Despite my greatest efforts, my resistance against embracing motherhood as a full time job has finally imobilised me.
I’ve told myself that I’m young enough to mother three children, have a full time job and a hobby. It’s taken me a good six years to crash and burn. I can sit back, telling my story and pushing the blame onto so many people and so many things. However, it not only enables my determination to burn out, it fills me with a resent that is only eating away at my energy, daily.
There is alot of talk these days about self love, which I thought I understood. Self love is pampering, time off and relaxation right? Wrong. I am now coming to understand and accept that self love is making good choices for your own self. It’s taking time and energy to understand ourselves the way we wish others would. I’ve reached a point in my life where I now realise the only one who can make me happy in this life is myself. Short term, of course we can rely on the happinesses of the every day, however when we primarily rely on that to have a sense of fulfillment we are setting ourselves up to fall down.
In reality, not every day can we full of joy, happiness and fulfillment; we naturally face challenging times on a daily basis too. It’s what gives us balance as human beings in society. Sometimes the balance is not level and our underlying ability to cope with small stresses begins to give way, resulting in physical and mental health issues.
How then, can we establish a strong, underlying foundation of fulfillment despite the everyday circumstances? We can begin by saying “no”. For me this was the only starting point to cease the destructive cycle of opening the door to the relentless pressure from responsibilities and personal expectations. When we can begin to say no, we begin to take control over what we’re allowing to enter our minds and ultimately we are getting to know our needs and wants as individuals.
This journey of self love is at its rawest stage, currently. The small amount of strength I am experiencing so far is maintaining me and keeping me afloat as I discover more about my needs and wants as a woman and Mother.
Over the past year, the very meaning of depression has become apparent to me. I have previously defined my experience of depression as ‘postnatal’ after all as a Mum of three children under 7, that seems like the less daunting reason for the way I feel. This would be completely justifiable in my circumstances and in the circumstances of many women. Now, I wouldn’t usually accept a male perspective on the intensity of labour, however my Father said something to me that changed my outlook on birth from my second child. The empathic man that he is, he told me as I dwelled on the fear and anticipation of giving birth for a second time “the thing is Beth, labour is called labour because it is laborious. It’s hard work but you can do it” – in that moment, I was so focussed on the pain of labour that his comment completely stunned and rationalised the situation for me. He transformed my approach to labour, he turned my fear of unpredictable pain into something I could hold and control.
Hard work is a constant within motherhood, it builds up resilient, dedicated and selfless individuals. How then, could such an experience cause depression. For many, postnatal depression, anxiety and trauma is a very real part of their ongoing experience. We can however embrace the hard work of motherhood as an experience like no other, one that not only makes us fulfilled Mothers but skillful individuals that have an abundance of maturity and experience to bring to our careers and relationships.
The reasons behind my depression are deep and personal. I do however, feel immensely grateful for the hardwork I have in front of me, from toddler tantrums to university papers; I feel a huge sense if fulfillment in my role of Mum and truly believe it is a constant remedy for the depression I experience.
Thank you Dad for being the rational, caring and bold individual that you are.
When we think about weaknesses, do we ever delve deep enough to truly make a fair and productive reflection?. When I reflect upon my own weaknesses, I find myself contemplating outside opinions mostly and what the world has narrated to me from school, work to motherhood. Majority of the time we allow our understanding of ourselves to be defined by outward influences. Although this is a very common, human thing to do, we have to find a careful balance when processing opinions and feelings to the final output understanding. This is easier said than done, mind you.
As much as I love the processing systems of a computer, we as humans hold far more responsibility to come up with opinions which consider many emotional complexities and factors. Very recently, I came to the conclusion that for majority of my life, I have actively defined myself as a tired person. There is part of me that feels silly even saying this, but as I mentioned earlier… We are only human.
When I say I actively defined myself as a tired person, this came in many forms. Being a Mum of three, I fully immersed myself in the coffee for survival generation. As much as I love a good cup of coffee, this small perk throughout the day only gave me minor mental energy… “Oh, time for a cuppa now!”. I don’t know why it took me so many years to realise that coffee was a mere comfort throughout the day and not this magic potion that would pull me through am to pm. That’s the thing with the age we live in, we are surrounded with an array of tips, tricks and lifestyles that should make us everyday super heroes.The reality is though that as we lean on such comforts or tips, we mask over our own reality and strengths. Often, we are left with a fancy coffee pot and a wardrobe full of gym wear. I mean these things do work to a certain extent, but eventually we do have to step back and do a bit of self analysis. Being described by many family members as “a girl who needs herWe are only human. When I say I actively defined myself as a tired person, this came in many forms. Being a Mum of three, I fully immersed myself in the coffee for survival generation. As much as I love a good cup of coffee, this small perk throughout the day only gave me minor mental energy… “Oh, time for a cuppa now!”. I don’t know why it took me so many years to realise that coffee was a mere comfort throughout the day and not this magic potion that would pull me through am to pm. That’s the thing with the age we live in, we are surrounded with an array of tips, tricks and lifestyles that should make us everyday super heroes.The reality is though that as we lean on such comforts or tips, we mask over our own reality and strengths. Often, we are left with a fancy coffee pot and a wardrobe full of gym wear.
I mean these things do work to a certain extent, but eventually we do have to step back and do a bit of self analysis. Being described by many family members as “a girl who needs her sleep” left me feeling pretty lacking in self confidence and if they see it too, the it must be true. By allowing this to define me, I began to fear late nights and built up so much frustration with being a tired person. But for me, it isn’t enough to just accept something that has been hindering me slyly for many years.This was when I accepted that tiredness is my weakness and held a lot of unentitled control over me. Now I’m in a position where I’m working on building up my resistance against tirerdness and the fear of fatigue. By actively altering my mindset in small ways, I’m now able to recognise the difference between physical tierdness and mental fatigue. Both things that previously defined me, no longer have control over my everyday life. I motivate myself by accepting my responsibilities with a target of having time to write and be creative when the children are asleep at the end of the day. By having that I begin to strengthen myself mentally and physically.
Coffee no longer gets the pat on the back… but I do. My self understanding is my control and power bank. This is my personal experience of battling with a weakness and it all began with recognising it. Your Situation may be similar or polar opposite, I do however encourage delving deeper into understanding yourself more. It may seem a bit nit-picky to begin with, but that silly old thing that blends into your every day, could be impacting you more than you know.
Have you ever been in the countryside as evening is drawing in, minimal artificial light and that kind of peace that makes you feel like you’re breathing for the first time.
While on a camping holiday in Pembrokeshire as a child, I distinctly remember waking in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom, which was on the other side of the site. Quietly walking through the field with my Dad, avoiding bumping into tents. We gazed upwards to the midnight sky, which was like nothing I had seen before. Twenty years later the vision replays in my mind.
That night, the sky was weighing down over us like a vast canopy with layers upon layers of stars. I felt dizzy as I attempted to walk and permanently gaze. It took my breath away then and it takes my breath away now as I describe it. A natural phenomenon that prompts stories and inspiration.
When I contemplate how the light of a star reaches our tiny visual perspective here on Earth, it’s hard not to be impacted. It is said that the stars we see most probably still exist but what we are seeing is the state of the stars a few years ago. If this is true, the stars further away but still visible within our universe could potentially be billions of years old. Unfortunately or fortunately for us, there is no way of proving this. We may continue to bask in the great beauty of our solar system, as the light blasts through generations.
My friends in the sky, how can you be so many but so individually significant? Wherever my eyes choose to rest on your beautiful canvas, I will feel as tiny as you look to me. Your light is powerful, your community is vast. You’ve created stories, educated us, changed perspective and encouraged belief. Can we as humans, grains of sand over generations transform our story into one that will create, educate, encourage and inspire thousands of years later.
Our responsibility is clear, create testimonies where we are, love others who surround us, maintain our roaring identities that pave a way for the future to join. Because whether you like it or not, today will be visible 50 years from now.
It’s that time of year, when anticipation and joy is in the air. We enjoy the comfort of our cozy, festive homes and the tempting abundance of treats in every shop we visit. I honestly love Christmas and all the memories I have of Christmas are warm and happy. As a follower of Christ, I have always had this sense of celebration; not just for the gifts or prospect of a new year.
Jesus is my new beginning every day, He is the one that keeps me above water when the world is pulling me under.
Reflecting on the actual story of Christmas, I have thought about the journey Mary and Joseph made. For an expectant Mother and anxious Father, it would have been intense to say the least. They travelled strong by their faith in Gods plan and purpose. It’s the story we hear about in the Nativity plays and on the TV. But when we read further, we are reminded that the long journeys didn’t end there. After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to seek refuge from the threat and persecution stemming from King Herod.
Reflecting on this part of the story with deeper thought and realism, I have feelings of despair of the unknown, pain for the those families whose sons were killed and an overwhelming sense of confusion. I believe the only way Mary, Joseph and the mourning families could see tomorrow after experiencing the murderous corruption, physically and mentally is by accepting that life is more than what is happening here, now.
In comparison, I think of the millions of individuals and families that flee from their homes, seeking refuge and the warmth of knowing their children are safe from the danger they faced. I want to speak carefully as I write this, as my understanding of the experiences people seeking refuge is so on the surface. All I know is that the level of pain and distress is in a category of its own. We hear stories of refugees in the news, always painted with a political stance. Politics has this dangerous way of minimizing the real experiences, it launches a load of questions and information our way that leaves us feeling overwhelmed by what is right and wrong.
This is where empathy is essential to us as a human race. If we first listen to story with empathy, we begin to find ourselves on the freezing cold journey, approaching a foreign land. We begin to think in a way which questions “what next?”, we stand in a pair of shoes that can only go forward.
Reading the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with baby Jesus, we know the details, we see the bigger picture. In that moment though, the reassurance Mary and Joseph had was their faith in God and the plans that had gone before them. They would have had very human experiences, very human pains and very human fears, but this was the only way forward for them as a family, a scorching fire was chasing them and they had to flee.
Having a faith is a bridge that opens a path into tomorrow, into a tomorrow better than today. Even if we don’t see that straight away, one day we will reflect and see the resilience, wisdom and character that our experiences has gifted us with. Faith varies all around, however you see yours just know that it is as essential as the blood flowing around our bodies. It is what breathes us into our future.
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.”
Have you ever heard the phrase “sleep when you die”? What do you think of when you hear it?
As a counsellor by trade and an all round sensitive soul; words impact me greatly. I recall being taught in university that every word and phrase is valuable in the process of communication and therapy. I tapped into this as I truly believe that the words we choose or our subconscious chooses to use, expresses more about what’s being said. This effected my practice and relationships in a way that was both a curse and a cure.
If you didn’t already know, I’m Welsh by heritage. In Wales it’s quite common to see individuals speaking with their hands and using phrases that although spoken in English are a bit trivial and sound like a joke. “I’ll be there now, in a minute” as amusing as it sounds, when determining an ETA this makes complete sense to me. Not quite now, not quite in a minute but very soon!
Wherever you come from, we can agree that communication from destination to destination and from one relationship to another. Being understood is the difference between our personal opinions and emotions being valued and undervalued. As I’ve blogged about before, our personal stories are to be treasured and not to be thrown out into the open sea to be caught by any wave passing by. The same goes for the reverse of this. If we catch on to any opinion, trend or emotion that flies our way, we open ourselves up to be deeply affected by things that hold no benefit or positive outcome both ways.
In real time, imagine being a parent in the school yard who socially attracts many individuals! You are unoffcially the friend, the Mum, the teacher assistant, the governor, the mediator and the taxi! How exhausting. Your capacity to offer quality understanding and support to each of these roles fluctuate, people will feel let down and you will burn out emotionally. The same goes for the content we expose ourselves too on a daily basis.
The phrase “sleep when you die” to me is a backwards motivation to get stuff done. It bothered me for a while, with 2 kids at the time and one on the way, all I wanted to do was sleep! Even now with 3 young children, sleep in my constant goal. I had this pressure taunting me though, that people were achieving more with their time, while I was cleaning up after kids and craving sleep.
These type of phrases communicate to a very impressionable generation, that you are going to miss out if you don’t chase that money or promotion! In reality, in order to create a smooth path of wellbeing and professional success you will need more than lack of sleep.
By surrounding yourself with stimulation for your mind, whether this is reading a new book or blog! Creating a daily space to find peace through meditation and prayer, eating well and most importantly listening to your bodies call to rest. We may not be able to control all the trends or communication we come in contact with, but how we react is down to each of us. We may have to feel the pressure of fire phrases before we understand if it’s relevant or not, but the next time we know to do a U turn and seek positivity in our interactions with this world.