Thursday, 17 May 2018

Motherhood: The Modern Day Crisis

Motherhood is in crisis.
Childhood is in crisis.
Our health system is often failing new mothers. The number of parents being diagnosed with perinatal depression and/or anxiety is at an all-time high.
Mothers often aren't even given the change to tell their birth story. Speaking from experience, this is a really important thing to do.
Mothers are more often than not, sent home from hospital exhausted, physically and mentally; beyond depleted in every way. 
Where are we going wrong?

Nicole Kingston, the family therapist/sleep consultant/all-around-wonder-woman I have been heavily relying on for all things parenting for well over a year now, aims to find out, and bring these issues and their solutions, to the attention of as many parents as she can.

It's no secret how much anxiety can rule my life at times. It sneaks in everywhere and I know it was affecting the way I parent, even when I knew I had to somehow reel it in.  Enter Nicole.   She introduced me to Nancy, and now, I will introduce her to you (you can thank me later).  Short answer - she's a huge bitch. She's that little voice in your head who tells you all kinds of untrue things that feel true. Sometimes, she completely takes over and it seems impossible to decipher what is Nancy and what is actually you.  I was in this predicament for a long time.  It doesn't take long for me to slide back there, but thanks to Nicole, I have the strategies and know-how to kick her to the curb most of the time. Are you feeling like you are constantly berating yourself?  Is there a voice that often starts by saying: "You should..." "You are..." "You can't..."?  I think most of us do. THAT bitch, is Nancy.  She's negative and loud and causes so many issues.  One of Reid's favourite things to say to me is "what would Nicole do/say?"  She has become the voice of reason in our parenting, and even our marriage at times!  The two are so intertwined after children, it seems to mesh into one big pile of emotion quite frequently. 


Why is it so hard? How did previous generations do it? What's different about this time to be a mother; to bring children into a world full of screens, technology, constant information and overwhelming loneliness amongst constant technology-related connectedness?  There's no doubt that being a mother, no matter what the time/era, is hard work.  It is also hard to be a father, I am not trying to take away from that at all, but as I sat amongst a room full of mothers at one of Nicole's workshops a few weeks ago, we all agreed that mentally/emotionally, mothers usually struggle more, for a number of reasons.  (We did grow and birth our babies [naturally or by C-section is completely irrelevant], causing so many physical and hormonal changes - maybe that has something to do with it!?) We are trying to be everything, for everyone, all of the time.  The mental load on us as women, as mothers, as wives/partners, as people, is simply too much. Click here to further understand the idea of the mental load.  (Side note: I am a proud feminist, truly believing there is a lot of work to be done in the name of equality. I am not, however, a "man-hater/basher", I am merely expressing my own opinion that has been sharpened by talking about others' experiences and also my own research).


We work, we clean, we wash, we cook, we are expected to look a certain way, feel a certain way, act a certain way. A lot of this pressure we feel from others, although most of it, I think, we put on ourselves.  Social media provides "company", but also endless dangerous and unrealistic comparisons. Watching people's highlights can make us feel inadequate, unworthy and helpless.  We very rarely pick up the phone to actually call people.  This leads me to a very important point and something Nicole discusses in depth:


We don't have a village anymore.


I totally understand that not everyone was lucky enough to have a village in past generations, but a lot did.  Mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters - they were to help, to nurture, to teach.  Now, they are usually at work, while we begin maternity leave with a baby we often have no idea what to do with, regardless of how much experience with babies/kids we might have.  It's no secret that I have heavily relied on my Mum, but she also works full-time.  Not only that, but there seems to be a widespread feeling of shame in asking for help with mothering/parenting today.  We somehow expect ourselves to be able to provide   EVERYTHING for our children, no matter what the circumstance. I just don't see how that is possible.  They need more than us.  They need to develop relationships with people other than their parents.  They need safe places to go when they can't stand us.  They need space.  We all need space.  Nicole has helped teach me that it is unrealistic to expect to be everything for your child, 100% of the time.  Nancy will try to tell us that we are failing if we need help.  That we should just be able to do everything and cope.  Often we think that's what "everyone else" is doing. Once again, we have social media (mostly) to thank for that. The bottom line, however, is that we DO need help, and we shouldn't be ashamed to ask for it.


We live in a demanding world.  We are over-scheduling, glorifying being busy, aiming for perfection (that doesn't exist), finding conflicting information at our fingertips, being bombarded by articles, blog posts, perfect Instagram photos and Facebook updates - no wonder we are confused, lost and tired!  I know I might not speak for everyone, but most of the Mums I know are depleted and overwhelmed and struggle to really know what their intuition is telling them.  How do we parent intuitively if we can't even hear what it is saying? Nicole puts it so simply. What do you want? Do you want your baby to sleep? Do you want your baby to play independently? Are you willing to make changes to get what you want; what you know, your intuition is telling you.  What deep down you know is best for you and your child, regardless of what’s simply easier. That is your intuition. It takes me a LOT of effort to actually listen to mine.  For a long time, I simply didn’t think it existed.  That’s because Nancy was absolutely running the show.  I think we could all stand to try to tune into our intuition more.  Trust me, it’s there


Here's some truths from me:
I struggle a lot. I need lots of help. I need a break a lot. I probably shouldn’t have another child because I struggle with just the one, but my heart aches for one. I love Isaac so much, but I find the whole motherhood thing incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. I am so tired, all the time. I feel like I can never quite get my focus in the right place. I can never fit everything in. I am scrambling around, trying to keep everything afloat, my mental load is heavy and I drop things frequently. 
I am also a fighter.  I keep going.  I reach out to people who know me well and whose opinions I trust to give me advice and offer a hand with Isaac.  Raising a human is a really big deal.  It’s not just about keeping them warm and fed and safe after a certain point.  What kind of person do you want them to see as they grow up?  I certainly don’t want Isaac’s main memories to include a constantly frazzled, rushed, grumpy Mum.  Obviously that’s who I will be at times, but I don’t want that to be who he sees for the majority of the time.  I want to be able to enjoy him, to enjoy being his Mum, to have fun, to laugh and play and also not feel guilty when I need a break.  We put such high expectations on ourselves, it’s just so damaging.  It doesn’t have to be this way.


You might not have a village right now, but you can have Nicole as part of your support system.  What I’ve discussed is just the tiniest snippet of the knowledge she has and offers to parents who work with her.  Head to her website and have a look, you won’t regret it.


You don’t have to have it together all the time.  Ask for help.  Take a breath.  You deserve some calm among the chaos.  You’ve got this Mama. x

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