Being a mum is the most wonderful thing. It’s beautiful, loving, exciting… but it can also be really lonely and the most anxious time in a woman’s life. There’s so much expectation on mothers these days, especially in the internet age where ‘expert’ advice is saturating the web and every second mother posts about her fabulous cake create or how wonderful her child is. There is a lot of pressure on the modern mother to have loads of mummy friends, cook sugar-free-gluten-free-soy-free-everything-free meals for their kids, to take their children to exciting (and expensive) places, and generally be supermums. It’s no wonder that the majority of mothers at some point experience anxiety or depression or both.
All this is only compounded by the isolation and loneliness that motherhood can bring. It can be very lonely being a mother, especially if you have no family support locally, you are no longer working and your friends are in different phases of their lives. Add to that the post-partum hormones that can make you feel emotional at the best of times, it’s easy to feel sad and lonely especially on the hard days, and we all have those.
Here are a few tips for surviving when you are feeling low:
- Remember you aren’t alone even if you feel it
You aren’t alone, as much as you feel like it. The majority of new mothers feel anxious about motherhood and lonely in their new role at some point. It is completely normal to feel this way, but if it gets too much or you aren’t coping, there is help available! There are several organisations and groups such as PANDA who support new mums and their mental health (see some useful contacts below).
- Look after yourself and remember the things that make you happy
What did you enjoy doing before you became a mummy? You are still that person but you need to give yourself some time to remember it. You probably feel like you don’t have time but you need to make it. Ask your partner or parent to watch bub for an hour while you do something for yourself, even if it’s just having a shower and reading a book. You need to look after yourself to be the best mum you can be.
- Make some new friends
Believe it or not there are lots of ways to meet new people that you may not have thought of. Join a local playgroup, if you don’t know where to find one join a local Facebook mothers group or ask at your local church or community centre. Most libraries have some sort of free activities aimed at babies and toddlers, these can be a great way to get out and entertain your baby while meeting new people. If you can afford it, try a baby development activity like Gymbaroo or Baby Sensory. Google is your friend when it comes to finding opportunities.
- Stop feeling like you need to compete
The technology age makes us feel inadequate. Every TV show, news program, Facebook post, magazine and so on has ‘helpful’ advice or commentary on what we should be doing as parents. Try to block it out and remember you are doing the best you can and the best for your baby. Those mothers who look like they have it all together and they are doing all the right things might be melting down when there’s no one watching.
- Let people help
Someone offers to cook you a meal or watch bub while you shower? Let them! Don’t try to do everything on your own and let your family and friends help where they can.
- Be honest and talk about how you feel
Don’t feel ashamed of how you are feeling and don’t feel like you need to keep it all to yourself. Your partner, friends and family are here to love and support you. Do you have anyone you feel you can talk to? If not, call a support line. Sometimes just sharing how you are feeling with anyone can make you feel much lighter.
- Try to be more present
Live in the moment and try to stay off the technology. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram can consume our lives and make us feel less than wonderful. It is easy to see what others post on social media and think you aren’t doing well enough or that others are having fuller lives. Be present in your kids’ lives instead of trying to live through others.
- Seek some help
If you really feel like things aren’t right or if the baby blues feel like something more, seek some professional help sooner rather than later. You don’t need to keep feeling this way any longer than you have to. Talk to your doctor or health nurse as soon as possible or call a mother’s support line such as PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, phone: 1300 726 306. Find a list of local support groups here.