Mums matter was the theme of maternal mental health awareness week last week. This is an important topic, we don’t talk about it enough. When I was first a mum I would have absolutely never, ever, ever considered that I mattered. I didn’t consider how I felt in my pregnancy mattered, all I cared about was the babies. I never thought about how I birthed and why that mattered, I never thought about recovery and why that was important.
Somebody telling me that I should be in the house for a month after giving birth, I would have laughed at the thought. Or giving myself any space. I remember when I returned to work post kids and suddenly having that space without any children I was like, “Oh my goodness”. The relief from the intensity was immense, because I literally never took that time to myself in that whole first year.
For those of you who don’t know me, my first pregnancy was a IVF, we had twins through IVF. I obviously had anxiety all the way through that, but didn’t realise that’s what I had. I fell pregnant again quite quickly afterwards, so when the twins were just over a year old, which was a spontaneous pregnancy and a complete shock to the system. I ended up with three children under the age of 2 as they were 22 months apart.
And in that whole time I never even thought about self care, never thought of why it was important to look after me. When my third child was about nine months old, I became extremely unwell with depression. And in that whole of that time since becoming a mum, I don’t think I ever went to a class on my own. I never really took a day out on my own. I rarely did anything to put the deposit into the Tricia bank, to look after me.
I just didn’t really think about it. And in fact any time I did, I would feel really, really guilty about it and had huge internal judgements about it.
When I returned to work, I used to meet this mum who used to put her child into nursery when I used to put my children into nursery. She didn’t work. And I remember thinking why would you do that? That’s ridiculous. You can just keep the baby at home. Why is she doing that? And now I totally get it, I totally understand, because that is so, so, so important. I had these awful judgement about her which in fact were totally incorrect – she needed those two mornings to look after herself.
Looking back, I think if I had done an awful lot more self care and I had done an awful lot more looking after me, things could have been completely different, and I think I’d have been in a completely different place. The way that I eventually got better was actually returning to work. When my third was 18 months old, I went out and got a new job. By that stage I was on medication and started to receive counselling but it was definitely that return to work and the space from home that got me better.
Work became my self care, and my time away from my children. And that was because I could tell myself that with work, it’s okay to put my children into nursery or ask grandparents to look after them. But asking grandparents to look after them so I could go off for a swim, or go get my hair done, or go for a walk, or do something for myself, I could not do that. I felt this huge amount of guilt as though there was something wrong with asking for time for me.
And that brings me back to I think there’s so many barriers why we don’t, as mums, do enough to look after ourselves. And that is absolutely without a doubt, guilt. We feel so, so, so, so guilty that we are doing something wrong by taking time out to ourselves. We feel so guilty for wanting time away from our children. We end up in this situation where we feel guilty when we’re with our children, because we’re not enjoying it 100% of the time, because it’s intense, we’re not getting help, and the days are long.
We’re not meant to be parenting in that way. And a lot of you who follow me know a lot of my thoughts about that, so you absolutely know that that’s one of my theories about why we become so overwhelmed and can become so ill, it’s because we’re not meant to be parenting the way that we actually are.
Then when we’re not with our children we then feel guilty, because we feel guilty that we’ve left our children with somebody else. And this guilt is one of the really overwhelming emotions that we have as mums, that we’re just not getting it right, that we don’t deserve it. And that’s another barrier, is that we feel that we don’t deserve it, that we’re not worth it. That we can’t prioritise ourselves, that we’re not important. We always have to put our baby’s needs above our needs.
There’s so much here that is really wrong, because fundamentally when we as mums are well looked after, then that has a massive ripple effect. When we as mums are well looked after, then we can then start to support our babies a lot better. We can support our partners a lot better. It’s that ripple effect to them.
When mums are well supported, and why mums matter is that when we’re supported, then we can support our babies. And that extends out to the wider family, to the wider community and society as a whole. It ripples.
Our partners need support too, because if they’re well supported, they can then support mum and support their baby, and support the family. This is often overlooked and partners are often totally disregarded but their needs are vitally important too. Partners matter too.
Every mum I have worked with is absolutely amazing. And every mum that I have worked with has done her absolute best, 110%. Many mums come with these feelings of guilt, or overwhelm, or overload. Or they’re feeling anxious about things. And that is because they care so much about their babies. Every mum that I’ve worked with, whether that’s on a one to one basis, in the groups that I’ve supported, Overcome Overload, EFT, Coaching clients or those mums through Juno, wherever it is that I’ve support them, they are 110% doing their best. And the reason why they feel so guilty, and the reason they feel so anxious, and the reason why they feel the way that they feel is because they care so much.
To all the mums out there, I want you to really acknowledge how much of an amazing job you’re doing. You are amazing. You should be so, so, so proud that every single day you’re doing everything you’re doing to the absolute best of your ability, whatever that might be. And whether right now you’re experiencing a mental health issue and you’re really struggling, I know, because I’ve been there, that you are doing your absolute best job that you possibly can do right now at this moment in time.
I think we are doing an amazing job, and you should be really, really, really proud of yourself. If you’ve got a mum out there that you’re really, really, really proud of, let them know, or share this post with them and let them know what an amazing job that they’re actually doing.
Much love, Tricia xxx