© Martin Novak | Dreamstime.com
Since we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, I want to say congratulations on your efforts. You're doing a great job. I’m saying that to you because we don’t say it to ourselves often enough.
I bet if you sat down right now, you could easily come up with five things you did this week that somehow failed your child or your family. But could you just as quickly list five things you did that were awesome?
Go ahead; write a few down, I’ll wait. These don’t have to be monumental achievements, by the way. I’m talking about acknowledging the small stuff, like getting your child to school on time (in spite of her tantrum), or cooking up your family’s favorite meal, or finding just the right words for your son after his tough day at school. Those acts of kindness, the way you put the needs of others ahead of yourself, it’s that selflessness we often brush aside. As women, we’re wired to nurture. So we tend to overlook the benefits that brings, focusing instead on our weaknesses.
Being a mother isn’t easy. It’s certainly got moments of awesomeness, those days when you feel like you’re the dragon slayer. But other times, it’s the dragon that has us by the tail. I heard it in a mother’s voice recently as she described life with her newborn. Yes, he is delicious and her husband is pitching in. But the baby is still not sleeping through the night and her breasts are aching and her toddler is still adjusting, and it’s just a lot, really. She’s happy, yet there’s a wistfulness in her voice because the demands on her time right now are so absolute. It’s hard to give yourself up to your children because you begin to feel like you’re drowning, like you can’t discern where the kids end and you begin.
I sense that yearning on Facebook, too, moms looking for feedback, wanting confirmation that their intuition is correct, that the decisions they’re making are right for their family. I think we’re all hungry for affirmation, even if it’s just a pat on the back. We want someone to acknowledge that the work we do every day matters.
Well, it does matter. You matter. Your strength and guidance help to shape your family. And your kids; they think you hung the moon. Yep, even your surly teenager. No matter what happens, you hold a special place in your children’s hearts that can never replaced. Not by another living soul. Read the story in this month’s issue on The Nature of Nurture, and you’ll see the many ways our roles as mothers color the lives of our children.
Motherhood is a wondrous, exciting, exhausting, draining, fulfilling, crazy-ass journey. Who knew that tiny bundle you brought home from the hospital would change you in so many ways? No one wrote about that in those pregnancy books. They might tell you about the mysterious changes your body will go through but ready you for the emotional journey? That’s yours alone. But thankfully, you’re not entirely alone because the sisterhood, we other mothers, are walking right here beside you. We can give you some of the strength and nourishment you need, even on the darkest of days. Just reach out and ask.
Speaking of dark days, I attended a lecture on postpartum depression (PPD) this month and wanted to share with you some of that information as well. PPD is one of the most common complications of childbearing but it can be difficult to recognize. Baby blues, that emotional letdown that comes after the high of giving birth, is most common (you are awash in hormones after all). But those feelings of sadness usually evaporate in a couple of weeks. PPD may not surface until several months after the birth and is characterized by traits like severe anxiety, insomnia, fears, crying jags, and a negative attitude towards your baby or spouse. At worst, you may feel detached or even suicidal; all are signs of PPD.
There is a brief questionnaire you can take called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which asks 10 simple questions to help you identify your feelings. Counselors use this valuable screen to determine if patients suffer with PPD. If you score high on this test, please, get help. See a counselor. At home, get outdoors for a walk, sleep when your baby naps, confide in a friend, journal.
Just remember, the work you are doing is important and it matters. You are shaping our future.