I remember looking forward to motherhood with such joy. I had visions of picnics in the park with all the lovely new mum friends I would meet. Of afternoons spent in cafes, swapping news on milestones. It would be a new chapter of life, full of mum friends.
Instead, I felt lonely, and alone. Suddenly existing friends who didn’t have children yet dropped like flies, and new mum friends were non existent. The pain of trying to forge new friendships having been catapulted into this new chaotic dimension was excruciating.
And so began the loneliness of motherhood
The worst thing about the false picture of motherhood we’re all sold, is that when we get there and realise almost none of it is true, we then feel a crushing sense of shame. What kind of mother am I – you wonder – to not be enjoying every moment of motherhood, when everyone else is so obviously lapping it up? Or so you think based on evidence you keep scrolling through on social media.
But the problem is with social media, is that it’s only the trailer to the movie. Everyone is posting pictures of their shiny new life with baby, bursting with happiness and joy. What they are not posting pictures of are the times when you lock yourself in the toilet and cry because you feel absolutely lost as an individual, and an utter failure. And then cry even harder because it seems like absolute MADNESS to cry about it.
The sham of a perfect parenthood
Obvious to say, but people are not posting rants about how they have had a mere seven hours sleep in seven days because their baby has been up all night for days on end. Instead they are posting pictures of their cute baby coo-ing and gurgling.
And so we all keep marching on to be beat of the drum of seemingly perfect parenthood, pretending we’ve got this. Never daring to ask for help because we want to prove to ourselves and everyone else in the world – and on social media – that we are coping. When the reality is often a million miles away.
As you know, this week I have been honouring Maternal Mental Health Week on the blog. That’s why I’m shouting loud about vegan beauty brand B. by Superdrug’s #MakingOverMotherhood campaign. It aims to encourage people to talk, share feelings and seek support when struggling with maintaining positive mental health and give those who need more support access to resources who can help.
Making over motherhood
So if things are not all happy and shiny in camp motherhood, what is really going on? The team at B. asked 500 new mothers, who have had a baby within the last 12 months, their views on maternal mental health, revealing that 48 per cent of new mums have found motherhood lonely.
The survey revealed that a massive 83 per cent wanted more time to prioritise self-care – something I can entirely relate to, can’t you? And 17 per cent agreed putting on lipstick helped them feel themselves again after a sleepless night. When you’re feeling rather broken, these little acts of self love can really go a very long way in new motherhood.
Earlier this week I attended the #MakingOverMotherhood panel discussion which got underneath the gloss of motherhood. It was a bold and empowering debate about how hard motherhood can be, and touched on peri and post natal depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts and OCD.
Led by Jo Love of Lobella Loves, a campaigner on maternal mental health, the panel featured midwife Clemmie Hooper of Mother of Daughters, Shakira Akabusi, Jade Ariff of Mother Of All Adventures and Martha Faith of The Imperfect Motha, as well as Jo Mackie, Superdrug’s Customer & People Director.
I really wanted to share with you the key takeaways from the panel, with the aim of spreading the message far and wide that it is okay not to be okay in motherhood.
- Do you struggle with feeling guilty about your choices? Remember, it’s okay to do something for yourself as you do a hell of a lot for your little people and you need to recharge! Tell yourself this: you are doing the best you can with what you have.
- There is no one way to be a mum – it’s important that we shatter the stereotype and create a motherhood journey that’s right for us as individuals.
- Honesty is an amazing way of unlocking the mental burden we often feel in motherhood. With honesty, comes freedom – if you’re honest with yourself, others will come out and share too without the fear of being judged. If you’re feeling negative, take a moment to say whatever thoughts you are having out loud. You can even write or drawn them.
- As a collective, there needs to be more emphasis not on planning the birth, but on what motherhood looks like afterwards.
- Comparing can make you feel negative. Social media can have a big part to play in that so try curating your feeds so that you only see people’s posts that make you feel good. Don’t be afraid to unfollow or mute accounts that don’t. Remember, people don’t post that they are losing their minds!
- It’s okay to feel overwhelmed at the thought of going back to work. While going back to work gets you back into that familiar sense of belonging, it can also be very scary with the expectation put on you combined with juggling work and family life. We need to push for both women AND men to be better supported in the workplace, so that men can better support their partners too. Be bold enough to ask for flexible working options and ensure you keep in the loop while you’re off. This enables you to be honest in your needs in the run up to going back to work.
- While looks aren’t everything, learning to feel proud and confident in the skin you’re in is crucial. We need to change the language around post natal recovery around fitness and bouncing back. It should be about being strong, active and capable.
Embracing the imperfect
What was clear from the panel was that we need to stop trying to make motherhood look so easy. Instead, let us openly fly the flag for imperfect parenting and admit that being a parent is actually very hard work.
As a new parent, we put so much pressure on ourselves and when expectations don’t match up to the reality – which they seldom do in parenthood – this can be such a blow to us. I have often said that high expectation is the number one downfall in parenting. And perhaps fuelled by social media and the unreal stories it can create around parenthood, I can’t help but thinking it’s a big contributor to our maternal mental health epidemic.
With one in five women experiencing a mental health problem during pregnancy or after giving birth, and one in four remaining undiagnosed – that’s a story we need to change.
And we can all do that by sharing the truth about motherhood.
Together we can make change
Join me and B. By Superdrug in posting images showing real motherhood as part of #MakingOverMotherhood campaign across social media this week. Because the truth about how hard motherhood can be deserves to be out there in the big wide world, don’t you think?
Have you struggled with loneliness or a mental health problem in motherhood? Do share in a comment below.
Cover picture credit: People photo created by senivpetro – www.freepik.com
*This post has been commissioned by B. By Superdrug.