Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My wife has morphed into someone I hardly recognize following the birth of our two kids. Before kids, she was funny, easygoing, and a joy to be around. After kids, she is now consumed with severely restricting what they (and we) eat. She has banned tap water, flu vaccines, regular laundry detergent, sunscreen, and I could go on.
Some things I think are pretty far out and not backed by legitimate science. She will not budge — and more and more stuff becomes off-limits! Her days are consumed by this new “natural” lifestyle. Our friends are avoiding us (even though they have kids the same age), and I don’t even have to ask why.
I know you will suggest counseling, but this just seems like her mothering style, take it or leave it. I just miss seeing her laughing and enjoying life. And I’m a little sad my kids have never swum in a chlorinated pool, for instance.
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Parenthood Personality Change
Has she been screened for anxiety? (Ducking under desk.)
Re: Change: I’m with Carolyn. I have anxiety and when I had my child, I felt consumed with the fear that so many things were out of my control. It sounds like your wife is attempting to assuage feelings of helplessness by trying to control her immediate environment. There is hope through treatment and support from people who love her (like you). Talk to your wife. Let her know you love her and miss seeing her enjoy life.
The way you put it is lovely and probably the best (if slim) chance to avoid upsetting her. “I miss seeing you enjoy life.” That’s it. Thank you.
Re: Change: This isn’t a “mothering style,” this is delusional thinking. If she won’t go, please get some counseling for yourself. I was raised by someone whose thinking became increasingly irrational, and watching my other parent going along with the “new normal” still makes me angry.
Valuable perspective, thanks.
Re: Change: As a pediatrician, I can say the lack of things like flu shots and sunscreen cause legitimate risks to these kids. It would be hard for me to recommend to just back down here. I would also agree the mother’s behavior raises concern for some sort of psychopathology.
A primary care physician may be a resource to discuss some of these fears with mom and provide her with information based on good science, as well as possible referrals for mom herself. The writer may want to give the physician a heads-up prior to the visit.
In my experience, people embrace doctors when they agree, and denounce them when they don’t. But, it’s worth a try. The heads-up is crucial.
Carolyn: I know she will not take kindly to the suggestion of screening for anxiety. My default was to ride it out and maybe she'll change back to her old self, even though her trajectory is worsening. And I will do solo counseling if needed, but I’m just so sad about this.
Of course — sad and scared and worried about your kids. But instilling fear of the world is a form of abuse. Talk to your pediatrician, just you. Fortify yourself, then take this on
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