It is April 2020 and 21st Century Mum life is hard.
Women have so many more choices these days, which is fantastic, however there seems to be the idea that because we can choose to do more, that we should be doing all of these things all at once, rather than choosing one thing or the other.
I am a stay at home Mum and I have been for over 6 years now. I have had the odd pub job and worked nights for a while, but after one particular stretch of 8 days in a row where I didn’t see my husband except for sleeping in the same bed, we decided as a family, that the minimum wage I was bringing in pouring beers each night was not worth it for us. I do sometimes get some interesting reactions to the fact that I don’t have a job, (just my crochet designing business that I try and run from home). The reactions ranging from a slight pause and cool, to really? Lucky you! It must be so cool to not work!
With the cost of living these days, there is pressure to find the perfect job that allows you to financially contribute to the household, as well as still be there to drop off and pick up our kids from school and kinder. I have one kid in school and one in kinder, and I tell you what, those 5 hours between 9:30 and 2:30 go so fast! Between home duties, like laundry, tidying, shopping, and cooking, not to mention running errands and attending doctor appointments, I barely find the time to sit in my study alone and try and run my own business. (It is thanks to a very understanding husband that I am sitting here writing this post now!)
And now, just for good measure, let’s throw a global health pandemic in the mix. Let’s keep all our kids home, let’s also work from home, let’s not be able to see our loved ones, and let’s not be able to take the kids anywhere with us like to the grocery shop or a doctors appointment.
We are in some new weird reality and not too many of our daily experiences are the same as ‘normal’. My kids are getting cabin fever, wanting to spend all day on the tablets, and when I tell them NO, they seem to spend the day trying to find and push each others self-destruct buttons.
While I feel in some ways like my 6 years of being a stay at home Mum has been preparing me for this moment, nothing could have ever prepared me, my anxiety or my patience for this situation.
I miss the other parents at school drop off, the sanity restoring chats before heading back to spend the day wiping bums, breaking up fights and negotiating with a sassy 2-year-old. I miss the joy and absolute freedom of spending 4 hours along wandering around the shops during that 5 hour kinder day.
I miss not being nagged 12 times a day about ‘Where are we going today?’ and the dissapointed looks on their faces when yet again you say nowhere.
My anxiety is peaking lately and because I have been experiencing this for 5 years now, I can see the signs of my rising anxiety. I can feel the tightening on the back of my neck. I can sense that I am starting to ‘rage clean’ the house, slamming things and talking to myself, and I can recognise that I need to stop, take a break and change my situation.
More than any of my own worries within this house and my own mental battles, I am worried for first time Mums. Mums who are waiting to be told if they can have their partners in the birthing room with them, Mums who want their Mum there with them to give them a helping hand in those first few weeks at home with a brand new baby that they are suddenly responsible for.
My Mum and Mother-in-law were invaluable in those early days after having each of my babies, from helping with a load of washing, to chatting about, why is the baby doing this or what do I do if…
My wish for these Mums is that they have the support they need, they don’t feel alone, they have family or friends they can call and talk to when they have no idea what to do next to make the baby stop crying or just go the heck to sleep! I hope they have the freedom to bring whoever they want into the birthing room with them because I can’t imagine not being able to have my husband there with me.
Online communities are a true blessing in these tough days. Being able to video call multiple people at once, stay connected with friends, fellow parents and the kids’ friends is amazing. However, I do think we need to be careful and choose our online communities wisely because unfortunately there are still cruel, keyboard warriors spreading fear, hate, and shame, and in times like these, that is just unforgivable.
It is such a shame to still be seeing people bringing others down online. Simple things, like Mums sharing how many rainbows or teddy bears they saw when they took their kids for a walk around their neighbourhood are receiving comments like:
It’s people like you not listening that’s making this worse.
You’re so dumb, we aren’t meant to go out. Just stay home idiot.
This is just not okay. Kids are not designed to be stuck at home, and it is a battle for the parents to be able to mix entertaining, teaching and feeding multiple children, especially when they are of various ages. For most kids, their mental health, for the mum’s mental health and the general wellbeing of everyone, we need to be able to go for a walk around the block, to get some sunshine, to get some fresh air and to stretch our legs.
There is going to be a mental health pandemic after all of this without this simple freedom. So please stop shaming people for going for a walk, or if you must judge, just keep it to yourself!
Mums, if you are struggling to cope mentally, I urge you to please reach out for help. Talk to your family, your friends, and better yet, a professional. I know our health system will be under the pump over the coming months but there are mental health professionals ready to help you. Seeing a psychologist was one of the best things I did to get control of my mental health when I was at my most anxious.
There are a lot of resources out there ready to help you, one of them is PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia.
I volunteered to become a PANDA Community Champion after I recovered from my Perinatal Anxiety and Depression following Ethan’s pregnancy and birth, and I hope that in sharing my story with others I can help some other Mums who might not understand why they are crying all the time, or upset at nothing or anxious about everything.
Click here to see my story shared on the PANDA website – https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/after-birth/postnatal-recovery-stories/personal-stories-postnatal-depression/kate-vic-story
It really should send them an updated version, as I have since had Paige (our third) and struggled with anxiety again and am now pregnant with our fourth baby! But you can also read some blog posts I wrote back when I was going through these struggles, here and here.
PANDA has a lot of resources and a call center full of people ready to talk you through your struggles. Please give them a call if you just don’t know what’s happening to you and you aren’t feeling like yourself, especially in these tough times.
I’d love to know what resource is your go to when you need some help, whether it is family, friends, or even an organisation. Leave me a comment below!