EN&MH: We’re Contributing to Our Loved Ones Maternal Mental Illnesses (&How to NOT)

On the third installment of my mini series inside Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Heath, I’m talk today to the older mamas, the more experienced grandmothers, the people who should be showing the most support yet may be doing the most damage to those just joining our army of mothers. Again, this was written in honor of Maternal Mental Health Month. This article can be used for those women who just gave birth, those adopting infants and those doing foster to adopt.

Depression in motherhood seems to be at an all time high. I see people blame everything, from the foods they eat to the comparison game we play on Instagram. People say it may not be that depression and mental illness is at an all time high, but acceptance is and that has led more people to open up about theirs. I definitely agree that is a good thing. I’m not sure we can pinpoint an exact reason why so many new mothers struggle with mental health, but I do think I know one thing that contributes to it.

You.

Okay, well, maybe not you, not specifically. But definitely older moms. Grandmothers. Women in the church. Women online. In message groups. During the discussions for nursery at your church.

I’m not talking about the comparison game. We’ve all heard about the dangers of online comparison. Jealousy and inadequacy are amplified as you see the perfect life others may be living on Instagram. That may be a contributing factor as well. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I want to talk to you guys today about the disease that fills our young mothers souls-a disease of dread, apathy, and resigning to exhaustion and loneliness. The disease of “Welcome to motherhood.” Of “Get used to it now.”

And this disease is spread by the women we love most in our lives.

I’ll be the first to admit, in defeat, I’ve done this to other mamas. They are complaining about how tired they are and I laugh. “Oh, you’ll live your life in exhaustion. Welcome to motherhood.” I’ve tried to stop, since recognizing what “standing in solidarity” does to the new moms in my life. It strips them of their hope. The empathy they are hoping to receive becomes dread at what the future holds.

We take away the future joys of motherhood by lamenting the hardships.

I see it everywhere. Pregnant women are told they won’t ever sleep again. We nod in agreement when a new mom is saying how lonely she is, mentioning the last play date we had was months ago. We share in laughter at the very thought of how lucky some moms are to have a partner who helps. Messy houses are shrugged at, as we eloquently dream of “someday.”

Someday we will be able to sleep again. One day our house will be clean. Someday we will eat right, get date nights, be adequately met in our need for self care.

Someday, someday, someday.

What if instead of meeting moms where they need to be met, we are simply hurting the moms we love by these jokes and jabs at motherhood?

Now imagine this instead. Because obviously, I’m not here to just yell at us all for being failures and walk away. That’s a little outside my norm right? I like to fix problems, not cause them!

Instead picture this.

You know a woman at your church just gave birth. It’s her second in 18 months. You want to joke about never sleeping again, but you hold your tongue. Instead you send her a message on Facebook and offer to make her a meal. You bring over something, because you know as well as I do she’s not going to make a nutritious meal with two little ones. You stay around for awhile, helping her wrangle her almost two year old. The dishes are still sitting there from a few days earlier so you roll up your sleeves and do them while she relaxes. Eventually you’re heading home, leaving her a few leftovers for the middle of the night feeding and a cleaned up kitchen.

Instead of taking away any hope she may have of bouncing back, you’re giving her love and hope.

Bringing Christ into her life as she struggles in those first few weeks-the hardest there are in my opinion. You’ve given her food, company, a mini break, and the love she needs in that moment.

What if, and this is a radical notion, we stepped up and offered that to the new moms we all know and love? Or the ones who may not be new, but are in the midst of the struggle. Because, trust me, even as an experienced mama I need that love from my village. (Can I be considered an experienced mama yet?!)

I would love to challenge all the women (and men, maybe!) out there to step forward and offer love to these mamas instead of unfunny jokes and hope draining jabs. If you’re a mom, think of this-would that comment help you in the middle of your crisis mode? Or would it hurt you even more? If you’re not a mom…ask me!

I don’t believe this will eradicate maternal mental illness. I’m well versed enough in mental health to know there are so many factors to mental illness. I am also well versed enough to know this would help so many mamas I know. It would have helped me. Below I have a few concrete ways to help instead of making comments on a Facebook post!

And mamas, if you find yourself identifying with the mama who isn’t being very helpful, give yourself grace. You can and WILL do better.

2 thoughts on “EN&MH: We’re Contributing to Our Loved Ones Maternal Mental Illnesses (&How to NOT)

  1. All about being aware of what is going on and just reaching out and offering to help in what may seem small ways but is really big for someone else.

  2. Such a great article! I admit, I am totally guilty of this!! Gasp. I didn’t even recognize it, but I am. I am going to work on this from now on.

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