Where’s the village?

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.

Kx

Find your person.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the things we feel we must be doing that we are blind to the things that are actually happening.

Since becoming a mother my life feels like it has been turned completely on it’s head. For the better, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it. I will admit though, it is the hardest thing I have ever done.

All of a sudden, there was a wee small tiny human that depended on me for EVERYTHING!! You become their whole world and, for me, that thought was terrifying. I was just about capable of looking after myself and hubby (and he is a grown man).

In the early hours of the morning, in the midst of a night feed, I looked at Elsie snuggled in my arms and realised that everything I do with her, everything I say, will help to shape the person she will become. Wholly petrifying! And then, because I had never done anything like this before, I started questioning whether I was a good enough mother and whether I was doing it right. Compound panic.

When she was about 3 weeks old I started going to a mother and baby group. I’ve never been one to “fit in” and I really noticed it then. I was acutely aware that I was doing things slightly differently to the majority of the other ladies there. I was one of only two women to be breastfeeding, I didn’t put my baby down, she was in baby grows and not proper clothes and, more evidently, I looked like the living dead whilst they all had nice clothes and make up on and hair beautifully straightened.

As the weeks went on I felt increasingly more alienated, which looking back on it now, had nothing to do with the ladies there and everything to do with my own feelings of panic and inadequacy. At the same time as this, I started to get well-meaning advice. In my head all I was hearing was that I needed to change everything I was doing with Elsie and then I would be parenting properly, she’d sleep through, I wouldn’t be tired, I’d be able to present a clean and tidy house to visitors, I’d look like I actually wanted to see people and maybe I wouldn’t be so miserable. In short, I’d be normal.

I’ve realised this year that I spent the first 12 months of Elsie’s life trying to do what I thought I ought to be doing for my baby and family from a picture I had built out of what other people were doing and what I was “meant” to be doing. So ultimately, by Christmas I felt like a complete and utter failure. I failed at being a mother, I failed at being a wife, I was a crappy friend and just a useless human being in general.

Since September last year I have met two amazing women from totally different parts of my life who have helped me to start seeing that this actually isn’t the case.

I have a brilliant family, I can’t have done too badly as we are all still here and most days actually clean and dressed.

I have the best friends any one could ever wish for, I have just realised I need to let them in. Ladies, we shall call you S, H, C and N, you know who you are.

I have a wonderfully supportive (and crackers) group of women on the interwebs whom I would never have met without becoming a mother.

Your story won’t be the same as mine, but you will have moments, days, weeks where you feel so overwhelmed by something that it is the only thing that matters, that you are the only person that can do anything about it and no one will understand, or care.

We all need someone to stand with us, even if they cannot actually fix it for us. Let them in. You don’t have to tell them everything, you don’t have to tell them anything but just let them know you need them.

Find your person and be kind to yourself. You are ARE worth it and you are most definitely not a failure.

Kx

p.s. It is now my belief that you cannot have a tidy house with a toddler.

 

 

 

A letter to my Daughter …

Dear Elsie,

I know that you are only little at the moment (and can’t read) but I wanted to write you a letter to tell you a big ol’ bunch of things that I will tell you when you are older, but you might not want to listen to. Especially if you have decided for the briefest of moments that I am uncool, which I point out now, I will never ever be. Let us not forget that.

You are, already, a phenomenal human being. Watching you grow and learn every day has been the most amazing thing I have seen. From seeing you realise when you were super tiny that that thing that waves around when you get excited was your own hand to you realising this week that if you smile sweetly enough at someone they are likely to give you their breakfast has been a wonderful journey of emotions that I have loved sharing with you. This is only the start.

I will give you many pieces of advice in your life, most of which will probably be along the “Yes, I know everyone else is doing it, but you are not having AWESOME tattooed across your forehead. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.” lines. There are, however, a few pieces that I want to share with you now.

  • Your curiosity for EVERYTHING is something you should never lose. It will lead you to beautiful places and people. Never be afraid to ask questions and rarely just take “No!” for an answer. I promise to try to explain why you cannot do something, rather than give you a flat no.
  • Remember to take some time to do something creative. Bake some bread, draw a picture, sing like a loon whilst dancing in the rain. Your body and soul will thank you for it. Now you are steadier on your feet we shall be practising the singing and dancing bit, you have the loon bit inherently sorry.
  • You will kiss a few frogs before you find your prince. This is not to say that each froggy frog will not feel like “the one”. If it turns out that they aren’t I will always be there with blankets and tissues and tea and cake and cuddles. As will your father. He may be secretly rejoicing that the “youth” has vamoosed, because he probably didn’t like him anyway.
  • Be kind to yourself. Speak to yourself as you would someone you love.
  • Eat cake.
  • There are a lot of people, blood family and chosen family, that love you very very much. They may not be very close in distance but they will always be there if you need them.
  • This last one is a big one, if you can only remember one thing I tell you let it be this. Do not EVER let someone tell you that your are not good enough or are incapable of doing something.  You can, and will, do whatever you set your heart and mind to. Remember that other people’s negativity towards you is a reflection of their own fears and insecurities and not about you or your abilities.

Your dad and I will always love you and we will always be there for you, whatever you decide to do. We will probably all have moments where we don’t agree but that won’t change the way we feel.

A few last thoughts that are less mushy but equally important.

If you want to get something pierced, please tell me first. I will more than likely come with you.

Not everything in a Disney film is true. There are no delightful woodland creatures that come into your house and tidy everything up. Your fairy godmother is not a small plump creature with wings. She is a gorgeous lady called Aunty Sarah, who makes awesome cakes and is a very good listener.

As much as your father will try to make you believe there is a small family of weasels living in his beauteous beard, there is not. Sad but true.

I have probably missed some major parental points but hey! Bringing up a family is a learning curve for everyone.

Lots of love,

Mum xx

p.s. I will not be offended if you didn’t want to see my face every two hours at night.

Happy Friday

Baby is at the childminders and I’m taking a break from sewing to have a cuppa and some wooly therapy. Yep, that’s a rusk. I’ve run out of biscuits. What are you all up to today?

Kx

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