Parenting is an intense physical and emotional way of being, where all of us get tested and adjusted. Mothering is one of life’s great opportunities for transformation, any woman who becomes a mother for the first time will go through a radical change; as Daniel Stern (psychiatrist and psychoanalytic theorist specialising in infant development ), explained becoming a mother is an identity shift, and one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience.
Most of the new mothers take to this new role with immense joy and exuberance, although in every new mother’s mind appears a shadow of self-doubt about how to manage the new uncertainty.
Some struggle with the experience and may suffer in silence as they are ashamed to talk about it. Postpartum depression is real and, unfortunately, still stigmatized. Mothers that find themselves in such a situation might then feel isolated, not having the opportunity to talk about their challenges and feelings.
”….Everyone wished me and gave me small presents, I knew
I was supposed to be happy because I had a new baby,
but I was only putting on a happy face.”
Many factors circle a new motherhood, like the new life limitations. Freedom, responsibilities, challenges and opportunities now have a whole new meaning. Every single mother’s decision has an impact on another human being: one’s child(ren). Children come first, this is what we call a mother’s instinct.
We sacrifice our previous lives out of care, compassion, affection and love. In most cases, it is what we want to do. The mother-child (nowadays is broader known) bond is critical for the children’s proper growth.
Mothers have an important role in the family, and besides the motherhood role, we have to balance our marriage and our sexuality, our work, our other roles; as a daughter, partner, sibling, friend etc while taking care of ourselves and being a woman.
Mothers’ Mental Health is a priority
Because of the multi-roles that mothers have as a caregiver, partner, homemaker, employee, daughter and more, and because of the attitudes, beliefs, perspectives and expectations that each of these roles are accompanied by, it is often very demanding on one’s physical and mental health.
A mother’s mental health can influence her child’s development from the womb and also after birth. Research shows that a mentally healthy mother can carefully and thoughtfully respond to her baby’s cues — increasing the chances of attachment between the mother and her baby. In cases where they experience depression or anxiety, they are not able to respond promptly to their child’s needs.
It is important here to highlight that there is a difference between mental illness and mental distress: Mental illness is used when a person has a diagnosable mental condition. When a person is experiencing some sort of mental suffering, the more general term used is mental distress.
Guilt, Shame and “The Good Enough Mother”:
A woman’s vision of pregnancy and motherhood mostly derives from the experiences of her mother and other female relatives and friends in her community and culture.
Mothers will feel guilty because they always make challenging choices. Sometimes they are required to put their own needs over their child’s.
Some women think that they are not “good enough” mothers and compare themselves to an ideal mother; that is unrealistic. This ideal in a mothers’s mind, forces her to striving for perfection and brings them to feel shame and guilt. Shame is the feeling that there’s something wrong with me. You have the right to be tired, to feel bitterness, fatigue and to want to run away from everyone. You are first a Human first and then a Parent.
You are a real Person, not infallible.
POTENTIAL SIGNS OF MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Extreme feelings of anger, irritation or sadness that can come without warning
Difficulty completing basic tasks
Going through day-to-day activities in a robotic way
Acting or feeling overly anxious around children
A deep sense of guilt or personal failure
Showing little interest in things they used to enjoy
Experiencing scary, upsetting thoughts that don’t go away
How can you help yourself:
Allow yourself time to do what you enjoy.
Talk to someone
Participate in recreational activities
Taking a long bath
Going for a walk around the block
Everyone’s life journey looks and feels different — also their mental health journey. The important thing is to know you are not alone. Finding a way to support your mental health, is key to being your best self and the best mom you can be.