I am the selfish mother

I am the selfish mother, which is something pre children I would have never dreamed of becoming. I make sure I have adequate time away from my children, I buy myself treats, I go to the gym and leave my child in a crèche. I am more than happy to book weekends away with friends and have nights out getting drunk and I feel no shame in this. I go to work and feel no guilt leaving my children for the day, as I get adult conversation and money to treat myself. I lock myself away in my bedroom whilst my husband watches the children so I can write my blogs or even sit on Facebook in peace. I even have long baths and leave my husband in charge of the chaos. I sometimes ignore my children and I don’t jump up for their every request. The playdoh and art supplies stay firmly in the cupboard and comes out if I can be bothered.

I am a selfish mother and that suits me fine. I spent so much time trying to give my children every ounce of me and the consequences were not good. I tried to do too much and I got to breaking point and wasn’t able to care for my children properly because of this. I will never become that emotionally and physically drained mother again as my children were not getting the best of me. For me to be a good mother I need to look after myself first so I can look after them. I am again enjoying being a mother and I am again capable of giving my children quality time that they deserve.

I used to force myself to take the children out constantly and felt guilty if they were stuck in whilst I had to do the housework. I used to spend every penny I had on my children’s clothes and shoes when I reality they didn’t need as much as I was giving them. I am strict on bedtime so I get my evenings to myself again, as this is my time and it is important to me for my mental wellbeing. My children are my priority, I love them dearly and their needs are met but I can be selfish whilst this is achieved. As a mother we are told we need to sacrifice everything, our bodies, our looks, our time, our friends, our money and that really isn’t fair. My husband has given up a lot to be a father, but he isn’t the one who has to drop everything at the drop of a hat if a child is ill, or plan his whole life around school pick-ups and after school clubs. I am the one that keeps this house running not because of my money I put in, it is because I plan every aspect of our lives to fit in and work perfectly. I had forgotten for some time to plan myself into this time for me to have a break, but I now am.

2017 will continue to be about me, my wellbeing, my happiness and the happiness pf our whole family. I deserve a break as much as anyone and I will take it.

 

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Hiding behind the smiles and postnatal depression

The day is warm and the sun is shining bright, whilst a mother and her children walk along a country path. She smiles away, pushing her baby in his pram whilst her angelic three year old skips along side her. She has her make up on and a pretty summer dress and to the outside world she looks happy and content. She smiles when she walks past people and lovingly strokes her baby’s cheek as yet another old lady stops her to coo over this beautiful baby. Her life is complete as she has one of each and they are the most beautiful children she could have ever imagined, but why does she feel like this.

Behind the smile she is dying inside with pain. She wants to scream and shout, but she doesn’t think anyone can hear her. Maybe she could run away, but would the pain still follow her or maybe it’s best to end it now, so she doesn’t have to feel this pain anymore. She is consumed with guilt, anger and pain and she knows she is failing, but that make-up is hiding the bags under her eyes and is her mask to the outside world that she is doing ok. When people ask how she is, she always smiles and replies that she is fine, as she is too scared to tell them the truth. No one wants to know that she can’t cope and that everyday is a battle. Why would anyone feel the way she does with two beautiful children.

Her pain is invisible to the naked eye and she blends in like any other mum taking their little family out. She is isolated and alone and feels like she is battling this pain all on her own. No one knows that this is the first time she has left her home for a week or that she feels like a prisoner trapped in her own mind. She’s afraid and anxious that she will never feel happiness again. The anxiety has been building up inside her to force herself out and to not spend another day in that prison that used to be her home.

She finally gets to the shop and buys what she needs and heads back to her home. She made it out today, she kept the children alive, she survived and she continued to fight. Today she made progress and tomorrow she will be strong enough to ask for help.

 

 

 

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Loving myself and happiness that I deserve

Something that I’ve really struggled with all my teenage and adult life is loving myself. I have always had a low opinion of my self and lacked confidence, but with postnatal-depression my self-esteem really took a bash. Not only did I not like the person I was, I was also doubting myself as a mother and how good of a parent I actually was. I am currently trying to build my self-esteem and confidence to become the person I want to be. It’s all about believing and knowing what you deserve and I know I deserve happiness. I know some days will be hard and some days I will struggle to believe in myself, but it’s all about picking yourself back up and not letting those feelings linger and not letting them work their way in so you believe them.

I’m finally feeling well enough to enjoy parenting again and am able to appreciate my children. I can now feel emotions of love and happiness and not just pain and sadness. My children are my main focus through this and I need to get better for them not just myself. I need to love myself so they can grow up knowing how to love themselves. I need to be the role model my children deserve and the support for them when they need encouragement.

I am taking this time to focus on myself and putting my needs first. I am no longer doing things just to make others happy. I am looking after myself, I am taking the time for long baths in peace so I can unwind and relax after a day, going to the gym so I can feel healthier and doing something for myself, writing my blog as its therapeutic and puts things in perspective, taking time to do my make up and hair so I can feel more like me and occasionally treating myself to something I want and not just need. I have dedicated 18 months of the last five years growing humans and 2 1/2 years breastfeeding them and it’s my turn to be a little selfish and start focusing on myself. I have given everything I have to my children and can no longer give as much, unless I start looking after myself. I am Michelle and not just mum and need to focus on what makes me happy from time to time.

These last 18 months have been extremely hard on myself, but they have also been enlightening. I have learnt so much about myself and why I am, the way I am and what makes me act in certain ways. I know I will never been perfect and I am letting go unrealistic expectations and starting my life as a new blank page. I am fortunate that I feel love everyday from the family that I have helped create and I am rich in so many ways besides wealth. Life is good and my happiness is reachable.

 

 

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Lonely parenting and finding the support you need

Taking Miss J home from hospital for the first time was nothing short of magical. She was beautiful, happy, content and feeding well. My husband was lucky enough to be able to take two weeks off and we spent those couple of weeks visiting friends and family and going out for lunches. When my husband went back to work working 12 hour shifts and the visitors died down I started to realise the reality of being a mum with a husband who worked. I started to get lonely and realised that being at home with a baby all day long, with no one else to speak to was lonely and isolating. At first when Miss J came along we had so many visitors, but as she got older they dwindled, not for any fault of their own it was because life moves on and people have their own lives to live.

I didn’t have postnatal-depression with Miss J but I did struggle with anxiety so for me to go to baby grows was pretty scary experience and something I would get myself really worked up over. I forced myself into these groups but in the village where I lived at 24 I was one of the younger mum’s who went and felt a little bit unsure of myself. I continued to go and did make some lovely friends through these groups and me and Miss J loved doing the baby massage class together. My year at home with Miss J was pretty jammed packed full of different groups sometimes even two in one day and it honestly was the best year of my life. The baby stage is very short, even if at times it feels never-ending probably because you haven’t had eight hours sleep over three nights let alone one night. I felt it was important and helpful to me to find some friends who were going through the same stage as me so baby groups and also Facebook groups were so invaluable to me. When I did have to return to work when Miss J turned one I was honestly gutted that I wouldn’t have that time with her again. I went back to work three days a week and I cherished my days off in the week with her.

When Mr T came along I was naive to think it would be the same. I thought having Miss J at home would be helpful and would be nice as I could now have a proper conversation with her. Miss J wasn’t particularly impressed with this screaming and pooing thing that I spent most of my time feeding. She because quiet jealous and wouldn’t acknowledged his existence. As a mum you immediately feel guilty and that you have betrayed your first born child and with my husband going back to work I had never felt more alone and isolated. I tried desperately to get out the house but I found toddler groups just exhausting, as I had to keep an eye on Miss J whilst carrying Mr T with me. I wasn’t actually able to talk with anyone and found the whole experience stressful. Miss J decided to perfectly time stopping napping when her brother was a week old which made me I feel I was unable to have anytime to actually bond with my new baby or time to be able to appreciate my daughter and I desperately lonely in my house all day long. We tried getting out with walks to the park but Miss J would refuse to walk and want picking up whilst I tried to push the pushchair. I found that I wasn’t seeing or speaking to people for days and I would just sit at home crying and feeling like I was letting both of my children down.

When Mr T was 5 months old something had to give and I excepted that I needed to get help for postnatal-depression and anxiety. Luckily Miss J had started pre-school at this point and I was able to get a little bit of a break from her and she could get a break from me and her brother. I started taking antidepressants and started CBT which did help my anxiety. It has been a constant battle and something I am still battling. I’m enjoying my time more with the children and I am able to appreciate them more, but I do still have times where I feel isolated and lonely. Miss J now loves her little brother and also loves to go to school whilst Mr T has got a little easier and is happy to entertain himself for short periods of time so I can just about keep on top of the house.

The point to this post is that it does get easier and it is all momentary and will not last forever. They will soon grow, need you less and became their own little people. It’s important to involve yourself in local groups, even if it means trying out a few until you find one you really like. Connect on Facebook with local groups and also baby groups and you will soon realise you are not alone and that your feelings are quiet normal to feel lonely. I have made some lovely friends through Facebook, some who I have met a few times and some who only live in my phone, but these people are real people who care for me and support me as I do for them. Do what you need to do to get through the day and don’t feel guilty as you are doing a lot better job than you think you are. If someone offers to babysit, take them up on it, if no one asks, then ask them, if you can put you child in a crèche whilst going to the gym, then do it and if you can put an older child in preschool or nursery then do it. A happy mummy equals happy children so make sure you are looking after yourself so you can look after your children properly.

 

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Taking a second to appreciate my children

Taking a second to appreciate my children is something that should come naturally, but unfortunately with postnatal depression I have struggled to connect with them much recently besides meeting there basic needs. I have felt terrible guilt in this, but now I am seeing clearer again I am able to see that I was unwell and it wasn’t my fault. We still have a long way to go, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel and make plans again.

As any mum would say I really do love and appreciate my children, but it’s so easy to become distracted with life and technology at times that you forget to sit back, watch them giggling and playing and letting your heart fill with love and pride. Mr T has especially become so independent over the last few weeks and has started to want to go on outside walks and to explore and learn about the world outside my arms. I love watching him grow and learn from new experiences, but my heart does ache a little at the prospect of him growing up so fast. He chats along to me now, coming out with new words daily, he’s learnt how to spin and dance and has really found how to be cheeky to get all eyes on him. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again that he’s been a shock to the system which he still is, I am forever moving things out of his reach and having to kiss and cuddle various bumps and scrapes. He is not for the faint hearted and he is definitely a stereotypical boy with his snot covered face, fascination with his winkey and the bucket loads of mess he creates. I’ve always been a girlie girl and enjoyed having a relatively clean home without sticky finger marks on everything and I’ve always loved having a home filled with pink, pretty girlie toys, but now I’ve learnt to embrace, sticky doors, the paw patrol toys and the endless noise from the toot-toot cars.

Miss J has been particularly challenging the last few weeks and I think it’s because she has been able to pick up on me not being well and she hasn’t been getting the attention that she needs. Now she’s at school I feel sad that our quality time is limited and confined to such a small window from 4pm-7pm. I find in this time I am so busy with getting dinners ready, bath time and bedtime it’s hard to actually enjoy this time properly. I’ve been trying to take a step back and not wish for bedtime to hurry up so I can put my feet up for the day, but instead sit down, play, listen to her stories, read our books and treasure the night-time cuddles in bed together. I know the day will come when she doesn’t want me for cuddles anymore and I need to appreciate her still needing me in this way. Between 7-7:30pm me and Miss J have our only one on one time together and its lovely. She tries every trick in the book to keep me in bed with her for a little longer with a funny story, telling me about her school day (she never remembers anything when her ask her on the walk home from school) and telling me over and over again how much she loves me and needs me to stay for one more cuddle. I really do appreciate our weekends now and how important and special they are especially with my husband only being around every other weekend.

My children are tough and I’m not the perfect parent, but everyday I try, and that’s how I know I love them so much. I have always put them above my own needs and that’s why I have struggled so much at times. I know that I need to look after myself more so I can appreciate them more and be a better mother to them. The mummy guilt never lifts unfortunately, but I am finding it easier to rationalise. unfortunately in our society mums are made to feel guilty in every way possible. If we chose to stay at home or go to work, if we decide to breast or bottle feed, if we co-sleep, if we do cry it out, someone will judge you. I have felt judge many times of the years of being a parent and I don’t expect that will change anytime soon, I know other people’s opinions of my parenting may not be favourable, but honestly I no longer care. My worse critic has always been myself but I remind myself if I wasn’t a good parent I wouldn’t feel guilty. Do what you need to do to get through these difficult and such rewarding first years and take a step back and appreciate your children and what you have sacrificed for them. You’re an excellent parent and you are unconditionally loved by them. See also Becoming the role model my daughter deserves.

Fighting depression with unconditional love

 

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The things I never appreciated before children.

The things I never appreciated before children.

Becoming a parent is a whole new world of emotions and it doesn’t matter how prepared you are you have no idea until you’re deep in nappys. Going back over my time hop app from six years ago I seemed to loved to update people on how tired, skint or ill I was. Obviously this was before children and I had no idea what those things actually meant. So many mum friends told me to enjoy the date nights and sleep, but I just shrugged it off and thought it wouldn’t be so bad.

The day to day tiredness of being a mum is relentless, but when you have a newborn who is up all night or a three year old who gets in your bed and fidgets all night it is beyond exhausting. The fact you can’t just call in sick and that you still no matter how tired you are have to get up and look after the needs of another human that relies on you is relentless. I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture and that you can cry just because you are so tired. The days of a decent lay in and naturally waking up are long gone and something I miss terribly. I have been a mother for four years now and will never be or become a morning person. As much as I do love waking up to Miss J snuggling into me I do miss waking up, checking the time and just rolling back over to sleep. I just never appreciated how good it was whilst I still had it.

Being able to make spontaneous plans to go out for dinner, a weekend away or even a trip to tesco are long gone. The planning and packing to get out are enough to put you off even making the effort and don’t get me started on how to plan the logistics of a date night with work shifts, childcare etc. It’s true though as much as I made the most of this whilst pregnant I didn’t miss it until it was gone.

Hangover days are just not quite the same anymore. I have tried many a time to plan a night out where I get some hangover time on my own the next day without any luck. Gone are the days of Hollyoaks omnibus, eating junk food and staying in bed all day and now I spend the days watching Minions on repeat whilst letting my children eat anything they like so I can get five minutes peace. No hangover in my early twenties has been as bad as one since I’ve had kids.

I now look back at before I had children and wonder what I did with all that free time and I remember the moments of loneliness. I remember the emptiness of another night out going to the same places and seeing the same people. I remember how my life didn’t seem to have a purpose and that something was always missing. I used to look at families and get a pang of jealously and hoped and wished for the day that I could start my own family. I know not everyone needs or wants for children, but for me it’s all I’ve ever planned out for myself. Becoming a mother has been the hardest job in the world, but the reward from it has been tremendous. My children are my life and that’s how it will always stay.

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Embracing the rubbish parent inside us all.

Since having postnatal depression and thinking I was the worst mother in the world something amazing has happened. I’ve actually for the first time in my life stopped caring about what others think of me. I am so liberated that I am finally at a stage in my life where I am comfortable in my own decisions as a parent. I have stopped judging others by their parenting choices and am very much in the mind set that you do what ever you have to do to get through the day and be happy.

I felt so much pressure as a parent to be the perfect parent, but by trying that I was unhappy, alone and failing in every aspect. Having to revaluate my whole beliefs and ideas after making the change to be more consious of my mind, I know have this freedom that I once didn’t. When  I go to the school playground I know some people will not like me and I honestly no longer care. I do not live in a big house and have a fancy car and I’m no longer ashamed of that. I have so much more of value than material things and every day I feel blessed to be married to my soul mate and have two beautiful children with him, but believe me when I say that he and the kids can be right idiots at times.

I love facebook and Instagram but now I’ve realised how I too crop a picture so it looks it’s most perfect. Who’s bribed an older child with sweets to take the perfect picture with their sibling? Who has chucked a dirty nappy in the corner so it doesn’t ruin a perfect photo opportunity? No one’s life is perfect as soon as we remember that we realise how much better ours really is.

 

A great example of a picture where sweet bribes have been exchanged.

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Postnatal depression, the silent illness.

Since I’ve finally had the courage to come out about my postnatal depression hell, I’ve had so many people either tell me they have had it themselves or that they had no idea I was struggling. Unless you are close by it is really hard to see how much someone is struggling. For me I buried and hid it well and even didn’t admit it myself for five months, but on the inside I was at breaking point.

I feel so overwhelmed with how many people who have contacted me telling me they have also been through this terrible illness and from people who have said they have found comfort in what I have written. This blog was very much about me writing for me, but it has turned into so much more. This blog is now about offering support and letting other mums know they are not alone in this struggle. I don’t have the cure and I am very much still fighting, but I am working through the highs and the lows, which I share with you all.  I will do everything I can to try and lift the stigma associated with having postnatal depression and remind us all we are not alone and we should never feel ashamed of something we have no control over.

My biggest turning point was after reading into the chemical changes in our brains which can cause depression. For me to see it in black and white that it wasn’t my fault it was a relief. I had an a stressful pregnancy, low iron levels and a reflux baby, so for me to look back now I’m really not surprised I did struggle. It is tough to have a new baby and so easy to become isolated and I now look back and I accept that there was nothing I could have done differently.

Postnatal depression has put me in a consuming world of guilt and failure, but it has also taught me so much about myself. I am thankful that I’ve had to take the time to understand how I work and learnt how to be kinder on myself. Something else I’ve learnt is mindfulness which I do try and practise regularly and the improvements are amazing. It’s so important we look after ourselves within as we do on the outside.

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Becoming the role model my daughter deserves

Now Miss J is four I am very much aware that I need to be a good role model for her. She is my inspiration to get better and beat PND. I’ve heavily relied on my own mother to help me parent her whilst I have struggled to deal with my struggles.

I’m amazed at how resilient Miss J has been over the last year and how well rounded she has become. Miss J was robbed of the mother she had once had and I’ve felt terribly guilty about this and her having to grow up so quickly. I now know I did all I could to get better and she was the main reason why I did seek help.

Somehow, despite all that has gone on she has grown to be a beautiful, kind and sensitive girl and I  couldn’t be prouder of the little girl who I have help create. I am letting go of the guilt and accepting that I have done best for my daughter and I have been a fantastic mum. I know I’m not a perfect mother and I never will be, but that’s not a bad thing and it teaches my daughter that we all make mistakes and as long as we are aware of this and work to correct them, we are doing a good job. My daughter accepts me with all my flaws, which makes me love her even more.

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Losing your identity as a mother.

For me learning to let go of guilt is something I really struggle with, but I know I need to address this and except that I am doing everything I can. When we become mothers I think we often forget how to be anything other than this and we feel guilty wanting to be anything else. I’ve lost my identity along the way and have forgotten what I deserve and what I need as an individual. Since my first came along I have only really met my basic needs and haven’t spent the time focusing on my own wellbeing.  I not only look after and raise two children, I also keep the house clean, every one and everything organised and I work part-time. I forgot to appreciate that I am doing a pretty good job and I deserve time to myself and I also deserve to be treated as someone who isn’t just mum.

Parenting when there are two parents in the home should be a team effort but at times I feel like I am the one who is parenting and I am in fact looking after three children. My husband works long hours but I think he often forgets that I am not his mother and he needs to look after himself at times and not expect me to do it all for him. I also need to remember my husband needs his wife and at times I am not just mum. It’s so easy to forget our identities and that we can play different roles in the house, especially when the children are so young and we fall into traps of only meeting their needs. It isn’t a competition on who is more tired and who’s job is harder or a game of tit for tat.

We need to take time to be by ourselves individually and as a couple as often as possible and be open with our emotions. We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that we miss our partners or that we need for them to emotionally connect with us. These problems will never reslove and will just escalate and turn to resentment unless we can communicate and be honest. I know I sit down and ask my daughter why she is upset and what emotions she is feeling so I can understand her and meet her needs, so why don’t we do this with our partners? We need to not forget how to be wives when we become mothers whilst men need to remember to treat us as our partners and not their mothers. I made a promise to my husband the day we got married and I think it’s time to revisit those vows and remember why we are here.

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