How to take care of your mental health when you're a Mum
Mental Health is high on peoples' agendas with new blog posts on self-care and self-maintenance coming out almost daily from bloggers and influencers alike. I love reading them, but find myself often wondering how to begin implementing some of the ideas suggested when I'm busy chasing after 3 little ones - there just doesn't seem the time! Becoming a mother is one of the most incredible experiences, but with it comes an added pressure to make sure that everything you do centres around the offspring you've brought into this world - leaving little space for making your own self care a priority - but with maternal suicide being the main cause of death in new Mums, it's more important than ever to make sure we are caring for ourselves as we step into parenting, and have the foundations in place for looking after our mental wellbeing.
I'm no expert and, of course, mental health fluctuates throughout the seasons of life, but here are some things that I've learnt and am learning to implement that enable me to keep a check on my mental health and make sure I'm building in self care time.
1. Recognise that self-care isn't selfish - it enables you to become a better parent.
I wrote a blog post on this a while ago (you can find it here), but part of the challenge that Mothers seem to struggle with is this notion that any kind of self care is selfish and makes us terrible parents. Society has led us to believe that in order to be a good Mum our entire lives need to revolve around our children. There's no space for us to indulge in our own wants and needs because everything we do has to be for our kids, but this way of thinking leads to burn out, loathing and depression. Taking care of ourselves, indulging in our hobbies and making time for our own desires actually enables us to be better parents, more fulfilled in the roles that we are playing and better able to handle the natural stress that parenting brings. Get your thinking pattern right about self care and you're halfway there already.
2. Basic hygiene isn't self care.
I'm not sure when this became a thing, but getting to have a shower doesn't count as self care, finding 5 minutes to brush your teeth isn't self care and whilst we're on the subject, getting to drink a hot cup of coffee isn't self care either. Eating meals, keeping on top of basic hygiene and getting to finish drinks are basic necessities NOT bonus extras.
3. Book in 'date night'
No, not with your partner, but your own personal date night where you get to have some breathing space and enjoy something that you love. Personally? I go out for a coffee on my own. I take a notebook or a novel and sit for a few hours in a coffee shop (pre-Covid obvs). During Covid I've made it a priority to book in one night a week where I make the evening totally mine. I have a long soak in the bath, put every mask I own onto my body and take some precious pamper time to unwind. It doesn't really matter what you do, but prioritise some time to recharge regularly. Like, at least weekly and on your own.
4. Have a friendship group separate to the kids.
Playdates are wonderful things and toddler groups are great ways to meet other parents and help your children to socialise, but do you know what's amazing? Being able to meet with those friends WITHOUT the children. Yes, you may end up chatting non stop about your children anyway, but having the freedom to actually finish a sentence and chat about the more sensitive areas of parenting without little nippers at your ankles changes the game when it comes to managing the mental load of parenting. As an extra bonus grab some friends who don't have kids, where conversation doesn't naturally turn to what the colour of your child's poop was that day. You can thank me later.
5. You are entitled to hobbies
News just in! Your life doesn't have to be all about your children. Life can feel responsibility-heavy can't it? Between having a job, running a house and looking after children, there doesn't leave much space for things that are just for the fun of it, but we absolutely should get something in the diary that is precisely for that reason - FUN. Book clubs, crafting, running, sport classes - there is something out there for everyone to dive into so have some fun experimenting and discovering what your thing is. I find choosing something that gets you out of the house extra beneficial, and the extra routine really helps with mental health as a whole.
6. Lean on people. They like to help.
Pride comes before a fall, and a fall in the parenting world looks like reusing the same pair of knickers three days in a row because you've not done any laundry. I mean, I've been there, but often because I haven't had the courage to ask for help from the people around me. Laundry, cleaning, babysitting, cooking meals - these things can all be asked for from family and friends and we really, really should. I've lost count of the amount of times I've struggled under the weight of motherhood, and I so wish in those moments that I'd asked my mother to do a few loads of laundry, or got a friend to babysit so that I could take a breather, or asked a member of church to cook some meals for me to freeze and reheat later in the week. The burden can be shared and you'll find people are really willing to help.
7. Be mindful of what you are scrolling through
I get it, we want the best for our kids and we want to BE the best for our kids, but this can sometimes lead to hours and hours of scrolling through parenting advice and top tips that can easily lead to us just feeling like we suck at the job. Self-improvement and growth is necessary, but do it in short bursts, not long streams and please, for your own health, don't do it when you are already feeling awful about yourself. Those times call for reminding yourself of all the amazing things you are managing to achieve, NOT for doing some self reflection.
8. Give yourself a break.
We are our own worst critics and spent most of our parenting journey believe we are damaging our children. Most likely, you're doing a pretty fine job, and as a standard, if you're worrying about whether you are doing a good job then you probably are. Children just want to feel loved by you and to know that you care - everything else you work out along the way, and TRUST ME you're going to get things wrong. It's just part of human nature and that is a lesson to your children in itself.
The main lesson in all of this is that YOU matter.
Read that again.
Motherhood is exhausting, but you are doing a great job. Please, PLEASE reach out to someone if you are struggling, and look out for your friends. Ask if they are okay.
I've linked some helpful contact lines below, and as always my inbox is open too: firstname.lastname@example.org
You've got this mama
Until next time...
SAMARITANS - (free to call from within the UK and Ireland), 24 hours a day
NHS - 111
MIND - 0300 123 3393
Rethink Mental Illness -