I’m a mum. A tired mum.After three kids, I’ve seen my fair share of parenting fails. My eldest is only seven, so I’m fully aware I have plenty more years of parenting lows to come yet. I’ve been the mum who can’t unfold the pram in the middle of the car park and it feels like a hundred eyes are watching and waiting for you to kick the damn thing (don’t, those things are more expensive than cars these days!) I’ve been the mum wondering how much dry shampoo really is too much, whether that brown stain on my top is chocolate or poop, questioning how any human can possibly function on so little sleep (Shout out to Costa, thanks for being there during the bad times, I love you more than life). I’m at a time in my life where my Facebook feed is more about Jumparoo for sale posts than crazy night-out posts. And I’m totally fine with all this.I embrace the mess, chaos and noise (so much noise).
However, I refuse to be the mum who sits and tells you I embrace every moment and I love being a mum all the time. I don’t. Some days I hate it. Some days I want to run far, far away and only come back when I’m promised my house is tidy, the kids are in bed and nobody needs a single damn thing from me. Some days I’m anxious, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I need a break from parenting and if you’re a parent reading this you probably have done or will do at some point too. Guilt has always been present in my life since I’ve become a parent. Sometimes overwhelmingly so and sometimes lurking in the background waiting to tell me off for using Cbeebies as a co-parent when it has been a tough day.
I don’t work so I’m not a good role model for my children, guilt. I work so I’m not there for school pick up, guilt. I didn’t cook a home cooked meal, guilt. I spent too long in the kitchen this evening, guilt.Guilt, guilt, guilt. It’s like as soon as that baby pops out, a guilt switch is triggered in our brains that shines its harsh light on every decision we make. Hell, I’ve even felt guilty about not feeling guilty, seriously can’t a mum get a break?!
In an era where social media is so prevalent, it has made parenting a tricky business at times. In my childhood, you can be sure my mother was not having a guilt attack over my tea of chicken nuggets and comparing it to her friend’s home cooked Instagram worthy dinner. So many times I’ve logged on to Facebook and come away feeling basically like the world’s laziest parent. I’m not. I’m a good parent, some days amazing, some days a bit below average. Nonetheless, Facebook can floor me even on my better days. Comparing my attempts at parenting with the two second, filtered snapshots that increase my self-doubt with every scroll. Thing is I’ve been the perfect mum on occasion. I’ve put Anabelle Karmel to shame with my culinary delights, I’ve crafted and organised messy play activities like a Blue Peter presenter on speed. I’ve taken the photo. I’ve filtered and hashtagged it and waited for the likes to roll in as a little cyber pat on the back for being a super fun mum that day. But, you can bet your Icandy travel system it all went to shit two seconds later. It usually does. The screaming starts, the ‘it’s not fair he breathed next to me’ the ‘look mummy I painted my hair and eyebrows red’more #fml than #blessed.
This got me thinking about the judgements we make on social media and in the real world and the effect it can have on us as individuals.The mums who are perfectly dressed and groomed to perfection, maybe aren’t finding it as tough as you or they wouldn’t look so amazing, but maybe they are struggling as much as the next person and putting on their nice clothes and war paint helps them face another long day of parenting. Maybe the mum who pinged back into her size 8 jeans is using her time at the gym to switch off from a baby who never ever stops crying and we could learn from her and try and find the thing that helps us relax and unwind. Maybe the mum at school drop off with the unbrushed hair and dubious stains on her top, has children who never sleep and she’s doing all she can to get them to school on time. Maybe we should be asking her if she wants a coffee and a chat. Maybe the aloof mum in the playground isn’t looking down her nose at you. Maybe she just moved to an Island where people’s friendships were formed years ago down the Cave or on Beryl’s bus swigging white lightening (sorry Ramsey girl and proud!) so it’s hard to find your tribe. Maybe we should be grabbing her and pulling her towards our tribe and inviting her kid round for fish fingers and chips, and her for wine and a natter. Maybe we should realise we all differ but our aim is the same. To raise decent human beings, who will one day be sensible enough to release into society without us.
With all these feelings of guilt and opportunities for comparison, it’s tough being a parent. It’s an amazingly wonderful time in our lives but it’s tough. There’s no denying it.In a day, you can go from tears of happiness brought about by babies first words, to tears of sheer exhaustion and loneliness. We are tired, we aren’t a hundred percent sure what happened to us or who we are anymore. Yet we trot along to mums and tots, work, the park and say:
‘Yer it’s all great, everything’s great. I’m just loving being a Mum’
And if that’s true I’m really happy and pleased for you, but if it’s not true I want you to know that most of us feel the same. It just takes one of us to make the first move and say:
‘You know what I’m not great. I’m tired. I’m irritable and this whole parenting thing isn’t exactly as plain sailing as I thought it would be’
Let’s not pretend, let’s open up. To friends. To family. We are all going through this together, and we need to let each other know that we are treading water in the sea of plastic talking toys as much as you are.Some days, we are on top of it all and embracing the fun, messy years of our lives. Other days it consumes us. And that’s ok. An influx of parenting bloggers has made it more acceptable to talk about our struggles. That we wear our gym clothes, not because we are exercising but because elasticated waists are life. That you had Peppa Pig (spoilt little piece of bacon) on repeat, so you could drink a cup of tea whilst it was still hot, that it is perfectly acceptable to clean your entire house with baby wipes (yes, yes it is!)
But, when and how do we recognise if what we are feeling goes beyond the normal parental burnout and exhaustion? The NHS state that 1 in 10 women suffer from postnatal depression within a year of giving birth and some symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness and low mood that don’t improve
- Lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from contact with other people
- Problems concentrating
- Frightening thoughts e.g. hurting your baby or yourself
In a time when your whole life has changed, it can seem difficult to look after yourself. Recognising the signs of post-natal depression early and seeking help is important. The earlier you are given help the less impact postnatal depression can have on you, and your family. Postnatal depression usually refers to the first year after birth, but feelings of anxiety and depression can strike at any time and need to be addressed and discussed. For more information have a look here. Also the Facebook page Every Mummy Movement is a really supportive and informative page, which encourages women to look after their mental health as well as breaking down the stigma attached to maternal mental health. Whilst I talk openly with friends about our parental failings in certain areas, I still feel it’s a taboo area to discuss feelings of depression and not coping long term. Thankfully there is help out there and mums (and Dads too!) needn’t go through this alone. If you are reading this and you feel like some of the symptoms apply to you. You are not alone. Talk to your G.P, talk to your partner or a friend who could offer you some support and understanding.
Talk talk talk. Talk to other mums about the good the bad and the ugly. Yes, you may come across a mum who shudders at the thought of you hiding in the kitchen eating your kid’s chocolate and not cherishing all of the moments. But chances are she won’t. She’ll be nodding in agreement and thanking her lucky stars that she’s met another mum who gets her.
If you are affected by any of the issues highlighted in this article, local signposting is available here. If you are facing a time of crisis, do not wait, contact your GP, A&E or the Crisis Team on 642860.