“Rattled” Mom Confesses: “I Am More Unhappy Now That I Have a Child”

posted: 03/08/16
by: Kristina Wilson
picture of stars from TLC's Rattled
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"Rattled" stars Sal, Destiny, Kristina and Jason (and their children) take in a soccer game.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? This is the question that I ask myself on a regular basis. I am going to be honest, really honest. I am about to say the thing that is so unspeakable, almost no one would dare say it. I am more unhappy now that I have a child. I can feel the jeers coming toward me as I type these words so I want to clarify. I would never change a thing. My son has made me feel more alive and in love than anything I have experienced in my life so far. With that said, childbirth has fundamentally changed everything about me. It has made me more lonely than I have ever been. It has made me feel more commoditized than I have ever felt. It has tested everything I believe.

It is hard to believe that it was two years ago when I got pregnant. Several months before that Jason and I had taken stock of our lives. We loved our jobs, we lived in a nice place, we had great friends. Everything was in order and so it seemed like a great time to start a family. I have heard this argument used before in many ways: once I have X dollars, I will get married, once I have X job, I will start a family. The trap in this line of thinking, I have now learned, is that making big life changes inevitably messes with everything that was previously lined up. The changes that come with a new baby are endless. And these changes hit me like a semi truck. I was immediately in survival mode, reacting to whatever life threw at me rather than proactively pursuing experiences. For the first time, in a long time, I felt helpless and insecure. My body was a wreck, my mind was overwhelmed, my relationship seemed only to exist for the sake of sharing laundry duties.

In August of 2015, The Washington Post put out an article titled "It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment -- even the death of a partner." The article reported on a German study of happiness after childbirth. They report that happiness goes up during pregnancy in anticipation of the child but then it falls after the birth. It reported that the happiness decline was sustained over the first two years of a child's life. It reported that this was the norm. No one is talking about it, but a majority of new parents are feeling a little sad.

Last night over dinner with a friend, I got up the nerve to tell her how I was feeling. My friend, who has a baby 6 days older than Lincoln, said that she had also been feeling the same but was too ashamed to tell anyone. We talked about the endless running from home to daycare to work to daycare to home. We talked about the lack of time we had to actually be with our children during the week. We were forthcoming about the emptiness we would feel if we gave up work we love to spend all day with our children. We spoke about how the child starts to feel like the job after the job. We spoke about the compromises, endless compromises. We talked honestly about how many days over the past year we felt sad, really sad.

But in the very same breath, we shared photos of our boys with each other. We talked about her recent family trip to Mexico and I spoke about taking Lincoln to his first professional sports event, a soccer game (with Destiny and Sal). We talked about how we could not imagine our lives without our amazing children. Here in lies one of the great mysteries of life. How can one thing be the cause of so much joy and so much sadness simultaneously? I suppose that this is why we created poetry and music and art. How else can we explain such things?

In a few short hours I will leave the office to go get Lincoln from daycare and my second job will begin: pick up, take home, feed dinner, bath, change, nurse, read, then put to bed. Even though my energy will be on empty, I will use each little smile or laugh as fuel to get me through. Then I will crash down onto the couch and my mind will once again begin asking: "is there light at the end of the tunnel?" And I will know in my heart that there is.

Kristina Wilson is the CEO of the innovative childcare agency, Sitters Studio. She lives in New York City with her husband and son, Lincoln. They all can be seen Tuesday nights on TLC's new series, "Rattled."