Q: I've had a pretty successful life so far -- solid career, married well, a couple of good kids, nice home, etc. But I don't want to miss anything, so I'm asking other men for their best advice for the next, say, 20 years. What's your take?
Jim: I think the key is to ask yourself: Where do you really find your fulfillment? If it's somewhere other than your wife and kids, you need to rethink your priorities.
Let me share a personal example. I love to play golf. When I was first married, I would often spend four or five hours of the weekend hitting the fairway with my buddies. But when our boys were born, my wife, Jean, came to me and said, "You know, you're spending a lot of time on the golf course over the weekend, while your sons are here at home. Can you find another time to play golf?"
Jean's concern really struck a chord with me. I resolved then and there to devote Saturdays to family time as much as possible. It's a trade-off I was happy to make. I didn't quit golf altogether, but I tried to schedule it during times when Jean and the boys were occupied elsewhere.
Maybe it's not golf for you. Maybe it's another hobby or your career. There's nothing inherently wrong with those things. Men are wired to find fulfillment and satisfaction in a job well done. And it's nice to receive words of affirmation from our teammates or our bosses.
But these things can never take priority over our wives and kids. Investing in our family -- in their own happiness, fulfillment and well-being -- is the most important job in the universe. Nothing else comes close.
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Q: The birth of my child was one of the highlights of my life. But in the weeks since I've found myself struggling through a dark valley of depression and emotional exhaustion. Is this normal? What can I do about it?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Your experience is quite normal and extremely common. Between 50 and 80 percent of new moms are affected by a temporary emotional slump commonly known as "baby blues," while about 10 percent suffer from the more severe form known as postpartum depression.
The "baby blues" usually develop during the first week after delivery; symptoms include irritability, tearfulness, anxiety, insomnia, lack of energy, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating. This emotional and physical slump typically resolves within two weeks, but I would recommend not ignoring it. Emotional support and practical assistance from your husband, family, and friends are extremely important to any woman suffering from the "baby blues."
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a more serious condition that can arise during the first six months after childbirth and may last for several months. A mother with PPD may be so intensely depressed that she has difficulty caring for her baby, or she may develop extreme unrealistic anxiety over the infant's health. While the problem can resolve itself in time, like any other major depression help is needed. Seek professional assistance if symptoms continue for more than two weeks.
If you feel you might be suffering from PPD, our staff counselors will be happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
A much less common, but far more intensive disturbance described as postpartum psychosis occurs after about one in 1,000 deliveries. The condition may include hallucinations, delusions, suicidal thoughts, and even violent behavior. It should be considered a medical emergency and must be evaluated immediately by a qualified psychiatrist. Thankfully, it can be effectively treated with appropriate medication.