Being a mom isn’t for the faint of heart. Motherhood and mental health is definitely something that needs to be talked about, but even I shied away from the topic.
I remember the night I finally had a breakdown and realized I needed help. Sitting in my car in the garage, alone, just so that I could cry for a few minutes in the quiet.
“I think I have postpartum depression,” I shakily told my husband through tears. For some reason, admitting my struggle made it real. I felt like I had failed. Like postpartum depression was somehow the result of something I was doing wrong.
As hard as it was for me to admit that I was struggling, I knew that I needed help. My girls needed a mom who could be present. They needed a mom who could be happy and smile and play. I couldn’t continue lying to myself and my family, playing “fine” when I wasn’t.
For some reason, I felt like I needed to be everything and do everything for everyone. I watched moms on social media doing everything for everyone- holding their happy newborns in one arm while making a beautiful home-cooked meal in their immaculately clean home while their older children played quietly and happily in the other room. I knew that what I saw on social media wasn’t always reality, but I was so fooled and told myself that I was failing if I couldn’t be that same mom.
After I got help from my doctor and finally started feeling “normal” again, I started putting a lot of thought into the mental health of motherhood. Why do we, as moms, struggle to admit when we are struggling? How can we help moms after they’ve given birth and for the following few weeks or months?
Listen to them
If a mom opens up about any struggles she is having with her mental health, listen to her. Postpartum depression is real, isolating, and can be so difficult to navigate. If a mom is having trouble gathering her thoughts and explaining what she’s feeling, continue to listen. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words what exactly it is that we’re feeling and why we’re feeling that way. So just listen. Listen as we stumble over our words and formulate our thoughts. It’s highly likely that we haven’t spent time talking about it with anyone and are still piecing together what exactly we feel.
Whether you’re a friend, family member, spouse, have struggled with your mental health or not, open your ears and your heart and let this mama be vulnerable with you. You don’t have to respond; she just needs you to listen.
Be open and honest
As a mom who struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety, it is so helpful to know when I’m not alone. It’s difficult to be vulnerable and talk about mental health. It’s easy to allow the negativity to take over and feel singled out in my feelings. Seeing posts on social media or hearing from friends that they struggle in similar ways helped in my healing process to know I wasn’t alone. When other moms were open and truthful about their mental health journey, I felt less alone. I felt like I was able to open up and share more because other moms lead the way for me to do the same.
So be open, be honest, and be vulnerable- you never know who you’re pulling out of isolation by sharing your journey.
Give them a break
Yes, a physical break is so helpful (I know I could use a nap during the day), but I mean give us a break. We’re moms, we aren’t superhuman. If we want to work, full time- let us! We want to stay home and take care of babies? Let us! If we want to tell the world that we’re struggling and need help, then let us talk about it- free of judgment and shame. It was hard enough feeling like I was failing myself and my family because I was struggling mentally. Feeling the pressure of society to try and be everything all at once for everyone amplified my anxiety so much more.
It’s time for society to allow moms to do what they need to do to take care of themselves and their mental health.
Be there for them
I know it isn’t always feasible to be there physically. Have five minutes to send a text? Send your mama friend a text to let her know you’re thinking about her. Do you have extra funds and want to treat her to dinner? You can have dinner delivered straight to her door so she doesn’t need to worry about dinner.
Not sure what you can do to help from a distance? Just ask! Saying things like “I was thinking of ordering takeout tonight. What can I order for you?” Even just asking “What is one food you’ve been craving recently?” then order her something that she mentions.
Your presence doesn’t always need to be physical to make a difference. In the loneliness that is postpartum depression, or just the mental health struggle that often comes with motherhood, having someone check in can make life feel a little less lonely.
“Mom” is one of my favorite titles. Motherhood has helped me find my purpose in life. But it has come with its fair share of struggles. In order for me to be the mom that God called me to be- the mom that my girls need- I needed to take care of myself and my mental health first. It took some time for me to realize it, but I know there is no shame in that. If being open about my struggles will help even just one mom feel less alone and isolated, then I will not stay silent about mental health. Remember, mama- you are so loved, and you are exactly the mom your kids need.
P.S. Get to know more of our moms on staff this Mom’s Month!