Do you feel like you have to be a perfect mum? Did you read everything you could get your hands on pre-bub, plan your birth and nursery to the tiniest detail – and then struggle to stay afloat once he or she arrived?
If so, you’re among a growing number of women putting too much pressure on themselves to be a super mum, says psychologist Kirstin Bouse. She says she’s seeing more “book mums” – educated women who are well-read on pregnancy and parenthood but, in practice, find parenting difficult to manage. This means many become anxious and depressed, she says.
Perth-based Ms Bouse says pregnancy and new motherhood are risky times for anxiety and depression in women because they’re ill-equipped.
“Women who are planning a family tend to focus on getting pregnant and their birth plan, often neglecting their psychological wellbeing,” she tells The West Australian. “No one really talks to them about what their expectations are of motherhood. It’s even more pronounced if they know the baby’s gender because they start to create a picture of the baby and that pushes them down a certain mindset.”
Ms Bouse says many people believe parenting is instinctive and will sort itself out once baby arrives – but this isn’t always the case. Women who fail to bond as well as they imagined can be riddled with guilt, she says.
She also says that half of mums who suffer anxiety while pregnant and 70 per cent who struggle with depression pre-birth continue to show symptoms throughout their child’s early years. But GPs are not properly trained to deal with struggling mums, and many new parents give up seeing their maternal health nurse.
Today’s mums put higher expectations on themselves than previous generations, particularly around breastfeeding and sleeping, she says. “We all read more, and while information is a wonderful thing, it can create more confusion and a sense of not measuring up and that can lead to depression,” she says. The mum of four has started a program called The Mothers Group to help properly prepare pregnant women for motherhood.
I have to agree that I felt under-prepared before my first baby. Out of three prenatal lessons, only half of one covered breastfeeding and settling – and that was considered enough information about handling a newborn. How about you, what practical tips would you give a mum to be?