Mommy and Mental Health
“Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary—it’s an act of infinite optimism.” —Gilda Radner
Motherhood is often projected with smiling babies and happy confident mothers. The reality can be quite different for many women. Being a mom means so much more than given birth to a child. It means having conflicting emotions and also coping with constantly juggling different roles. Many women may not want to say it out loud for the fear of being judged and feeling guilt, but they do find motherhood to be challenging and confusing sometimes. With the additional duties and increased stress levels brought on by the unpredictable pandemic many mothers have been worried about supporting a child in a world that seems unsafe and unpredictable. Every mother is experiencing stress and worries no matter what stage of motherhood she’s in.
Mothers from different realms of life with children from infancy to adulthood shared their mental health journey:
-P, age 35, mother of two sons shared- “After being mother we need to expand our Mental capabilities to manage and multitask. Having to cater to already existing responsibilities of the older son and now with the younger son. I was grateful for my support systems being present my mother and sister through my postpartum challenges. The importance of setting quality time for self which often feels the most difficult part. Overall journey of mom is hard especially in their foundation years and I try and keep up the pace”
Also read: What are the causes of stress in the workplace?
-R, a mother of a toddler shared, “there have been different phases, I suppressed a lot of feelings to look after my daughter, but gradually I realised that she was suppressing unresolved feelings, fatigue, so many hormonal changes and also added trauma of an injury during birth. I Went through cycles of it, grief, fear, uncertainty and making sense of all the life changes. May be having a support group might have been helpful by meeting other mothers would have coped better”
-While B, mother of a 23yrs old son, said “motherhood has taught her to become calmer & more tolerant. My focus has shifted to another person, who is dependant.”
A major recurring theme was that they felt there was a lack of awareness and understanding about mental health conditions they could be going through. Most new mothers shared about their postpartum struggles of having to expand their mental capabilities leading to exhaustion.
According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in August 2020, it is estimated that 10–35% of women around the world including India suffer from depression during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnant women and new mothers are at an elevated risk of suffering from mental health problems
Look after yourself, Mamma Bear!
Most women on the whole, felt that time for self-care was needed, as it impacted their mental wellbeing tremendously. Self-care is often viewed as selfish in our culture, without considering the fact that better mental health leads to better childcare. Self-care should be built into a routine and not forced in only when feeling overwhelmed.
- Expectations: real vs unreal- Give yourself credit for all that you do, don’t keep measuring it as minor or major. Your efforts are not meant to be tangible. Overcommitting is emotionally draining. You don't need to do everything. Be realistic and mindful of what you can do and leave the rest.
- Be kind and patient with Yourself- Accept that you are enough. Don't compare yourself to other mothers, your experience as a mother is unique to you. Accepting your current situation is a form of kindness to yourself. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Give yourself time to adjust to all your major lifestyle changes.
- Me time – this could be anything that makes you happy and relaxed. It gives you the time and space to pause and take a breath. Listening or dancing to your favourite music, reading a book, or watching a funny show. Taking time each day to do something you enjoy will lead to positive changes in mood and behaviours.
- Connect for support - It’s easy to isolate yourself with constant changes and the demands you have keep up with. It is important to surround yourself with people who care and support you and your feelings.
- Ask for help - You may feel like you have to keep it all together for your family, asking for help is one of the best ways to find balance in your life. Start small, think of small things that you feel comfortable asking for help and reach out for it. If you start asking for help in smaller areas of your life, it will slowly become easier to seek support in other areas like your mental health.
Everyone's mental health needs are different, don’t compare yourself with other mothers. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that globally, depression is the largest contributor of mental health concern in women of child-bearing age. There is no shame in admitting if you are feeling overwhelmed, low or tired. Its ok to talk to a therapist. The therapist can help you understand what works best for you and what can help become a healthier you. Your mental health impacts your overall health, and also affects your physical health. So make mental health a priority.