Over a coffee with a business colleague this morning I learned that she suffered clinical depression when her first child was born 15 years ago. While definitely an extreme reaction to finding yourself a mother for the first time, I am never surprised when I hear of it.
Think about it. For the first 10-20 years of your brilliant career you are in control of your job, your finances and your body. Then a significant event occurs in your life that leaves you feeling helpless, vulnerable and with lanky hair (many women in my circles have noted the hair issue).
No one tells you then what we now know: that 15 years later that same child will be the most wonderful part of our lives. That our children will bring us such joy. That we won’t be able to imagine what we would have been like without them. I didn’t suffer from postnatal depression but there were many, many days when I felt down. On those days I used to lie on the floor with my baby (it was summer) and just stare at him. This calmed me and reminded me of what was most important at that point in my life.
Women who are missing the excitement of a career can rarely think of what lies ahead. But now that you know what is in your future, I urge you to think of my colleague in the weeks and months that follow childbirth. She was able to transition from clinical depression to the mid-life glow she now sports. And she managed to resurrect her successful career as a businesswoman once she dealt with the depression.
Something we shared was our lack of maternal instincts before we had children. I was never a woman who fantastised about getting married and producing babies. Instead I dreamed of an exciting and rewarding career. But thankfully life happened to me while I was busy making other plans (thank you John Lennon) and years later I can say with pride that I was able to have both.
My colleague told me she made a point of having children and that without that conscious decision it may not have happened. It’s the decision that time-poor career-focused women struggle with. The truth is there is never a good time to have children when you are on a career mission.
If you intend to have a family at ‘some stage’ then you need to make time for children. You actually need to plan this into your life in the same way that you plan for the age when you will reach Partner or a certain salary level. A plan that includes children may not reduce the impact of postnatal depression but it could help remind you of the joy that lies ahead. Make a note of it.
Have you developed a life plan that involves having children? Did you suffer from postnatal depression?