Thankfully, there is more public conversation about post-partum depression than ever before (some say we need much more, and I agree) and a diagnosis of PPD has lost some of its cultural sting.
But being bi-polar? And, pregnant? Or, parenting while BP? I think that’s a bridge we’ve yet to cross. Jennifer is one of the brave moms who’s going to take us to that bridge, by making the discussion about bipolar parenting — if not herself, entirely — public.
We’re grateful to Jennifer for sharing her story with The Parent du Jour, including these resources on bi-polar disorder:
* NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) www.nami.org: NAMI has support groups all over the country.
* DBSA: The Depression Bipolar Support Alliance: A regional organization, set up and run by volunteers.
* Bipolar Disorder Magazine: A print magazine, they also offer an online blog; helpful in learning methods to cope with symptoms and stigma
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Small town in Pennsylvania / NoVA (near DC)
ON THE WEB BiPolarMomLife
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two
DAY JOB SAHM/Blogger
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK The Empty Pot by Demi – beautiful tale of a boy in China who learned a valuable lesson – to always tell the truth and to do your best, no matter what anyone else thinks.
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
I don’t really think that I combine work and family, other than the stories I might share about how I am growing and learning as a parent in my writing.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
For me, having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder six years ago, I never thought I’d be able to be a parent, even though I wanted it more than anything in the world. I remember feeling as though I could barely take care of myself, how would I ever be able to be a mom to a helpless little baby? Well I was very fortunate to have married a wonderful man who supported me through my diagnosis and treatment, and continues to be a caring partner as we work together to manage my illness and raise our family. Having kids has made me responsible and I am dedicated to providing them the best upbringing that I can.
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
Having kids has definitely had an impact on our relationship. We have to plan to spend time together, just the two of us, and we even have found that scheduling time to have sex is the only way we can guarantee that we reserve that time for each other. We make sure to start each day with a hug and kiss, and greet each other in the evening when he gets home from work with the same.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
My strength is my ability to challenge my kids in ways that help them grow as individuals. I’ve taught them both baby sign language which was something that was as much of a challenge for myself as it was for them. I’m also very affectionate with my actions and words, which I consider to be another one of my strengths as a parent. My main weakness is my patience level. If I’m running on less than 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I don’t always have a ton of patience for when they act out.
WHAT ARE YOUR SPOUSE’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
Lucky for me, my husband has the patience of a saint.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
We’re very fortunate to have my in-laws and sister-in-law, who live 30 minutes away, to help us with babysitting needs. They usually babysit for us once a month on a Saturday evening so that we can have a date night. We have never used a paid babysitter.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
That’s easy. My worst parenting moment was the time that I had my two kids at a playdate my friend was hosting at her house. She let me borrow her son’s highchair to feed my daughter. I set her in the chair, but since the buckle was different than ours, I just figured I would put the tray on and remember that I hadn’t strapped her in. Well, unfortunately it didn’t go as planned.
When she was finished eating, I was deep in conversation with my friend and when I turned to take the tray off the highchair and place it on the table, my poor baby fell out of the highchair and landed face down on the rug. Luckily, she cried right away and I was able to settle her down and it didn’t appear that anything was broken. I ended up taking her to the ER later that afternoon just to double check everything and thank goodness she was fine (they did an MRI to be sure). I will never, ever, ever put her or any other baby in a highchair without buckling the seat belt.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
There are so many. I love the simple moments at home when I see the kids playing so nicely together. Or when my son is resisting his nap and I go to lay down with him and he and I fall asleep because he says “you fit in my bed, Mommy” (it’s a toddler bed).