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Maternal mental health is obviously something I’m very passionate about. I’m both a mother and a woman who struggles daily with her mental health. Anyone who has read my blog before will know both of those things. If this is the first time you’ve found my little corner of the internet, then I hope you stick around!
I’ve talked before about how my anxiety has affected my parenting. So I won’t do that again today.
Maternal Mental Health Week 2019
Today, I want to talk about Maternal Mental Health Week, which just so happens to be this week. There’s a special day, week or month for everything now, right? Apparently, April 30th (tomorrow) is National Hairstylist Appreciation Day… so if you have a good hairdresser, don’t forget to show them some love! April is also National Pet Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, and Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. In fact, there are 9 things that we’re supposed to be aware of in April, and several more in May (including zombies… who knew?). Here’s a helpful list of everything we’re supposed to be aware of throughout the year, if you’re interested.
With so many awareness days, weeks, months… it’s easy to think they’re not important. I didn’t know there were so many, until I started writing this post. And lots of them seem a bit silly. I mean… Zombie Awareness Month? Really?
But Maternal Mental Health Week (and Maternal Mental Health Month, which is also May) is not silly. And people should be more aware. We should be talking more about maternal mental health. So, let’s do that.
Being a mum comes with a lot of pressure
Raising children is a big deal. And, as a mother, sometimes it feels like nothing you do is good enough. I’m sure there are plenty of dads who feel this way, too! But the pressure is different, on the whole.
For too long, society has told us that mother’s don’t need help. We can raise a family and run a household and stay on top of everything, because that’s our job. Historically, that’s exactly what women did, right? Staying at home with the kids was “women’s work”. But times change. Now, women have careers that they don’t want to give up (and nor should they have to). Or they have jobs that can’t afford to give up, because everything is so damn expensive and fewer families can manage on just one income. So women get “real jobs” (God, I hate that phrase, but maybe that’s a topic for a different time).
But the bulk of the household and childcare stuff still falls to them, too. Because society, as a whole, still thinks of family stuff as “women’s work”. So they’re doing two jobs. Except no one thinks of the family stuff as a “job”, so we’re just expected to get on with it.
I know I’m generalising.
I know there are plenty of amazing dads who pull their weight. I know this, because I’m married to one. Mr Becca works long hard hours doing a really important and very high pressure job, and then he comes home and does enough with the twins and around the house to make sure I don’t completely burn myself out. But the fact remains that a lot of mothers are under a lot of pressure and, because we’ve been told for so long that mothers can manage everything… if we can’t manage everything all the time, we feel like we’ve failed.
Dads who look after their own kids on their own for just a few hours are treated like heroes… whereas mums who admit they need a break and take those same few hours for themselves are often made to feel guilty for not wanting to be with their children 24/7. When my husband is on a night out with his friends, no one asks him where the twins are. Because they all know the twins are at home with me.
If I bump into someone when I’m on my own, it’s the first thing they ask. I don’t even have to be on a night out (good thing, too, because those are pretty rare these days!). If I go food shopping on my own, or to the doctors, or if I bump into someone after visiting a client, they want to know where the twins are – what I did to deserve a few moments on my own.
When I tell people that the twins are with their dad, I get asked “how’s he coping with that?”… I dunno… probably the same way I do. He just does. Because he’s their dad. No one asks me how I manage on my own with them all day, when he goes to work.
If we struggle, we feel like we can’t speak out about it.
We can’t ask for help. Because we’re supposed to be able to cope… right? Because we’re mums. But we’re not superheroes. It’s OK if we can’t do everything for everyone all the time. Sometimes, we need to take some time for ourselves and we need to look after ourselves and our own mental health.
And that’s what Maternal Mental Health is all about – raising awareness and encouraging people to talk about it, so that parents who are struggling don’t feel like they have to just get on with it. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes. And that’s true for everyone – including parents. We all need a bit of support sometimes.
So, if you’re struggling, reach out. And if you know someone who’s struggling, let them know that you’re there. Let’s talk about our mental health more. Let’s ask for, and accept, help and support when we need it. Let’s offer support to those who feel like they can’t ask.
Watch this space, because I’ll be posting again on Wednesday – maternal mental health deserves more than one post this week!