In this post, we are answering some motherhood questions. However, please don’t think that we are perfect mothers. Just like you, we struggle and feel clueless a lot of the time. We make mistakes every day. Being a good mother is not about perfection. It’s about keeping your heart and mind open, listening to your child and learning and growing.
Q: Motherhood is overwhelming me, how can I take a break?
Ava: Motherhood is a part of who you are it’s not all of you. If you are feeling exhausted there’s a chance that there’s an imbalance in your inner world. Some parts of you are burdened while other parts of you are feeling neglected.
So this is a sign that you need to restore that balance by taking a step back and observing what is going on inside of you. But first, you need to make sure you have some actual physical and mental space to be able to go inward.
It would be very difficult to do so if you have a 4-year-old screaming in the background. Evenings, when children have gone to sleep, are a good time to give yourself 15 minutes to 30 minutes to slow down and be with yourself.
Sitting idle or browsing through social media or binge-watching Netflix isn’t exactly the best way to be with yourself. I recommend choosing something you enjoy to calm your nervous system first: putting your phone and devices away, going for a walk, taking a bath, lighting some candles and listening to soothing music, journaling, stretching, intuitive movement, painting or drawing, meditating.
You may notice a very small maybe even negligible difference the first three nights but after about 30 days of practising this regularly, you will begin to notice a difference. If you are not able to restore balance make sure you speak to your physician AND mental health professional.
Q: Does motherhood get easier?
Matleena: Yes and no. As your child grows, the challenges of motherhood change. On the whole, you will probably find that motherhood becomes easier over time because your experience, confidence and wisdom grow. Or maybe you’ll just get used to being a mother and can’t think of a life not being one.
As your child or youngest child grows, they will need less physical caring. You will not be carrying a child, packing a nappy bag and pulling a stroller out of the trunk of your car every day. You will get more sleep. You will be able to finish a cup of tea uninterrupted. You will be able to read a book again. Many women start feeling like themselves again once the baby and toddler years are over.
You will, however, probably spend more time worrying about your child’s friendships, education and future. Many of the things you worry about are outside of your realm of control. The physical stress of caring for a young child may feel like a breeze now that you are worried about your child being in a coercive relationship, underperforming at school or refusing to go on a family vacation.
I want you to remember this: Cherish the time with your child, whether they are an infant, a toddler or a teenager. There will come a day when they pack their bags and move out. You will be happy for them but it will also make all those years feel like they flashed by.
As long as you allow your child to grow into the person they are meant to be, your child will be ok. They will find their place in life. They have a mother who is aware enough to be thinking about what kind of mother they want to be. They have a mother who cares and loves them deeply. Your love and nurture will carry your child far. They may not follow the path you want them to would but if you support them as they figure out their own path, they will be ok.
Don’t let the responsibilities of motherhood stop you from enjoying it every day. It is a privilege to see your baby grow into a beautiful human being. Remind yourself of this daily — and tell your child how much joy they bring you.
Q: I want to take a break but how do I not feel guilty about that?
Ava: Oh this feeling is all too familiar to me and most mothers. What I have learned to practice is treating myself and the parts of me that need a break with loving-kindness and asking the critical part of me who is worried about me making time for myself, to relax and take a step back.
Whenever we experience conflict inside of us, it’s a sign of imbalance between all the parts of us that live within us. The first thing to remember is all parts have good intentions and are good, they just need a little help and support.
So how do you relieve the feelings of guilt that are burdening you, by talking to all the different parts inside of you that are burdened by guilt? You let them know you see how they feel, you validate that it makes sense why they feel that way, they’re not alone and that you are there for them. You then ask if they could relax a bit so that you can give yourself a break and be back with more energy to give.
There is absolutely no use in saying to yourself “don’t feel guilty, or stop feeling guilty!” Equally, there’s no point in sinking in guilt. That tactic only works temporary and is not sustainable. Be kind, be gentle and be wise with yourself. Then just take a break in whatever way that works for your family and once you see and experience the wonder of rejuvenation and how it actually begins to create some calm in the family, you will allow yourself a well-deserved break.
Q: What practices can I do daily to make it easier?
Matleena: You are the most important person in your life. If you don’t look after yourself and you crash, everyone around you will suffer. In order for you to be the mother you want to be, you must look after your wellbeing. It doesn’t mean you should ignore the needs of your loved ones. It means you shouldn’t ignore your needs, either.
- Ask for help. Asking for help does not mean you are failing as a mother. Asking for help is wise. Find someone you trust and have them look after your baby or child while you do something for yourself.
- Sleep. You may not get enough sleep but get as much sleep as you can. Nap when you can. If you are rested, you will be able to enjoy your children and life much more.
- Eat well and exercise. Look after your physical health. The better you feel physically, the better you are equipped to mentally respond to life’s challenges.
- Schedule regular time alone (especially if you are an introvert) and with friends (especially if you are an extrovert). Don’t only talk about your children. Your children will benefit if you are a full person. Make sure you do something unrelated to children and family every week.
- Simplify your life. You can’t do everything you used to before you had a baby. Let go. Focus on what is most important and forget about the rest. There are days where you have to choose between brushing your hair or your teeth. (I recommend you brush your teeth and forget about the hair.)
Q: How do I know if I am depressed or when to seek help?
Ava: I have experienced postpartum blues and periods of depression during my daughter’s cancer treatment. I honour that journey and would wish for no mother to go through depression. But in reality throughout our lifetime, due to a variety of factors such as our genetic predisposition, intergenerational traumas, accumulated stressors over time, depression can be triggered.
I don’t see depression as a disease, I see it as part of a human experience. But I also don’t think we should let ourselves be engulfed by depression.
Like any mental, emotional or physical ailment, depression is a sign of a lack of harmony and balance in our internal and external world. But while we can’t fix everything outside of us, we can help restore some balance internally by connecting more with the parts inside of us that need attention.
If you are going through depression, please talk to a trusted doctor AND mental health professional to explore some of the causes of this imbalance. Doing a simple blood workup to check your blood count, thyroid levels, vitamin B and D levels can help rule out any obvious organic causes. Then making some lifestyle changes such as sleep, exercise, healthier eating, and connecting socially can help. Of course, therapy can help explore all these and if needed, going through the medication route whether traditional Western or alternative medicines, maybe your path.
Get all the help you can get!
Q: How do I tell my partner I need some time alone without worrying?
Matleena: Is your partner worried about being alone with the children or about the fact that you need some alone time?
If your partner is worried about being able to look after the children, start by being away for short periods of time, for example, an hour, and then gradually increase your time away. Work towards being able to be away for a whole day once your child is no longer exclusively breastfed. Time alone with both parents is beneficial for the child’s development. You need to give your partner the opportunity to get to know their child and they need to make use of that opportunity.
If your partner is worried about you needing time alone, they may not have spent enough time alone with the children! If they had, they would realize how all-encompassing and exhausting time with a young child can be — despite it also being rewarding and fun. Anyone who has looked after a young child for a long stretch of time knows that some child-free time is very much needed.
You have the responsibility to look after yourself in order to be able to be the best mother you can be to your children. If your partner is refusing to look after them so that you get regular breaks, ask your parents, parents-in-law or other family members or friends to help out. Time for you to recover and refresh is non-negotiable!
Take a little time for yourself today, grab a cup of coffee and read more about self-care for mothers here.