Recently, SBS’ Insight had an episode on ‘Coping with Baby’, a discussion on how having a baby can push some couples to the brink.
One particularly poignant moment in the program was when a man talked about his partner succumbing to postnatal depression (PND) to such a degree that she, after the birth of their second child, committed suicide.
The program always includes the possibility of feedback by way of posting comments online. I hazarded a comment whereby I linked the incidence of PND to our isolated suburban way of living. Here was my comment:
Isolation in Suburbia: The obsession with privacy and ‘own fenced off homes’ in isolation of family ,friends, closeness and intimacy is not conducive for having babies at all, much more an invitation to disaster. We need closeness of family and other people, not isolation and privacy. Medication is not the only answer for pre- or post-natal depression. Suburban living has a lot to answer for. +16 agree – 0 disagree
It must have struck a chord and with the 16 ‘agree’ votes I felt somewhat emboldened and vindicated in my view that we rely too much on medication to cure PND and not enough on how we actually live.
Where are the shoulders of those that can be sobbed upon when the need arises? Where are parents, neighbours, friends and others that in a normal functioning society would give solace and a much needed ear?
The answer might well be; that neighbours are hardly ever known, in any case fenced off and probably behind their blinds protecting by hook and crook our insane obsession with privacy.
We of course aid and abet by protecting privacy and would not dream of interfering in that right with any of our own personal problems. That word personal is another word almost banned from conversation. We mustn’t get personal, intrude on others. We often hear, ‘oh but that is just your own personal opinion’. There now seems to be a stigma attached to having a ‘personal opinion’.
Parents and friends are scattered, and probably live far away. Our cities and towns have some of the lowest densities in the world. How can we but live far away from each other?
One of the hall marks of how we live is that we actually see very little of people moving about outside their triple tilt-a-door and remotely controlled garages and SUV cars, or busying themselves in their neighbourhoods.
It got me beat that so many of us insist on gardens and space when we rarely are moving about in those gardens. During daytime it is a rare event indeed to see people outside, chatting or congregating together.
We must, of course have outside barbecues, but a recent survey has shown that Australians actually do very little of that barbecuing compared with other countries. We are just too busy or spend too much time travelling between those huge open and desolate spaces to get to and from work, or childcare centres, or shopping centres, or driving about aimlessly, listlessly.
Anything to escape the ennui of our suburban way of life…our lonely way of life.
Especially after my own experience spending my teen years in Sydney suburbia, with the associated horrors of neighbours kneeling on lawns to price out unwanted species of grass, we were traumatised enough never to live in Torrens Titled separated and fenced-off housing again.
Our first child was born while living in the heart of Sydney at Pott’s Point/ Kings Cross and the next two in the Inner West. The housing was compact and the community close knit. Has anyone ever noticed that in Aboriginal societies we always see them together in groups? They show far greater sophistication in their preference for close communities.
Perhaps the way of our housing is through lack of choice or even decades of economic brainwashing that it ‘ought’ to be our dream and total aim. We also have some of the largest hardware and home improvement stores in the world. On weekends we visit in droves those Mecca’s of zinc alume and silicon guns to improve our homes and thus our standing in the neighbourhood. Those emporiums feed the frenzy of suburban aspirations for dream living.
So, the poor mums, after giving birth and left on their own within the confines of plaster dreams and granite kitchens are supposed to delight in their good fortune. Partners work hard to provide, even a second or third car. But, most mothers still remain, for long periods, on their own.
In isolation we live!