It seems like maternal mental health is having its moment. Everywhere I look I see amazing people helping to raise awareness of some of the many mental health issues new mums are facing. The indomitable Mother Pukka has spoken bravely about the new mum fog. Shining a light on how new babies are brilliant, but also exhausting and at times, quite frankly, terrifying. Other brilliant women, mummy heroes such as the Unmumsy Mum and Hurrah for Gin, have done huge amounts to make us all feel less guilty for finding the monotony or parenting hard, while the wonderful Scummy Mummys do an amazing job at reminding us all to not take this shit quite so seriously.
Great strides have been made. But still. I wonder if we’ve really cracked it. Hands up who’s felt crippling anxiety as a mum? I’ve spoken to countless friends who recount being worried about every cough or sneeze around their baby. We laugh now, but those early months worrying about every little ailment, have cost us something precious. Some of us were too scared to leave the house or have much needed visits from friends in case the baby caught something.
Others of us agonized over every decision we made, reading countless baby books and studying milestone charts, treating motherhood like it was an academic research project that with enough analysis we could definitely crack. I spent months convinced I had ruined my daughter for life because every book I read seemed to tell me that what I’d previously been doing was wrong. Studying isn’t always the answer kids.
And a big shout out to any of you who’ve bemoaned the lack of sleep with a newborn only to struggle with insomnia on the rare occasions that they actually did close their eyes. Mind racing, finding it impossible to switch off while you worry about every little thing (including, infamously, whether I’d ruined the cat’s life by having a baby. Get. A. Grip. Woman). There is nothing quite as pure as the rage you will feel at 2am when your baby is soundly sleeping while you are WIDE AWAKE GODDAMNIT.
Or what about the loneliness? The depression that sits at the back of your mind when you’re faced with another day of just you and the bubba at home again. Or worse, facing a baby group where everyone else seems to know each other and be having a whale of a time, while you, quite frankly, feel pretty shit.
And these experiences are for the lucky ones. A bit of insomnia, some anxiety, a general feeling of being a bit down, it’s nothing compared to what some women will go through.
Today, the BBC are launching a mum takeover to shine a spotlight on maternal mental health. It’s bloody awesome that they’re giving it so much airtime. I love that lots of brilliant women are using their platforms to help raise awareness of this issue.
But I’m also angry. Why are so many of us suffering. What on earth is going on, that so many of us struggle in those early days (and beyond). Sure, there’s the pesky hormones. And the pressure social media exerts, blah blah blah… but it’s more than that. It’s the media themselves. The endless rounds of research that tells us that working mums are causing a crisis for children who spend too long in childcare each day, while simultaneously telling us that children with working mums do better. That judge every celebrity who dares to get pregnant, picking apart their weight, the name choices they make, the baby showers they dare to hold. That attacks the very women who’ve made us feel a little bit better about being a mum because they dare to feed their kids fishfingers or have the occasional glass of wine (#solidaritea, ladies).
But it’s also the judgemental bullshit we perpetuate ourselves. The superiority of breastfed over bottlefed debates, the sanctimonious twaddle that comes out whenever people start discussing weaning. The debates over whether you make your kids do homework or not, or let them watch TV. It’s relentless. And it’s exhausting.
Mummy’s Gin Fund has become such a haven for me, a safe space where I can find a group of like-minded women who won’t judge me for asking a stupid question. Where in the main, we accept that we’re all just trying our hardest and actually, that’s all we can ask of anyone.
For the sake of all our mental health, it’s time to make a stand and insist that all places should be safe spaces for mums, whether it’s the tabloid gossip pages or the school gates. If we all work really hard to bin the judgment, and stand together with our fellow mums, then maybe, just maybe, some of our anxieties and worries can start to subside, and we can actually just be free to enjoy raising our kids rather than seeing it as a tremendous test that we’re already failing before we even start.
Isn’t it time we made motherhood the best damn ‘hood there is?