This month, National Mental Health Awareness Week will be taking place in the UK (15-21 May, 2023). To mark this, I will be sharing inspiration to all my mummy followers. I want you all to be kind and gentle to yourselves because motherhood is not easy. In fact, it’s bloody hard.
I was getting my haircut and coloured recently (a very welcome bit of ‘me’ time). Beside me was another mother. We were chatting about life. We listened to one another with empathy as we shared the day-to-day pressures of being a woman and, crucially, a mother.
“Gone are the days of staying home with the children all day”, we said.
Don’t misunderstand! We weren’t mourning the days in which we, as women, could only aspire to certain heights: homemaker, wife and mother. No. In fact, while it is still arguably a man’s world, we celebrated the transformation that the role of the woman has taken over the last few decades and generations.
But the war is not won. Yes, we now have influential careers and financial independence but we still haven’t shaken the outdated image of what a woman “should” be. We haven’t replaced our roles of homemaker, mother and wife. We’ve merely added more to the mix! Not only does society STILL expect us to raise the children, tend to the husband and keep the home, NOW we are juggling high powered careers, too!
We truly have landed “The Mother Load”.
I saw a relatable reel from @jimmyonrelationships recently (link at the bottom of this page, not affiliate or sponsored). He summed it up so well. To quote Jimmy, women are the “project manager and the project executor of everything that goes on in the home”. AND we have our own careers on top of that. Who else has an endless to-do list in their mind? It can’t just be me!
Now, this isn’t a witch hunt. This isn’t me jumping at the opportunity to criticise our husbands. I love mine. He’s a gem. BUT – we can’t deny that culture and society seems to still accept this expectation as “the norm”. (Note: there are exceptions, of course. I’m not attempting to tar us all with the same brush. I’m merely pointing out that this still is the norm for the majority in the UK).
So, let’s bring this back round to mental health week.
I’ve had my fair share of mental health challenges. Hasn’t everyone?
Like many of you, mine reached a head as I became a mother. On my journey of healing and self-discovery, I have learned much about myself. (TW- the following touches on issues related to depression, postnatal depression and post traumatic stress disorder).
I have learned that depression for me has been a slow-burning event that took many years to become noticeable. I have learned that I have been juggling motherhood with undiagnosed postnatal depression. Throw PTSD into the mix and you start to get the picture! Motherhood for me has not been an easy ride. I am confident that you will read that last sentence with total empathy and understanding. I don’t think there is a mother out there reading this who won’t relate to this on some level.
Now comes the lesson…
You MUST take care of yourself.
We have so much on our shoulders. We can not enjoy life, and everything that blesses and enriches it, if we do not practise self-care. I’m not talking about just taking the occasional trip to the hairdresser. I am talking about slowing down and creating space for your health to take priority.
SOCIETY: “But isn’t that selfish for a mother to put herself before her family?”
ME: “No, it bloody is not!”
We must prioritise our health FOR our family. Let’s put it this way, which mother would you rather have..?
A: A mother who is exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed. She bears every burden so her family doesn’t have to. She assumes every role and wears every hat. The pressure affects her mood and energy. Her energy and mood influence her eating habits. She doesn’t have time to exercise or socialise. Her self-esteem, self-image and self-worth are at an all time low. She loves her husband and dotes on her children but at her core, she is struggling. She does not make her mental health a priority.
B: A mother who makes time for herself. She may not be there for every single bedtime but she is in good health, body and mind. She manages stress more easily because she shares the load. She doesn’t try to be all things to all people. She isn’t afraid to say “No” when it is necessary or appropriate. She is a mother who is fundamentally happy with her life and is a good role model to her children. They understand the importance of self-care by watching her example and will be more likely to adopt the same habits in adulthood.
I know which mother I’d rather have. I know which I’d rather BE (get it?).
Now, full disclosure, until recently Mother A was me. Self-care was at the bottom of my list of priorities and it showed. I reached a point where I was not well. My mental health took its final hit and I crumbled. The mask slipped. Suddenly the people around me noticed and thought, “Sh*t. You’re not ok”. It shouldn’t have got to that point but it did. And you know what? In a way, I am grateful. It gave me the kick up the a*se I needed to sort myself out.
It’s a journey. I’m still very much on that journey and treading my new path. But I am on the way from point A to point B. I am proud of what I have achieved so far. I am grateful for my support system and I am excited for the future.
So ladies, for goodness sake, slow down. Do what you need to do to lighten your load and enrich your life. Split up the chores across the household. Set aside some time each week to exercise. (Before you tell yourself you don’t have time, think about how much time you spend on social media…you have time). If you think you’re in need of mental health support, see your GP. Get yourself some talking therapy. Everyone at some time in their life should get talking therapy. Trust me. It’s a game changer.
Be the best mum you can by looking after YOU. Reach out for help and support if you need it. You’re not Wonder Woman. You don’t have to do it all.
If you don’t know who to reach out to, reach out to me. Drop me a DM. I’ve been there!
Becky Sleep Nanny x
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Watch Jimmy’s relatable reel here (not affiliated or sponsored) – @jimmyonrelationships