A brilliant UK blogger has shared a (brilliant) post about her struggle with anxiety, insomnia and debilitating “mother guilt” – after the loss of one baby and the birth of her second child – and other parents are nodding their heads in recognition and rallying in solidarity.
I get comments on here sometimes from people who don't understand, people who get upset about some of the things I say….
It’s a jungle out there
Katie Kirby (of blog Hurrah for Gin) not only discussed her own mental health challenges in the short but powerful post, she highlighted the constant, unrealistic pressure for mums to feel blessed and grateful after having their babies.
Katie says she’s often on the receiving end of these ‘grateful police’ as she (hilariously and honestly) discusses her own parenting adventures on social media, but she’s pretty much had it up to HERE with the guilt trips. We can’t say we blame her.
“I get comments on here sometimes from people who don’t understand, people who get upset about some of the things I say. They vary of course but the underlying theme is always the same… ‘You should be grateful for your children!'” Katie posted.
Granted we ARE lucky to have children, that’s a given. But these grateful expectations are a bit of a trap. They shut down authentic chatter about the realities of parenting – and may even isolate parents who are struggling with their responsibilities and/or mental health conditions.
If you’re a mum or dad, you may have experienced a (perhaps well-intentioned but unwanted) ‘gratitude reflex’ at one point or another. It usually happens when you’re discussing a particularly crappy day or venting about one parenting challenge or another.
Someone will come out of the woodwork to remind you that you are lucky to have a child/children. They may beatifically mutter other – possibly accurate but highly annoying – platitudes (‘everything happens for a reason’ or ‘this too shall pass’) in your direction too. Ugh.
For parents battling exhaustion, anxiety or depression behind the scenes, these stock-standard ‘grateful’ or ‘blessed’ responses further encourage feelings of isolation. They may even prompt mums and dads to withdraw socially or censor the way they portray their lives, for fear of being further ‘grateful-ed’ by a well-meaning sort.
Basically they make parents feel quite alone.
There’s nothing worse than being told to cheer up and soldier on when you’re feeling vulnerable and have been brave enough to expose the tricky times you’re going through.
Hurrah For Gin’s Katie has dealt with a number of particularly challenging life events. Her blog (and Facebook page) are a way to process this, ‘write through’ the tough times and attempt to maintain some modicum of sanity and humour – with a bunch of likeminded online buddies.
The relentless ‘grateful policing’ had started to get on her last nerve though, prompting her to provide a little back story and encourage the blessed brigade to ease the heck up.
Life had been pretty freaking difficult and glossing over it with ‘grateful’ was an unwelcome suggestion – and frankly not even an option. You can’t put a bandaid on a broken heart, grateful police.
“When I had my first son I went through a difficult time, having previously lost our first pregnancy, a little girl diagnosed with conditions incompatible with life, I put myself under a lot of pressure to be the perfect mum (and yes I do feel very uneasy writing that in a Facebook post). ‘I should be so grateful!’ I thought. ‘I am so lucky to have a beautiful baby, some people never get this opportunity.'” Katie wrote.
“But I didn’t always feel grateful. Some days it felt so hard. I made myself sick with the overwhelming guilt that I was not doing a good enough job, that I was not a good enough mum. I thought there was something wrong with me. And soon enough there was… I developed severe insomnia and anxiety and started having panic attacks.”
Katie said that less gloss, less grateful and more real life were a more effective salve than simply ‘feeling blessed’.
“What could have helped me? It would have helped if I had felt less alone, It would have helped if I knew other people had those feelings too, it would have helped if I could have seen through the glossy magazines and happy, smiley Instagram photos and found an honest voice.”
“Everybody is winging it”
She has some great advice – based on actual human parenting experience, rather than pastel-coloured Instagram memes – for mums and dads who are navigating the challenge that parenting is (especially if they’re dealing with mental health conditions.)
“Different things allow different people to cope but this much I now know:-
1. Telling other people how they ‘should’ think, or how they ‘should’ feel is bloody dangerous.
2. Being grateful 24/7 is unrealistic and exhausting.
3. It’s ALWAYS better to talk. Talking and asking for help can help prevent depression and anxiety before they become serious problems.
4. Occasionally wanting to eBay your child does not make you a bad person. It just makes you as painfully human as the rest of us.
5. There is no such thing as ‘the perfect mum’.
6. Everybody is winging it.
7. You are doing a brilliant job (trust me).”
We couldn’t agree more.
So next time you consider telling another parent they should be grateful. Next time you ready yourself with that #blessed hashtag. Think again.
Mums and dads know how lucky they are to have little humans. They really do.
What they really need is for someone to truly listen to what they’re saying and provide some sincere support and encouragement in the face of a vert tricky job.
Let’s go for less of this telling parents how to feel and much, much more asking parents how they are truly faring.
If you’re struggling with your feelings about being pregnant or looking after your baby, you are not alone. PANDA are waiting for your call and they can help you find a way out of a super challenging time.