The Best Fears of Our Lives
Russell D. Moore on the Good Father’s Quiet Desperation
Somebody please help me. I’m really, really depressed, and I don’t know what to do. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know I was depressed until a new study came out, and I’m at high, high risk. An article by Vanderbilt and Florida State sociology professors, based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households, has concluded that parents are more susceptible to depression than non-parents.
According to the Sacramento Bee’s report, “Parents experience significantly higher levels of depression than grown-ups who don’t have children.”
I still thought I was okay, since I’m a reasonably happy man. That is, until I saw the definition of the problem. According to the Bee: “The researchers suggest that worry is a lifelong cost of having children.” And don’t think it gets better when they leave the house: “Parents of grown children (whether they live at home or have moved out) and parents without custody of minor children exhibit more signs of depression than other parents.”
A Parent’s Worry
If this is the “cost” of parenting, and one wishes to call it “anxiety” or “depression,” so be it. At times, I suppose it is, and if so, most of us will pay it gladly. The question that must be asked, though, is why do parents worry this way?
I feel sorry for a young man who has been rejected by the woman he thought was meant to be his wife, but I’ve never cried about it. I can imagine myself weeping behind closed doors, though, if it ever happened to my son Timothy. I’ve always loathed child molesters, and raged against the way the courts and churches so often coddle them. But I’ve never had my blood pressure accelerate the way it does when a socially awkward man kneels to talk to my son Benjamin.
I hope I don’t succumb to the sin of anxiety, of lack of trust in God. But I do worry about my sons. I hope for the best for them. I feel the weight of my example before them. Before I became a father, I felt conviction of sin when I snapped at someone, but I never felt the depression that comes with realizing that I have snapped at one of my sons.
I feel that way because I know I’m setting out paths they’ll walk in. It is a burden to know that my sons will hear Russell D. Moore in their own voices one day, just as I see Gary Russell Moore more and more in the mirror and hear him in my voice. I had an exceptionally good dad, a man who worked hard and was faithful to my mother and to us.
A friend of mine mentioned the disappointment he felt as a teenager when he saw out of the corner of his eye his father “check out” a woman walking by on the street. I never saw my dad do that, and can’t even imagine it. I never saw my mother wonder where he was at the end of the day. She knew. He was managing a car dealership so he could come home and collapse in exhaustion, to start the whole thing over the next day.
Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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