It’s important that you do not have your kids home with you all day if you hate your life. But it’s also important to recognize that you might hate your life whether or not your kids were home with you all day. For example:
- People in a bad marriage
- People who never got a career and feel undervalued
- People who are depressed
- People who are obsessed with their own mysterious unlocked potential
- People in a financial mess
These problems have nothing to do with your kids. They exist independently of how much time you spend with your kids. So you should go to talk therapy or go on medication or both.
I should know, because I do both. I do both because I’ve read about how bad it is for kids if their mothers to be unhappy. (Maternal depression has a hereditary nature, but not so true for depressed fathers.)
So I spend a lot of time each week managing my mood, and focusing on what is bothering me deep down so that I avoid making my kids feel like they are my problems. See the photo up top of me sitting next to my son? I look at that picture and I think to myself: Was I happy in that moment? Did I show it? Did I create emotional space for my son to enjoy that moment?
Not that I’m an ace at this process—I still scream at the kids. But I scream at them a lot less now that I am not doing a huge job outside the house as well as the huge job of parenting. That arrangement was untenable and created a huge amount of screaming.
I am focusing on this issue in my own life all the time, so I am acutely aware of who seems unhappy interacting with kids.
Did you know that bus drivers have the highest rate of depression of any profession? That surprised me, because for a while it was lawyers. But notice that depression and profession do not correlate to pay. Janitors have a really high rate of satisfaction with their work. Happiness at work is driven by how strong our ability is to meet the needs of the people we work with. Which makes it particularly disturbing that school bus drivers are in that most depressive category.
Teachers hate teaching so much that half of them leave. In fact, 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just three years, and more than 45 percent leave after five. Teachers last a long time in rural schools, because there are so few job opportunities. And teachers last a long time in top-performing schools, because teaching there is more rewarding.
More than 30% of kids in school are kinesthetic learners. What this means is that they learn best by doing, not listening or reading, and they do best figuring things out for themselves. On a personality type test these people come out with an S and a P in their score. Most of them get through school by focusing on sports. Most of them think of school work as a game of efficiency. And most of them do not work for someone else when they grow up.
So the idea that they need to learn how to follow a school’s rules is just plain wrong. And the idea that they can enjoy school is wrong. It’s like taking someone who likes to read and telling them they have to do seven hours of gym class a day. But 30% of school kids are living that life right now. And they are the ones making up the majority of the negative, disruptive behavior at school that the kids who are not kinesthetic learners have to put up with.
The problem with school is that you can’t protect your kids from a constant barrage of depressive behavior. In the non-school world we can often choose who we want to spend time with. We can put ourselves into situations that are good for our mental health. One of the best things I’m teaching my kids is how to identify sad or angry or depressed behavior in other people and make healthy decisions in response.
I take anxiety medication every day so that I can be my best self with the kids. I’m honestly not sure if I would even need the anxiety medicine if I didn’t have kids. But I think I probably would. I mean, I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t anxious. It’s just that with my kids I feel a huge responsibility to surround them with people who are working hard to live their best lives, and that includes me.