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Better self care is the key to your health as a parent.

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An article by Emma Thomson, Founder/Owner of Mums Empowered Studio

With the spotlight currently on Perinatal Depression and Anxiety marking the annual Awareness Week for 2015, it is the perfect time to talk about these somewhat complex and often debilitating mental health conditions that today affect up to 1 in 7 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads.

According to PANDA (Peri Natal Anxiety and Depression Australia), it is important to make the point that it’s not all black and white.

The journey through parenthood is a unique and different experience for everyone, and although parenting brings HAN_AND_LOLA_edited-1_grandegreat joy, it can also be extremely challenging. Particularly in the early stages, when new parents are coming to terms with a dramatic change in lifestyle, adjusting can be difficult and it is common to feel overwhelmed with an accompanying sense of uncertainty.

When such feelings of anxiety and depression start to affect your day to day functioning, it’s certainly time to take action, seek help and gain the necessary support to feel better.

Bring a baby into the world and the conversation is always about the new little bundle of joy. “How is baby settling in? Is baby a good sleeper? Is baby a good feeder? Are they in a ‘routine’ yet?” Oh and one of my ultimate favourites: “Are they a ‘good’ baby?”

These days there seems to be a “professional baby-whisperer” ready and waiting at any given moment to tackle any of your new baby woes. It is a booming business. And yes, sure, these are important questions and conversations to be had, but surely there is also room to ask: “How is mum doing? How much sleep is she actually getting? Is she stressed? Is she ok? Is dad coping with the drastic change in his relationship with her?”

Let’s be honest. Parenting is no easy feat, and with the current shape the world is in, it only seems to be getting more challenging, which is why now more than ever we need to build communities of support for each other as parents.

In my experience as a mother, the bottom line is, you got to keep it real.

It is an absolute reality that motherhood means your priorities will change and your life will be different. Your body will be different, your marriage will be different, your social life will be different.

Not worse, just different. This need to keep on keeping it real aligns directly with my career as Health Coach, and it is my solid belief, proven time and time again by mothers who are my clients, that when it comes to being a happy mumma; me time really is the best medicine.photo_grande

One of the main reasons perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA) is silenced among sufferers is because of the associated feelings of shame and inadequacy. “I didn’t want anyone to think I don’t love my baby”, confided one sufferer recently. In response I felt an absolute urge to dispel the common place myths of motherhood which frustratingly continue to add stress to already sleep deprived and fragile women.

According to PANDA such misconceptions and myths include:

  1. A woman will intuitively know how to ‘mother’
  2. Motherhood is somewhat romantic
  3. The woman is responsible for a happy family
  4. A mother’s worth is determined by the behaviour of her baby
  5. Mothering must be 24 hours a day
  6. Women who don’t go out to work have more time
  7. A mother ‘copes’ no matter what
  8. A mother is selfish if she expresses her own needs

“Many new parents put on hold their own needs as they deal with the changes and the needs of their baby.  Diet, exercise, sleep, timeout, pleasurable activities, socialisation, relaxation, meditation, spiritual, work, intellectual, routines and emotional needs all need to be built into their lifestyle”, says PANDA.

Better self care is vital to your health as a parent, and as mothers it’s as if we are innately programmed to put ourselves last.

Cue the ever rampant mother’s guilt, ready to rear its ugly head at the mere mention of a couple of hours away from your baby.

After the birth of my third child, I became much better at viewing my situation through the eyes of my baby girl. I started to think, what would she really want for me? If she actually understood how I felt, would she want me to take some much needed time out, so that I could ultimately be in a better head space for her?

The answer became pretty clear. This perspective meant I could finally quit being so hard on myself, and I was able to find the confidence to recognise that as much as I love my children, my needs mattered too.

Whether it’s simply going for a walk on your own, joining a gym, meeting a friend for a coffee date baby-free, keeping a regular salon appointment, or even taking a good book to a quiet space and indulging in some peace for half an hour, a mother should never underestimate the value of a little me time.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the demands of parenthood, please do not suffer in silence. PANDA operates a free national perinatal depression helpline on 1300 726 306. Visit www.panda.org.au for more information.

With love,

Emma Thomson

http://mumsempoweredstudios.com.au/

Melissa Histon

Photographer, philanthropist, adventurer, blogger, avid permitter and social changer, Melissa Histon is a woman on a mission to make a real difference to the lives of women globally. Melissa spent 10 years working in the corporate world before leaving to establish a successful photography business. After experiencing a number of life-altering events, Melissa created The Sista Code in May 2014 with a dream to see women empowered, happy and connected. Whether it's building a house for the homeless in Nepal, interviewing inspiring women from around the globe, or creating events and campaigns to support sistas escaping domestic violence, Melissa knows that true change can only happen when we all stand together and boost each other.

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