How’s your motherhood journey going? For me, it has been a mixture of highs and lows, sometimes minutes apart. We are often told to ‘enjoy every minute; it goes quickly,’ and yet sometimes it feels like an uphill battle to make it to the time when we can pour that glass of wine and turn on Netflix.
When I first became a mother eight years ago, I was surprised by my struggle. I felt anxious. I was overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility, my unrealistic expectations, and a sense of being woefully unqualified for the most critical job. I remember how difficult it felt to ask my GP for a referral to a psychologist. I didn’t connect with the label of postnatal depression, and this prevented me from acting sooner. I was lucky to have a doctor who challenged me to let go of the unhelpful terminology and, instead, prioritise my happiness. The experience of seeing a qualified psychologist allowed me to learn skills that I continue to use today.
What if we dropped the labels and just made an appointment with a GP to share how we feel and ask for support? What if we didn’t wait until things felt really bad? What if we stopped undervaluing our vital role in our family and took proactive steps to move from surviving to thriving?
R U OK?Day is an excellent opportunity to check in with your friends, family, and your partner to see how they are going. It is also a great opportunity to check in with you. There are some great resources to support you with this at ruok.org.au.
Here are some ideas as to how you can proactively manage your mental health:
- Prioritise you — It is not selfish; it is self-preservation. It means that you can have more energy for your family, friends and work; and who benefits the most from that? Do what brings you joy more often. Fit your emergency mask before helping others. Stop putting it off. Take some small steps to make this happen for you. You know what you need; it is time to make it a priority. No one is going to rescue you; you have to look after you.
- Be kind — In those moments when there is a chasm between your ‘ideal self’ and reality, talk to yourself like you would your best friend. This parenting gig (and the juggle with work) can be so hard; be compassionate.
- Connect with people — We mamas all know the struggle well. I haven’t met a mama who has it all together all of the time. We all have days when we yell and feel like the worst mother on earth. We all have down days. We all have anxious moments. Talk with others. Share your challenging days as well as your awesome days. Chances are, others have been there, too.
- Make an appointment with your GP — If you’ve been struggling for a while, speak with your GP about how you’ve been feeling. Ask for help. Get a referral to a psychologist. You can access up to six sessions for free or at least subsidised, and a professional can guide you through what to do.
How to help others:
- Ask your friends R U OK? — You may not have heard from someone in a while, or you noticed she didn’t seem herself when you last caught up. Ask her if she is OK and be with her. Look into her eyes and be present. Listen to her without judgement and without solving her problems. Ask her how she can take action and offer your support. Then follow up. There are many resources to support you at ruok.org.au.
- Be honest about your struggles with friends — Your vulnerability and transparency normalises things for others and opens the door for people to share their own concerns.
- Do random acts of kindness — See a mama crying at drop off? Put a ‘You’re awesome!’ card in her letterbox or on her car. Pay for a coffee in advance at your local café and ask that it be gifted to a mum with a newborn. Leave a meal on the doorstep of a mama you know who is having a rough time. The benefits to the giver are possibly more than to the receiver!
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are some wonderful organisations that can help. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Belinda Haan is a professional leadership and wellbeing coach who is passionate about empowering people to live rich and meaningful lives, at work and home. Visit www.belindahaan.com.
- Find professional help via ruok.org.au/findhelp