Why Mum Must Come First (Sometimes)

Depression is a dick. I know this because it has featured in my family’s life in some form or another since I was seven years old when my dad left us for another woman. It was then that my mum, unable to cope with the heartbreak of what was happening, was hospitalised after experiencing a nervous breakdown, and her struggle with anxiety and depression began.

From this point I experienced what it was like to live with depression second hand, that was, until I became a mum myself.

But this bastard disease didn’t sneak up on me straight after having my daughter as you might suspect, or even directly having my son, but in fact months later. However, much like my darling mum, the reasons behind my deterioration were also circumstantial and largely linked to the pressures of being a “modern mum.”

Scanning through the Marie Claire newsletter (getting my daily dose of showbiz news – no judgment please) I stumbled across a short piece containing quotes from Celebrity Midwife Rachel Waddilove, promoting her book, The Baby Manual. In the piece she gives her views on modern motherhood, and whilst I didn’t find her description of us lot as “losing the plot” massively helpful (although totally true in my case), there was one quote that really did resonate…

“Modern parenthood is all about the child and that’s what I don’t like about it.” Rachel Waddilove, Midwife (Original source: Telegraph)

Whether I felt this instinctively, or because these expectations were pressed upon me (or perhaps a bit of both), I believed I should put my babies first NO MATTER WHAT. And the intense guilt I felt if I thought about doing anything but ensured I did just that every day, for years.

From the outside my life echoed that of many other mothers. The endless sleepless nights, days glued to the sofa breastfeeding, hours walking in the rain in vain trying to get the little sods to nap – all normal new mum behaviour. But, in hindsight, the anxiety was already building as I pushed myself to do what I considered to be the “best” for my babies.

I wish I had felt that walking over a 1000 lengths of my hallway to get Coco sleep in the day, only for her to wake 20 minutes later, REALLY wasn’t necessary.

That exclusively breastfeeding Raffy, even when the little bugger was waking every two hours for lengthy night feeds at the age of six months and beyond, was anything BUT compulsory.

I wish I had known that refusing to pay for childcare to get the break I so desperately needed as my husband worked seven days a week would eventually make me MISERABLE.

But being a stay-at-home was my full-time gig. It was my JOB to do my best by my kids. I didn’t need to worry about getting back to work or spending time away from home. I was here, 24/7, to simply care for them, so how hard could it be?

Ironically, striving endlessly to do my best actually made me a far shoddier parent. My patience was shot through, resulting in a default Drill Sargent tone, and on some days I gave Miss Trunchbull a run for her money. The odd mummy meltdowns were becoming more frequent, often spiraling into full-blown “Arthur Fowler” moments, and barely a day passed without the kids seeing me dissolving into tears. I was a mess and a long way from the mother I had set out to be.

Unsurprisingly it was my dear mum who pushed me to see my doctor, and I too was diagnosed with circumstantial depression.   Thankfully, I was able to seek professional help quickly, however the biggest game changer for me personally was hiring regular childcare.

I’ve discovered ALL parents deserve time to themselves to do more than just work and wipe bottoms. By taking the odd morning out, to read, write, or simply sort through the cupboards, made me feel like I could breathe again.

Of course I still have those days, when everything falls to shit and you’re daydreaming of down time and wine pre 10am, and I am painfully aware that the balance could once again tip and I’ll be back to where I was last summer. But taking time out and occasionally putting MYSELF first has meant I’m in a much happier, calmer and healthier place, and I’m please to report I’m a significantly better parent for it.

Gemma x

6 thoughts

  1. Well observed. I definitely relate to this. I pushed myself in the same way and consequently found myself struggling with being so run down that I couldn’t shake off a simple virus and have had chronic fatigue and panic attacks for months. So now I am working on putting myself first sometimes. Because if I don’t I can’t be a good Mum. And honestly kids need to see us Mums look after ourselves too so that they learn that consideration for others is crucial. Granted my 3yr old only cares about who is watching her latest show and making her pasta but my 7yr old is definitely becoming considerate of others needs which makes me proud. Great post X

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  2. Well said! I work full time and husband is a stay at home dad. He was recently seriously ill and is still in a long recovery, so I’m trying to hold everyone together. It’s draining and, at times, demoralising, but I’m starting counselling this week to hopefully help myself get back on track. I’m looking forward, not only to off loading, but for the hour where I don’t have to be responsible for anyone else! Full time work, then being ‘on duty’ from the moment I get home is relentlessly draining but things are getting better and I will get my balance back.

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  3. I’d be interested to hear about what help you got. I said no to drugs and no to CBT and then was left with no options at all!!! Charming. I do feel that the lack of assistance externally (and those offering help were all dicks) was what eventually “sorted” me out. I still have melt downs, but at least I’m not crying all the time. I’m fed up of children ruling the bloody world. We are all suffering and I wish people would just stop. I fear for the future.

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  4. This is so true, as much as I love my son I make sure I have time for me each day even if it’s only 10 minutes. X

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