we couldn’t afford training for the career he wanted and he became more depressed. I didn’t want to go home from work because, like you said, I didn’t know what I was going home to. I would call him during the day and then cry when I got off the phone.

    Finally he accepted that the career change wasn’t going to happen and he decided to look for a job in his previous field. He didn’t get the first two he interviewed for and yes, that was hard. But he got the third and they wanted him to start immediately. We found a nanny so our (now two) daughters could stay home and he went to work. And it changed everything.

    That was three years ago. My husband still has low moods now and then, but NOTHING like he did when he stayed home. He takes pride in his work and in providing for his family and has plans and hope for the future. And he ENJOYS the time he spends with the children now instead of feeling trapped by them (and me).

    I’m not saying that getting a job is the “fix” for your husband or that he shouldn’t get help from a doctor or therapist. But when I read your letter it sounded so much like my life three years ago that I just wanted to share my story with you.

  12. VG Feb 19 at 11:53 am Reply Reply

    I don’t want to downplay this situation because from the description you gave, your husband does need professional help, but have you or he considered that he’s not cut out for the Stay-At-Home gig? There are parents that are able to do that, and I totally bow down to them. I see being a SAHMorD as the hardest job on the planet, and that’s a job that wasn’t for me and might not be the one for your husband.
    I have seen my sister struggle with it when she lost her job a few years ago. Being home day after day with kids just wasn’t for her and she would snap at the kids, say mean things, and even get on my case for my own parenting choices when I never solicited the advice. She works part time as of now, which makes her feel better about herself and her parenting abilities.
    First, most definitely get him to a therapist. Second, have a serious conversation about his SAH role and maybe having him join the workforce again. I know it’s going to suck financially to place your son in a daycare (and btw, kids get sick anywhere, not just from daycare) but it may make your husband a better father, which will make your life together a happy one.

  13. MR Feb 19 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    ((Hugs)) I second that you need to get your dh to a dr. Make an appointment, get him in the car and drive him there. He needs help and he needs to know it can get better. Because it can. I have depression. It is usually well managed, but a major health issue for our newborn combined with normal postpartum stuff set off a big depressive episode for me. At least I knew it was likely to happen and set myself up with a counselor and notified the dr who manages my medication that I needed more frequent visits (I normally just go to touch base for a few minutes twice a year). I was able to minimize the whole thing, but I still went through such a bad time. And it was more difficult because my husband just didn’t understand. He has always known I depression, but it has always been so well managed that he didn’t understand it. And I am a very high functioning depressive, so I would get up and drag myself to work and still take care of my baby and our other daughter, but that was all I could manage. He would make offers to help, and I couldn’t take him up on any of them. Because I didn’t have the energy. I felt like I was in quicksand. Even small things like walking to the pantry to grab a snack were humongous efforts, and accepting an offer of help meant changing my routines, which was the only thing that got me through each day. But life doesn’t have to be that way. And medication sounds awful until you have been there. Because at this point he doesn’t know what “normal” is anymore. And it will be a struggle to find that, but he will. And when he does, he will realize how much better life is. I gladly take my medication each and every day because my life is better for it.
    As for you and what you can do – depression is so hard on the family. You need support too. You need to talk to your family and you need to get set up with a counselor for yourself so you have a safe place to vent. I also highly suggest reading Talking to Depression. I found this book when I was trying to find something to help my husband understand. It was the first book I have ever come across that really gets it, and provides useful tools. So many of the “married to depression” books are geared towards helping the non-depressed get out of the relationship, which isn’t helpful if you want to stay and support and get your marriage back on track. This one is very helpful and will give you some insight into how he feels. Good luck!!
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0451209869/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1361292059&sr=8-1&pi=SL75

  14. Catherine S Feb 19 at 2:52 pm Reply Reply

    Just wanted to point out that making the adjustment to being a full time care giver is HARD. I went through something similar when I had my first child. Stay at home fathers, I would think would be particularly susceptible to depression because there aren’t as many other men who do stay home. It must be very isolating for him. It sounds like he wants so much to be the perfect father all.the.time. And that simply isn’t possible for *anyone*. He sounds like a wonderful man with a big heart who is going through a rough time. *Hugs*

  15. ThatGirl Feb 19 at 2:55 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, dear, sweet woman. Allow me to echo every other commenter and say “YES. DOCTOR. PLEASE.” 

    This is not something you or he or a day in bed can fix. He is not broken. He is sick and needs treatment. Mood disorders and mental disturbances are illnesses, just like the flu and chicken pox.

    I speak from experience when I say that the next step is either escalation or self-medication, and neither of those will be good for Hashbrown or Wiggles. 

    Depression is a soul-crushing, heart-breaking, bitch of a disease that most people are too ashamed to admit they have, even though they have it through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN. 

    My only advice would be to push, firmly if necessary, for medical intervention.

    Clearly, this man loves you and you, him: Tell him how you feel coming home at night. About your headaches. About the anxiety YOU feel regarding his moods. Maybe if he sees how he is affecting you and Wiggles, he might be more amendable to getting treatment. . I truly hope he will accept treatment and find the path that works for all the members of your family.

    Best wishes for you and yours. 

  16. Hannah Feb 19 at 11:58 pm Reply Reply

    I am so sorry your sweet family is going through this. That “cabin fever” going to crawl up the walls feelings can happen to anyone when you’re at home with no other adults, and only have the coos/cries of a little one to respond to. Top that off with the family history and it makes it so easy to be too much inside his own head/issues/stresses, etc… I do hope he agrees to seek help, maybe to start you can go to your family doctor to discuss the facts? At the very least the doctor can give you a referral to a therapist/counselor. I discussed my PTSD/PPD with my gynecologist…she is no therapist, but it got me on the right track. Please do not allow any doctor to prescribe medication without also a therapy session lined up. While anti-depressants and psychotropic drugs are wonderful for those who need them, using them without a doctor monitoring the body as well as the mind can lead to disasters. I personally would hold off on handing over my burdens to my already beyond stressed husband. I do agree with other posters that you need to seek help for him as a family, and this may convince him that its needed. Your company may even provide a phone service to talk about this by phone, and help you make an appt with a local therapist. My co offers 3 free therapy sessions, and then you can use your insurance for the others. I hope you give Alpha Mom an update, good luck!

  17. lindswing Feb 20 at 1:33 am Reply Reply

    If he’s opposed to meds, my husband has significantly decreased his depressive symptoms by consistently taking vitamin D and fish oil every day.  I made him go to counseling for a few months this past fall when his sub-clinical depression got worse, and the two things combined have helped him so, so much.  He was just telling me a few days ago that he felt kind of bummed out that day, and it was great to realize that it was the first time in weeks and weeks that he had those feelings, and nowhere nearly as badly as where he had been consistently at least 3-4 days per week before the counseling. I’m a school psychologist, so I’m a huge advocate of counseling as well as meds if well monitored and maintained and ALWAYS paired with therapy.  But, I know for those who aren’t ready to go there, sometimes the supplements can provide the little bit of mood lift necessary to be a functional person again.  The psychologist who ran a suicide prevention training I attended last year said one of the best things he can recommend for suicide prevention would be to go buy a big bottle of fish oil and take some every day.  It’s definitely not going to cause additional problems or side effects.  But also counseling.  Please, please. And good luck!

  18. B Feb 20 at 1:06 pm Reply Reply

    Wow, this really hit home for me. My husband also breaks things when he is angry and has occasional depressive episodes. He doesn’t however stay at home with our child. I want to emphasize that being a stay at home dad is a really, really tough job.
    Although I agree that it would be good for your husband to see a doctor, I’m personally not totally sold on meds either and I think he should have the option to stay off of them. Changes I would make if I were you:
    – make sure your husband gets a day off (or two half days) per week (I did this at the end of my mat leave and it was a huge help)
    – Start having him look at working again. I really believe that men especially feel a need to work outside the home and “provide for the family”. It may sound sexist to say this, but we have all grown up in a society where that is the norm and whether or not we believe this, it lies in our psyche.
    – Go outside, set up play dates, go to playgroups, try and find other stay at home dads or moms that might be keen on similar activities.
    – Go see a counsellor! Both of you!
    If you have to, you might need to wait until his ‘episode’ is over to discuss all this.
    I wish you so much luck and I too would love an update! Hugs and cyber-well-wishes.

  19. Kat Feb 20 at 6:22 pm Reply Reply

    Wow. I am really surprised at this. I love my husband dearly, but if he ever broke ANYTHING in an intentional, angry rage in front of our child I would absolutely not be okay with him being at home with my son alone. For once, I completely disagree with Amalah. I grew up in a violent, scary home where the people that could have helped did not because they didn’t want to “make things worse” for the parent that was out of control (kind of like Amy suggesting not to take your son out of his care for a time as a potentially creating a new host of problems). You certainly would not leave your child in the care of another family who flew into destructive rages, would you?! Having said that: I understand the predicament (how do we pay for that, we can’t involve family and so forth), but at the end of the day your husband’s pride/illness is not more important than your child’s safey (emotional as well as physical). I can’t help but feel angry at your situation (it sounds so familiar), and frustrated that pride/”don’t tell anyone” is getting in the way of what is best for your son (which, IMHO is absolutely not being with your husband until he gets help). Sorry to be so blunt, but someone has to say something about that piece.

  20. Chris Feb 21 at 12:08 am Reply Reply

    As a stay at home dad, I can feel for Hashbrown. But, I was there once, too, and I can tell you it gets better. What gets me depressed is knowing:
    1. Wow, I’m not the main breadwinner, and I grew up thinking I had to be
    2. I’m talking at the level of an infant all day, and it gets mind numbing
    3. I’m stressed and my body/mind doesn’t operate on the foods I eat when stressed
    4. I’m isolated
    5. I’m a guy, and we don’t ask for directions, never mind therapy

    When I got a part time job in the evenings, went back to school in the weekends, and started meeting new people and thinking about something other than diapers, all of the “depression” went away. Something to think about. : ) 

  21. K Feb 21 at 9:05 am Reply Reply

    Huh. I wasn’t expecting this column to hit me so personally, but I also had a stay at home dad, from a family of hot tempers who then became depressed. First of all, your husband sounds like a great man who is also a man in need of professional help (try to help him see that it is possible to be both!). My dad did all the same things you mentioned and while he didn’t physically harm me or my brother, the yelling and anger (and to a more subtle extent), the following depression, along with alcoholism had very real effects on us. He refused to get help and it ended up destroying his marriage and his relationship with his kids for most of our lives. I’m still trying to develop a close relationship with him and 25 years later, we are STILL trying to get him to seek treatment…I guess I just wanted to tell you all that so you can see how serious this is and how worth it it is to fight hard NOW for him to get the help he needs. You sound like a wonderful loving wife, hope all goes well for you.

  22. Suzy Q Feb 21 at 6:27 pm Reply Reply

    Hi, it seems all of the advice has been given, so I just stopped by to give you some warm encouragement and hugs.  I wish you and your family all the best in getting through this bad patch of life.

  23. Molly Feb 22 at 9:16 pm Reply Reply

    Let me add to the chorus of “DOCTOR DOCTOR DOCTOR!” And also make a strong plea for meds. I know he’s against them, but it’s hard for me to tell if his aversion to meds could be a symptom (just like avoiding other helpful approaches). No one else has linked to it, so here is Rob Delaney’s fantastic piece on depression. To be real depression it doesn’t have to be as suicide-focused as Rob’s. I can’t say it better than “Get help. Don’t think. Get help.” This stuff is real, chemical, and meds can help.

    http://robdelaney.tumblr.com/post/414007899/on-depression-getting-help

  24. Lisa Feb 25 at 1:45 pm Reply Reply

    Ummm…I am a mental health professional and a n;urse. Take care of your baby and insist he get some intervention. And I cringe at others making diagnoses of bipolar etc…without having credentials and evaluating him personally. But, he clearly needs to be seen. And as Wiggles mother, your first concern needs to be the child. No one should have to live that way; not you, not your husband, and certainly not your child. And one of the hallmarks of depression is, as Amy wrote, denial. The very nature of the lack of motivation, and irritability keeps them from taking action. So, do it for him, by letting him know it’s not an option NOT to…

  25. The Patient Wife Feb 26 at 4:22 pm Reply Reply

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all of your comments and insight. It was really hard to write that email to Amy and I was a little scared to read the comments. But I feel like a huge weight has been lifted because I’m not alone, I’m not over-reacting, and you’ve given me hope that this will get better if we take some action.
    Hopefully, you will all be happy to know that I am working on getting some help for my family. My company sponsors an Employee Assistance Program and I am working with them to identify some counselors/therapists in our area, covered by our insurance that can help us. We’re also working through “how” to have the conversation with my husband.
    My husband and I talked, a little, about this when things calmed down a bit. It seems like he’s starting to understand the impact this is having on all of us. He’s scheduled play dates with his cousin (a SAHM) and he’s leaning more on my parents for help during the day. And we’re working together to give him some time-off without making me totally exhausted.
    We still have a long way to go and even though the strides we’ve made over the last couple of weeks are a good start, I am resolute that we need professional help.
    You all have given me the courage to pursue that even though it won’t be easy. Wiggles deserves to grow up with the man that I know is inside my husband and not live in fear.

  26. B Feb 28 at 3:20 am Reply Reply

    Hi again,
    I just wanted to thank you for having to courage to write Amalah this letter in the first place. (And thanks for the update!)
    I just happen to have a hard week at home where my husband broke two things and reading your letter and all of these comments really made me realize that this is absolutely not OK and I don’t want our child to see him break things.
    I confronted him about this issue and he quickly agreed that the way he deals with his anger and depression is not acceptable.
    We are both going to see a counsellor about this issue and I feel so much better already.
    Thanks again Patient Wife. And I wish you well on your journey.

  27. Jen Mar 01 at 2:26 pm Reply Reply

    Yes, this was ME to a T after my second child was born- including feeling like I couldn’t ask for help, the guilt over spending money for a mother’s day out, the anger and the irritation. It took a hospital stay for me to agree to getting a babysitter two times a week. I hate spending money, and I feel silly because I’m a SAHM, but a sane mother is what that money is for. I need therapy, medication, and regular breaks. In fact, I just called an aunt to come over and hang out with me because I’m having a bad day with the kids (and they are being total angels other than being sick). It’s hard to get help, and being medicated sucks, but he’s gotta do it.

  28. ML Sep 28 at 10:48 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a little late to this party, but I just wanted to say thank you to the original poster for putting herself and her situation out there. My husband suffers from severe clinical depression and PTSD…most of which stems from his own childhood. We have been married for almost 6 years. He stays home most of the time with our 2 yo little boy as he is between part time jobs a lot. I related very closely to what you went through (although dh doesn’t “break things” he does get very horrible anger episodes where there is irrational yelling, name calling etc.). I have been trying for over the last year to get him to a psychiatrist with little success. He is on meds, but I know fully that they are just a band aid. This week I took my son and went to my parents home an hour and a half away. It’s been the hardest thing to do, but I know it’s for the best for now. I am hoping that with a little more coercing and the fact that we left, he will finally start the process of therapy. In short, this post and comments have been encouraging and I am so glad I am not alone as a “patient wife”

  29. Mary Jan 06 at 11:44 pm Reply Reply

    I hope things are better for you and your family!

  30. Tom Jan 20 at 11:24 am Reply Reply

    I am a mid 30’s stay at home dad of four, ages 5,4,3 and 1. This article made me see things in my own life. So many people thought I lost my job or didn’t have a skill set, I left a great job with pay and benifits to prevent the daycare sickness and the nightmare of who has the kids and when. I fight with the loss of identy and lack of accomplishment I once felt. Lately I find my self withdrawn from my children, just going through the motions. I know I need time away, but time is in short supply and to ask for external help seems to admit defeat.
    Thank you for the example to see my feelings are more normal than I might think.

    • The Patient Wife Aug 27 at 2:57 pm Reply Reply

      Thanks Tom.  It really helped my husband and I to see all the comments from SAHD’s to help us feel like we aren’t the only ones working through this issue.

  31. getoverit Mar 05 at 7:55 pm Reply Reply

    depression smession. just because your husband is fustratingly bored out of his mind it automatically turns into deppression which is the outcome. I know how he feels totally because I am a stay at home dad of 3 children. I totally know how it feels to totally feel your career needs have being unfulfilled and the in built feeling to provide for your family has being not for filled some of the things what it mens to be a guy suddenly leaves you feeling very confused and your self worth suddenly becomes zero. my advice is he needs to get out a bit more join a parent group. might want to join a few like 2 or 3 because some really suck and youll know where you belong after a while. the things I found out is woman (well most woman) actually have the same frustrations as men but women seem to cope better which make them great to talk to mainly because woman are great at networking. There not going to give you the answer to life or any help at all actually but you will find that they share exactly the same problems. depression, fustration, feeling alone, not having any help.
    Suddenly you dont feel so alone. no offence to the wife.

  32. Archie Apr 09 at 10:40 am Reply Reply

    When I read this article I started to think about how my situation is similar. I am a 39 year old husband and father of quadruplets, of which two have been diagnosed with autism. My wife and I are both professionals but her salary triples mine which made our decision to make me the stay at home dad logical. I knew it was going to be a challenge but I never knew it would be this hard. On one hand I am thankful to see my kids grow up and that my wife makes decent income for one of us to stay home, but on the other hand, I started to get very depressed because it seems like every mistake I make in raising the kids gets criticized by my wife. On top of that she gets home and says she is so tired from working that she is not able to help out as often as I would like. Although people keep telling me that I am doing an important job raising the children (I know how important it is), I can’t shake this feeling that as a man I am inadequate because I can’t even make enough money to provide for my family. I still feel like I have no value and I am not appreciated. When I bring it up to my wife, she says that I am not the one working so I shouldn’t complain, and when I use some of our funds for something she doesn’t agree with, she gets mad and says
    “That is MY money”. I thought marriage was a partnership and all finances become “OUR” money. I am just so depressed because I feel like as the years go by I will never get back into the work force because then it would be too late. I even offered to work 3 jobs so she can stay home with the kids but she always brings up the fact that no other company could beat the health insurance she gets for the family. Everyday that goes by I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore and the only reason I push on is because I do love my children, but it is hard not feeling appreciated. Instead all I get is criticisms like why didn’t you do this?, or why did you do that? or “you have to be on top of this, that’s all I ask”….So I just don’t complain or discuss anything anymore, because the “yes dear” takes up less energy. I don’t think I have full blown depression, but my perception of myself is that I am inadequate.

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Kallman Apr 09 at 11:03 am Reply Reply

      Dear Archie, I am so sorry that you are feeling this way. Taking care of one special needs child can be very hard and straining on a relationship, and you have two young children with autism, which are part of quadruplets! WOW! That’s a lot of work. Can I make a suggestion? PLease look into joining a stay-at-home-dad’s group. They meet regularly with and without children. There are ones located all over the country and a great place to find one in your area is by looking at Meetup.com. I have friends who run some all over the country and the groups are really great. Isabel

    • Melinda May 30 at 11:39 pm Reply Reply

      Wow, it is COMPLETELY wrong for your wife to call it “her money.” That’s really messed up. I’m sorry you’re going through this, good luck. 

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