Last year I wrote a post about me and motherhood. If you haven’t read it then you can take a gander here.
I was astonished by the amount of positive responses I received and the amount of women that contacted me to say that they were feeling the same and had no idea that other people were too. And that got me thinking.
Mental health is at last becoming a more talked about subject. But, that seems to be as long as you are talking about someone else’s mental health. Start talking about your own and the person opposite you will probably start looking a bit uncomfortable.
From an early age, when we tell someone that we are a bit sad or that we are angry, we get all manner of phrases lobbed at us and not a lot of listening happens. “Don’t be sad, it’s sunny out.” “Oh don’t be silly, man up!” And the WORST possible thing that can happen to an English person is someone answering anything but “Good, thank you” when you’ve asked how they are.
There is still a huge social stigma attached to sharing your feelings and “diseases of the mind”. You can be off work with a broken leg and no one bats an eyelid but heaven forbid that you are off with stress. The sad thing is that because of the way we are conditioned, that person who is off with stress will be instantly labelled by the majority of their peers. They will question what he has to be stressed about, “seems alright to me”, why he needs time off work to “deal” with it, maybe she’s just lazy? Why did they employ her in the first place, she’s clearly not cut out for the job.
Why do we do this? Why don’t we help to support that person rather than rallying the troops to vilify them?
Forgive me for a couple of minutes as I now appear to disappear off on a slight tangent and please, do NOT take this as a sob story. It isn’t.
When I was pregnant with Elsie, I was really looking forward to how close to other women having a baby would make me. You are supposed (that was my impression and expectation) to get this wonderful supportive village of women when you’ve had a baby. Almost as soon as it comes out, boom! Instant support and community. Some people get this, I didn’t. To say I was disappointed was the understatement of the century.
My nearest family/friends were over an hour’s drive away, there was no practical support. When my husband went back to work it was just me and the baby. All. Day.
I tried to go to baby groups, to find my village. In my sleep deprived, highly emotional, no-one to talk to state I was now being told that my 3 week old should be having a nap right now, I should have got over my baby blues, baby X doesn’t feed that often, baby Y doesn’t need to do what your baby does, how can you not find the time for a shower everyday? Someone mentioned post natal depression, they were told it was just their hormones and because they were breast feeding. I didn’t feel supported. I didn’t find my village.
Slowly but surely it dawned on me that I hadn’t broken my baby and I wasn’t a dreadful mother because I did X instead of Y. I realised that most of what was being said was lies. It was mostly a cover up because no one wanted to be seen to be a bad mother. I got cross. Why were we putting each other down to make ourselves feel better and WHY were we lying to each other when we’d all had awful nights? Why was post natal depression such a taboo subject and why weren’t we helping each other?
When we become mothers our whole life is pretty much turned upside down, for every single one of us. It is, for most of us, for the better but it is a hard and bumpy ride. It would be made an awful lot easier if we helped each other through it.
Family life is busy. It’s noisy, screechy and full of washing and cleaning and work and bedtimes and dinners to cook. It’s splitting yourself between your work and your home, your husband/wife and your kids, your friends/extended family or trying to run everything single handedly and at some point trying to shoehorn sometime in for you. This can make us overwhelmed, undervalued and hugely resentful, of everyone and everything. I’ve even been jealous of the cat. True story, sooooooo much sleep and belly rubs.
All of us are busy trying to juggle things (and sometimes dropping them) and all of us have things going on that other people can’t see. Most of the time a you don’t need a solution to baby’s sleep problem or the fact that Oscar won’t eat his pees or will only wee in the vegetable patch, it’s a phase. Sometimes a mumma just needs a wee in peace and a hug. Hold the baby and give the hug.
Let’s build our villages back, ladies.