Not just a Mother
For many people, becoming a mother comes with a host of challenges and surprises. Not only are you having to learn all the practical aspects of caring for a child but you're also learning who this new human in your life is and just as importantly, who you are now that they're here. This new learning applies to anyone, whether you've carried a child through pregnancy, adopted a child or become a step-mother.
The priority of so many new mothers is making sure the child is safe, secure, healthy and cared for. But what about self care and making sure you have everything that you need? With a third of all mothers experiencing mental health issues, it's important that we keep this at the forefront of our mind when making this transition into parenthood.
Mothers can find themselves feeling depressed, anxious, exhausted, isolated and also with overwhelming guilt for not enjoying motherhood in the way they think they 'should'. There can be so many pressures and judgment from family, friends and social media that it can be hard to find your own unique way of parenting that ticks all the boxes and you can be left feeling like you're failing (when you're not!). On top of this there's the struggle of understanding who you are now you're a mum - you may not have the freedom, energy or drive that you once did to do the things you enjoyed so where does that leave you as a person outside of motherhood?
Tips for mothers
If you're finding yourself feeling any of this then its so important that you find a way of managing these feelings:
Ask for help! If you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmed and with a low mood then maybe you need to ask family and friends for a bit of a support.
Let go of the small things - step back for a minute and look objectively at your situation. Maybe you didn't want the kids to get into the craft box and spread glitter all over the dining room but in ten years time do you want to look back at this moment and think how cross it made you or do you want to look back on it and think of how much fun the kids had and how actually it was quite funny that you were wiping glitter snot out of their noses for the rest of the day?
Spend time outside - the benefits of being outdoors are huge. It lowers anxiety and lifts mood so getting outdoors and experiencing the outdoors is a must.
Find support groups and other parenting friends - are the baby or toddler groups in your area that you could go to? If you have older children, then other parents from your child's classes or PTA could be a fantastic support to you. There are also many online groups and websites that can support you.
Do something that reminds you of who you were pre-motherhood. That person is still there, they haven't disappeared, so try to reconnect with her!
Focus on your interests - find something that interests you (that's not related to children!) and make time for it, even if it's ten minutes before bed to read a book. This stuff is important and will remind you that you can still be you as well as a mum.
Counselling services. It is so common for therapists to deal with identity and self-esteems with mothers. Talking therapies can be a great resource as they allow you the space to explore what motherhood means for you and gives you the opportunity to rediscover yourself.
As a final note: Post natal depression and post natal psychosis are both common complications of having a baby. If you think you could be struggling with one of these issues then it is imperative that you seek out help from your doctor or health visitor. This can be scary however these people are not there to pass judgment on you as a mother, they are just going to offer you support and point you in the direction of services that can help you.