Another school pick up, another opportunity for the Hope’s and fears to sneak in…”did he do well today? Or was it time out?”.
I never truly saw the capacity for anxiety to dwell in my mind until I had my children.
Sure, the concerns differ as my experience grows but my heart has found a vulnerability that only a Mother experiences. I should know how to deal with this by now! I thought I solved that problem? I’m exhausted and the kids are at a sleepover, I miss them so much. Being a Mum is both a joy and a confusion, it’s the most complicated relationship you’ll probably ever find yourself in.
They say you truly learn how to drive when you’ve passed your test and out on the real roads! The same goes for Motherhood. We have a period of preparation where we read, we discuss nappies and feeding bottles with experienced Mama’s over coffee, we attend antenatal talks that give us an insight in the life of a newborn. That’s right, just the newborn stuff. I have debated with myself on so many occasions, whether if I was taught more at the beginning, would it have made the slightest difference to the way I am dealing with things now? Practically, I think it would be time wasted. Mentally, I think I would be less shocked by the experiences I have had, being a Mum.
We all have different ways of thinking, feeling and being, so to assume that every Mum will face anxiety could create issues that didn’t have to be there. I do believe however, in order to inspire new Mum’s; we have to show care of the physical and mental health from the very beginning. Whatever their perspective about their own mental health may be, I want to strive to see the next generation of Mum’s equipt with the knowledge and tools that will nuture their mental wellbeing, good or bad. Antenatal care is a key time for Mum’s, whether it’s the first baby or fourth. We can stitch into the fabric of education strategies that equalise the anxiety capacity; we may just begin to combat postnatal depression.
With mental health becoming more spoken about, I think it’s essential for parents to accept that there will be moments where seeking help is the best option. It is also essential that in a generation where the public health care counselling waiting lists are more than 6 months long (UK), we cannot ignore a problem that may or may not occur. In the same way communities equip their houses with damage control where floods are likely, we have to equip ourselves for the challenges ahead that may or may not cause us to suffer with anxiety, worry or depression.
Training with the Family Institute in South Wales taught me so much about my perspective of mental health. One realisation I came to, is that sitting down and having a good conversation with someone, working through challenging topics is actually pretty normal. Mental health is as normal as the body we sit in. It’s just harder for us to comprehend the unseen, but I challenge you today to imagine your mental health as an image in your mind. Whether by using colour, picture, numbers, words, shapes etc. If it helps to mark this down on paper, do so. Let’s get to know our own mental health, whatever position it may be in. Begin the process of welcoming and loving its diversity, that way we may start to understand that it isn’t to be feared, but nurtured.
“Deeply rooted heartache that falls over me when I’m lost in my parenting, it washes me up like a tidal wave. But continue moving on this wave, trusting that the shore will soon be in sight.”
During the moments of life when we feel our opportunities are being stripped away by our responsibilities, we create an opening for negativity to dwell.
Imagine being in work and a patient, client, customer or system has a complaint… we’ve all thrown a mental tantrum wanting to tell that complaint where to go. But imagine if we lived out that “mental tantrum”, a grown adult kicking and screaming because that complaint messed up their plan for the day. Well, you’d probably get sent home, probably embarrass a fair few people and probably would result in a disciplinary meeting.
When responsibility and integrity stand in our way, we sometimes feel hard done by. As if we deserve to do what we want, we deserve that promotion, we deserve that day off, we deserve that cup of coffee! When we carry this deserving belief around with us, we give ourselves a complex that is damaging to our life experiences and to those around us.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be motivated in reaching our goals but by taking aspects of being selfish and selfless, we may just get the right balance. One of the challenges I have faced since having children is finding time for myself… but rather it’s more about finding a way to accept that there will be times when I will be disrupted, I won’t get to complete tasks and overall have little control over my “break time”. And do you know what, that’s ok with me! It took time and developing maturity to get to this point. I no longer freak out if the kids don’t go to sleep on time, I care more for being a patient Mum who engages in conversations my 4 year old (even if I don’t know what’s going on!) It has taught me to value the everyday moments and I am learning more and more about myself and what I am capable of. It’s cliche to say this, but by living for the now… we don’t just get to value the experiences but we nuture our character to be patient, in control and focused on the needs of others.
Mental health, it is a subject that is prevalent within motherhood. Whether you’re a Grandmother, Mother, Aunt or just know one, there’s no denying that mental health problems have existed in motherhood for generations.
During my time training in family therapy, I felt extremely drawn to the power of telling a story in a secure setting. Our mental health is so precious and it worries me that people’s mental health is exposed to all the elements of today’s society. Imagine it like this, our hearts are protected by skin, muscle and rib cage. It’s not part of us we see, but when we expose ourselves to stress; that physical core of us often experiences tension and palpitations which are not part of the normal functioning of our hearts. But when we safely understand our own limitations; some stress can motivate us to move onwards.
The same goes for our mental health, when we expose our emotions and story to the elements of social media, work colleagues or even that family member who thinks mental health is just being happy or sad, we expose alot more than we first think. The truth is, some people just don’t care and you will feel this when you pour your heart out, only to get a one word response or respond abusively.
Bringing awareness to mental health is really important for this generation and the next, but do not expose your story to a world who may just disregard your experience because that poses the risk of becoming your narrative.
Your story is your treasure. It is the experience that made you the person you are today and naturally you will be an example to the next generation. Feeling secure in our own mental health, we should find the processes that will work for us individually and this probably will change from time to time, but treat your mental health with care. Patients in hospital do not have a public audience commentating on their illness and recovery; they have nurses, doctors, support staff and family caring and nurturing the physical needs.
Bring awareness to mental health, process it carefully, use time and reliable sources. See that broken bridge in front of you, see the tools at your side and work alone or together to get to the other side. Then you will look back and can say “yes, you can see the new ground I have laid, you can see where the bad and good have joined but I’m here now. If I walk back and forth over this bridge, my experience will stand strong”
When my son was two, he would only eat rice cakes and apples and bananas and grapes and carrots and oranges and mangoes and the list could go on. He was pretty much Peter Rabbit.
From the outside I was proud of his preferences but after a while I had this fear that something was wrong (saying that now makes me giggle). My eldest daughter definitely ate more meals, she definitely had snacks, she definitely drank lots of water…
And there is the problem.
Have you ever tried one of these diets that “will suit your lifestyle”, are easy to follow and accessible for all. Well I certainly have. They really work wonders once you’ve studied the diet, understood the rules and been inspired by other customer experiences. This may be different for individuals but for me, I can only follow a diet for so long and then I become an unruly member who wants to cook fried chicken and rice and peas from scratch. For me, I struggle to pull back from my need to cook creatively or satisfy my craving for certain foods!
This is in no way an anti diet post but it’s a call to analyse and understand our own perspective on eating habits, especially when it comes to our children. It’s taken me seven years to figure out that actually children don’t like rules. They are born as an unique individual who develop their own taste by trial and error… but eventually they become three-nangers who know who they are, what they like and what they want. As a Mum it’s part of our make up to want our children to be nourished – after all that’s how they grow physically and mentally. For us, this stage can be challenging and often cause a phase of anxiety that is unpredictable and can inevitably reflect onto our children.
In hope of releasing some of this anxiety that I know many Mamas deal with. I want to ask, do the recipe books for babies really help or do they create a barrier between your eating and your child’s. It’s essential that we educate ourselves with what babies can and can’t eat and at what age, for safety purposes. But if we step back and recognise the anxieties related to our childrens eating, we begin the process of trusting our own instinct and put the books away for a rainy day. Most importantly we cease trying make our children walk the same path as their siblings.
Preferences are always going to change, so let’s not get too attached to those go-to’s but also let’s maintain a discipline by limiting the amount of options we offer. After all “Mummy’s house is not a restaurant”