Parenting Toddlers While Struggling with Depression

mom with toddler looking depressed

Today was one of those days. 

The kind of day where I stood in the kitchen, trying to cook dinner, surrounded by two toddlers that, of course, required me to referee also while holding a screaming, hungry baby on my hip. And I honestly had the thought, “I just can’t do this anymore.”

Can you relate?

You’re overwhelmed, tired, lonely. You feel the beginnings of being engulfed in darkness.

Depression. It’s a word often used out of context. Diluted by today’s standard of general sadness or just a really bad day. 

Depression is something much more complex that dives deeper into the pores of our souls. And it can be debilitating. About 1 in 10 mothers have experienced depressive symptoms. 

So, how do you continue to parent while also wading through the waters of depression?

As a mother of a 4-year–old, 2–year–old and 8–month–old and as a mother who can say, “I suffer with depression,” here are a few tools I’ve found to be helpful in pushing through those depressive moments while also parenting the most physically, mentally, and stamina-requiring age group. 

Go to Therapy 

I know. Therapy. It still sounds like a dirty word, but it’s not at all. It’s becoming such a normalized part of living a healthy life. Many of my friends go to therapy consistently even in times when they don’t have a specific issue. I know couples who go off and on when they feel like their relationship needs some work. It’s a safety net to keep your mind in a healthy state.

Affording therapy is usually the tricky part for moms. How can you afford to budget $100, (the average cost for a therapist in the KC area) when your budget is already tight? If you can’t quite see that fitting into your lifestyle there are so many other options. Here are a few:

Find Your People

It can be difficult to find friends as a mom of toddlers. Many of us are stay-at-home moms taking care of the house, the family schedule, changing diapers, potty training, etc. And those of you who are working moms have to take care of those same tasks on top of keeping up with work. How on Earth are we supposed to find time to make and maintain friendships, when we’re in that stage of life where we take care of everything and everyone?

Do your children attend daycare? Try to connect with the moms of those classmates. I can’t promise that it will always be a good match, but you never know if you don’t try. This is coming from a wildly introverted mom.

Do you attend a church? Most churches have something along the lines of smaller groups with other families in the same life stage. You can build deep connections in situations like this if you really give it a try. 

The importance of these friendships is to give you comfort in knowing that you’re not alone — something that is often itching inside your brain when depression strikes.

Self Care (the real kind)

Just like the words depressed or toxic are misused and overused, I would put self care in the same category. I like to think of self-care more like self-maintenance. Just as we take in our cars for regular full tune-ups, (or we at least we should) we need those regular checks for ourselves. This is why it blows my mind when I hear people talking about how taking a shower or bath or grocery shopping is self care! Selfc are should be thought of as something much more than just a shower or anything that is required as generic hygiene or the need to stock your fridge. If you’re stumped on ideas, here are a few:

  • A facial. Many of my good friends swear by them. 
  • Pickup a hobby/try something new. I never thought I’d be a decent DIYer until depression reared its head. But it doesn’t have to be anything that daunting, if that overwhelms you. Knitting, crocheting, adult coloring books. It’s great to keep your mind moving while also making space for whatever flows through it.
  • Have a girls night. I’m actually going to go to a Bridgerton Party where my group of girlfriends will watch the season 2 finale together. It’s nothing special or wild, but it can be a time to get lost in adult time.
  • Get a room. Seriously. If you feel completely tapped out and you have a partner who can take on the kids for a day or a weekend, you can go to a hotel room and enjoy the quiet, order room service and watch some TV uninterrupted. It’s small, but grand!
  • Take a trip. If your budget allows, go on a trip alone, or go with a group of girlfriends. Moms need a chance to get away.

Talk to Your Children About Mental Health

So many adults feel as though they need to walk on eggshells around toddlers regarding mental health. If you’re feeling depressed, I can guarantee your children are aware that something is off kilter. It is so much better to be open and honest with your children than to assume they can’t handle the truth. 

To be honest, I try to block out most of the shows my toddlers watch, because …well, my sanity. You get it. However, I’ve noticed most of the shows for that age group teach at least a little about going to the doctor for check-ups and keeping your body healthy. Framing the discussion regarding your depression just like any other health issue is one of the easiest ways for children to understand. The idea is to normalize these mental health conditions while also trying to not overwhelm your kiddos. And if you are open, honest, gentle and frank with them, they will not be overwhelmed. 

Give Yourself Grace

Finally, let go of the guilt. I know you have it. Depression is proficient with holding you captive in lies that make you feel guilty. Don’t give depression that kind of power. 

Be kind to yourself. 

You are holding oh so very much in your heart and mind. And it’s a heavy load. 

Hi! My name is Brittany Reinke. I'm a born-and-raised Olathe native. I graduated from Olathe North, received my Undergrad in Vocal Performance from William Jewell College, received my Master's in Mental Health Counseling from Mid-America Nazarene University and have now settled down in Southern Olathe. If you couldn't tell, just from that track record, I am beyond passionate about living, communing and raising my children in this area! I have been married to Keven, the love of my life, since 2013 and we have three beautiful boys together. Ben is 4, Leo is 2 and Miles is 7 months and, yes, I'm tired. However, I'm tired in the most glorious and fulfilling ways. I am a huge nerd. I love all things Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Trek... you name it. I absolutely love reading and would love to start my own book club once I master the art of getting through a book at a reasonable rate, something I'm not expecting quite yet at this life-stage. I am a chronic DIY-er. If there's a room in my house that I can renovate, I will figure out a way to put my special touches on it from the subfloor up! I live with Cerebral Palsy which has progressively taken its toll on my body, however, I'm an extremely determined gal and am set on making this journey through motherhood as fun, wild and exciting as it can be!