It occurs to me that as mother’s we constantly put our own needs last, whilst many of us realise this we still don’t talk about it enough. Although sleep is what I specialise in I am starting to see that more and more of my clients are struggling with general anxiety and low mood even once the baby is finally sleeping through the night.
It makes me think about all the pressure we put on ourselves to be everything to everyone without a second thought about ourselves. We then completely burn out that all we have the energy for is scrolling on our phones or distracting ourselves with Netflix.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Everything seems so set up for baby and not mum - antenatal classes, giving birth, the aftercare with Health visitors and GPs are all about the baby. One of the memes I came across on social media really resonated with me – it said ‘I didn’t need to know about contraception at my check up, I needed someone to ask how I was’.
How little after we give birth we are asked how we are, even friends and family ask things about the baby, not us. EVERYTHING changes overnight from the way we look to our relationships so why do we not acknowledge this more?
I remember feeling so unsettled after both my girls came home as babies, I felt like a lost child who wanted to run away. Nobody tells you what to expect, people mention baby blues but that is talked about like it is a temporary thing. What I am talking about takes years to adapt too, learning who you are in your new skin, with your new role and the new demands on your time takes years to come to terms with.
I spent the first few years of my daughter’s lives just firefighting through my days, counting down until some magical day when things would go back to ‘normal’. Adapting to my new normal was something I DENYED for a long time. I didn’t want things to change, I didn’t want to lose control I just wanted to be a mum.
I wasn’t depressed, I was more just not overly happy which for someone who wanted nothing more than to have kids surprised me. I felt guilty for wishing my babies days away, willing them to grow up so that I could get my life back.
SUFFERING IN SILENCE
I believe many of us suffer in silence hiding behind our true feelings with shame and fear of being judged even by our own friends and family for not loving every minute of motherhood. Just because you find them extremely irritating, shout at them occasionally and want to run as far away from them as possible does not make you a bad person or a bad mother.
It has become acceptable in today’s society to be busy all the time to be stressed, to not eat well and not move our bodies enough. Being sleep deprived is something that is regularly advertised as part and parcel of motherhood when it doesn’t have to be.
Allowing ourselves to suffer like this is breeding anxiety and depression along with other physical symptoms like chronic pain and diseases. We as mothers do not give ourselves permission to prioritise our own very basic needs, feeling that to do so is selfish.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO INSTEAD
Firstly we need to be setting women’s expectations for motherhood that things like breastfeeding aren’t easy and if you can’t or don’t want to do it then that’s okay. That sleep deprivation is hard to adapt to but doesn’t need to go on past newborn days.
We need to be normalise NOT being okay and speaking up about how we feel. We must ask women how they are and support each other when someone says I am finding this hard. Of course it’s flippen hard, another human being relies on you to keep them alive 24/7.
Mother’s need to recognise their own needs and take time out to think about how they feel and what they want. Even just 5 mins a day where they aren’t interrupted to hear themselves think and to help them to stop firefighting through life in survival mode to actually be present in the moment.
Asking for help shouldn’t feel like you’re failing it’s quite the opposite, babies don’t come with a Manuel, we come with intuition but what if you’re so burnt out mentally you cannot even hear yourself think let alone hear your intuition?
I DON’T CARE ABOUT MYSELF
I am passionate about the fact that mums matter and they need to believe that they matter because as the old saying goes a happy mum equals a happy child.
If a mother isn’t sleeping, she isn’t eating well and she makes no time to relax she will end up struggling with her mental health. Having support systems in place is vital if mothers are to get a chance to have the breaks they need to come to terms with the new them.
A new mother is born when a baby is, that’s another saying that has stayed with me! I had no idea my life was about to be turned upside down and inside out, I wish I had known as I wasted many years feeling rubbish – blaming my husband, my family, where I lived when the problem all along was just that I chose to put myself at the bottom of a long list and I was ultimately sad that I didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t matter to myself anymore, I had completely lost myself.
MAKE A CHANGE
Change is scary, people avoid it like the plague but if something isn’t working, and if it’s not serving you then you need to make that change. People assume making a change is a huge thing but it doesn’t have to be. Just 5 minutes a day can be a big difference, just taking back some of that control will make you feel better.
I make sure I move my body, walking, exercise really helps to calm me and return to balance. So often we don’t take the time to breathe, when we change that we can suddenly feel empowered to handle what the day throws at us.
It’s really time we started to prepare mums for the reality of motherhood and how they will feel. Missing your old life, your old body, the time you used to have is perfectly normal and we shouldn’t feel shame and guilt about wishing we made more of those days before kids.
Suffering in silence needs to stop and the conversation needs to open so that mums stop allowing themselves to come last and start prioritising their own needs again.
Saying things like it will pass and enjoy them while they are young are outdated and unhelpful, the fact is we are under enormous pressures as mothers to be everything, do everything for everyone and that just isn’t realistic.
It’s time to open up the conversation about how hard motherhood really is and support mums to reach out for help and express what they feel so that they are heard and they can get what they need as well.
Share this with another mum who needs to hear it and also come join me on my Facebook group for more discussion and help around this topic here.