Once upon a time I believed that any random woman could take one look at me and see what a terrible mother I was. I was caught up in the battle of the ‘should do’ crusaders; you know, the mothering ‘advice’ providers. Being told I should ‘put that baby down’, questioned over where she slept (which was often in our bed) or listening to throw away comments like ‘take that dummy out’ or ‘you’re feeding her AGAIN?! (referring to demand feeding).
As mothers, we get to choose how to raise our babies. Some wonderful Mum’s, feel so confident in their parenting style they don’t give a fat rats about unsolicited advice. I wasn’t her, in fact, I was far from her; I felt pressure from all around. The pressure for me at this time was excruciating, and that combined with not being in the best headspace, I chose to isolate myself. The mere weekly visit to the supermarket triggered panic, simply because it was full of people who could see me; see me for the terrible mother I had allowed myself to feel like.
From reading this, I’m sure you can see how bad my head space was; I wasn’t a terrible mother, it was just the lead up to what I refer to as the ‘pivotal time’ in my life when I was admitted to a Psych Hospital. I was in a pretty bad way, lots of darkness and fear, yet I now look back on it as life-changing, in a positive way because of the lessons I learnt.
Last week I was the guest speaker at a maternal mental health peer support group, to share my personal journey of mental health. What made this extra special was that my story actually began during the pregnancy of my first child, needless to say, it brought back memories. I felt such a privilege sharing the same space as these Mum’s and being invited to stay for their personal sharing time. The word support doesn’t seem enough to describe what I saw, not only did the lovely facilitators offer understanding and advice, so did many of the women; I’m in awe and still feel inspired.
I think we often need to be more mindful of the things we say to women with young children about how they are parenting. Considering how large the advice spectrum is for parenting, it’s very likely that all of us, at certain times, will see something that perhaps we don’t agree with; but I pose a challenge to ask ourselves ‘does it really matter?’ Does it really matter that a baby is bottle or breastfed? Has a dummy or no dummy? Sleeps next to Mum or in another room? Eats homemade mash or store bought? If they wear natural fabrics or not? or if they can feed themselves with cutlery, or not?
My answer to these trivial questions is, ‘no’ it doesn’t matter. What matters is showing respect to personal choices with a kind heart.
Sending love to all Mum’s who are feeling the struggle, and an extra squeeze to those currently in the darkness ♥