with Frenel Djossa
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
- The Evolution of The Happy as a Mother Podcast
- Supporting A Partner Through Postpartum Depression
- Understanding Your Partner’s Postpartum Journey
- Adjusting To Fatherhood
- Partner Working Away From Home
The Happy as a Mother Podcast has been live for 100 episodes now, can you believe it?!?! I polled my stories for ideas on how we should celebrate the occasion and y’all said you’d like to hear from my husband and get his perspective. Well, you asked and we delivered! Frenel Djossa aka Mr. Happy as a Mother is here to answer YOUR questions about his transition to Fatherhood, what it’s like being married to a therapist, and his experience as we navigated my journey through postpartum depression.
The Evolution of The Happy as a Mother Podcast
Frenel was surprised when I told him I wanted to start a podcast, because he’d been listening to them since 2012 or 2013, and I always made fun of him for it. He always walked around the house with earbuds in while listening to some shows I considered nerdy. But then I found out an influencer I liked had a podcast and I went crawling to him with my tail between my legs asking him to help me navigate how to download it and where to listen.
It wasn’t long before I had taken over his nerdy tech setup, so I could produce my own podcast. “I would say it worked out, simply because I’m the tech guy, and I had the tech stuff. But I wasn’t using it. I felt like the setup was there but it was going to waste,” Frenel said. Once I picked up podcasting, the tech gear got put to good use, and Frenel had to find a new office LOL!
Going to the gym was how I stayed sane during my third postpartum experience. I had 3 kids 3 and under, and the gym was the only thing I had during postpartum that was for me.
One day I was rushing to get to an early gym class on time, and everything that could go wrong did. The track even broke on the door of my van. I got the door closed and decided I’d call a mechanic later, because if I left now—RIGHT NOW—I could still make it to my gym class. Then a cop pulled me over for speeding and threw the book at me.
I just lost it. I was consumed with rage, anger, and sadness. I called Frenel hysterical who worked in downtown Toronto at the time.
I just didn’t feel like myself anymore, and that can be a warning of postpartum mood disorders or mood disorders in general. If you ever start to feel this way, reach out. Because it doesn’t have to be that way, and support is available.
“It’s interesting because you remember that day much more vividly than I do. I was at work getting ready for a meeting when I got your call. The first thing that strikes you is the voice. The fact that you’re having trouble breathing,” Frenel said. Once I calmed down and could talk to him, he knew he had to come home.
It was a two-hour commute.
He knew there was more going on than just what I was hysterical about at the moment, so the conversation became about what the next step should be. “Do you want to talk to someone? Do you want to see a doctor?” he asked. On the train ride home, he kept calling doctors to see who could see me that afternoon until he found one.
I wanted to be a mom of 3 perfectly—no one can be the mom of 3 perfectly—and I was struggling with my mental health. I was a therapist who had to admit I was struggling with my own mental health. Getting to that breaking point was hard, but I’m glad it happened.
Everything changed after that. I struggled to know what I needed, but I knew I needed to see a doctor. Frenel made the appointment, came to pick me up, and said we’d go to the doctor together. Not having to do the mental work of finding an appointment and getting myself booked in made a difference. Your partner may not be able to physically go to the doctor with you, but their support still matters.
“I will say that it helps if the person is willing to accept the help,” Frenel said. “Looking back at the situation, one phrase or word that kept coming back is ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I knew that was a cry for help.”
Supporting your partner through something you’re not really qualified to help with can feel helpless sometimes. It was fortunate for us that Frenel had no preconceived notions of parenthood. “It’s just survival, and this was one more hurdle we had to get through,” he said.
“I can’t say that I fully understand what you were going through. It wasn’t me, so I don’t know all that’s involved. I do know you were having a hard time, and I do know—because you are good at communicating—it started to be too much,” Frenel explained.
“You went to see professionals, you came up with a plan, and then you implemented it. Within days you started feeling better,” he said.
Both of us noticed a difference after a week of getting medication. I enjoyed my role as a mom more than normal. I had been zoned out and spending too much time on my phone. While Frenel didn’t notice I was struggling until I told him, he did notice my behaviour had become inattentive. My coping mechanism was to check out.
If your partner is displaying uncharacteristic behaviours day after day, it could be a sign something is wrong. Frenel said, “The best I can do is support by looking after the kids, looking after all the other stuff, so you have the time and freedom to look after yourself.”
Frenel didn’t have the identity issues adjusting to fatherhood that many other parents experience. “I didn’t have preconceived notions of what it would be, so I didn’t have an idea in my mind. I was excited, but I also knew I had a lot to learn. I viewed it as a learning opportunity,” Frenel explained. With your first kid, everything is a learning journey from changing diapers to the temperature of the bath.
“Part of the reason I didn’t have any preconceived notions is because of exposure to different cultures. For example, fatherhood looks different in Western Africa than it does in the Middle East or Asia versus South America versus North America,” he said. Living in so many different cultures, he saw many examples of different family systems growing up.
“To me it’s about spending time with the kids, watching them grow, seeing them develop. Being around to spend time with them and guide them,” he said.
Partner Working Away From Home
“Communication is key. You need to have an honest conversation with your spouse,” Frenel said. His father also travelled for work a lot, however, Frenel’s father prioritized family by providing a different lifestyle than how he had grown up. Frenel prioritizes family from a relational perspective.
Working away from home twelve hours a day was hard for him, because family is his number one value. But each parent’s experience working long hours will be different depending on their job and circumstance. Frenel did say it helped that his partner understood that this wasn’t something he wanted to do. It’s just what he needed to do to provide for his family.
Postpartum mood disorders are the most common complication of birth. 1 out of 5 moms will experience postpartum depression or anxiety, and the battle is real. I was sinking when Frenel got me the help I needed. I hope by opening up about my struggle, it will help other parents who may be dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety.
If you’re struggling to feel like yourself again or you’re feeling some resentment for your partner who may work away from home, reach out to the Wellness Center. Help is available.
CONNECT WITH ERICA
- Erica | Happy as a Mother Website
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- Happy as a Mother on Pinterest
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Postpartum Prep List
- Unpacking Resentment Workshop
- Happy as a Mother Wellness Center
- Postpartum Support International