Maternal Mental Health During Lockdown Part 2 of 3

Welcome to instalment two of our maternal mental health series with Counsellor, Mother & Grandmother Diane Jackson, looking at the importance of self-care for your mental health as a Mum and simple ways to incorporate it into your daily routine.

It's 10am but feels like it should be AT LEAST 3pm. It's a Tuesday that feels like a Sunday. There’s work but no departure from the home. There’s school but no classrooms or lunches to pack. The laundry has morphed entirely into towels and PJs as you all fall into a strange pattern of waking up, going about the day, showering and changing into clean pyjamas. It’s weird, it’s boring and it’s starting to grate on your nerves!!- not necessarily because it’s hard, although it certainly is- but because it just feels…. well, 'bleh' for lack you a better word… you feel 'bleh'.

So what’s a Mum to do when there’s no ladies lunch light at the end of the tunnel, no chance to put everything down for a few hours and nip out to freshen up your hair, no gym session, no space to sit and have a quiet coffee, no break in sight?! Well, you need to create one! You absolutely need to bring your self-care into the home. I get it, I’m a Mum too- the focus lately has absolutely been survival, meeting everyone else’s new needs, managing your own work situation as we navigate not just a health crisis but an economic one.

As usual, the first thing to go and the last thing we think about is our own care- until it all comes tumbling down and you find yourself having a cry in the shower in the dark, or catastrophising to a point of panic as you fold the 17th set of pyjamas.

So today we’re going to be discussing easy ways to get the balance back into our days. Because, we can’t not care for others if our own cup is empty and unfortunately bringing wine time to 4pm daily is not a healthy coping strategy!

Self-care can be a prickly one- under normal circumstances, we usually find small ways to make some “me time”; but with a lot of those avenues now gone, and everyone being home taking up more time and space, there is a real difficulty not only finding that spare moment, but then giving yourself permission to use it for yourself. So, it falls by the wayside. But is that really the best choice?

“Care and kindness support your sense of self-worth ” Says Diane, “Self-care is imperative in maintaining our mental health- because the kindness and care we show for ourselves, not only reflects, but effects, our sense of self-worth. Now more than ever, it is vital, with so many extra constraints and pressures, to show yourself that care and kindness and support your sense of self-worth.”

If you’re like me (which you will be if you are responsible for another tiny human) most days, it feels like the to do list is just endless and even as you try and do something, those tiny hands are creating the next job! Now that everyone is there, all the time, it almost feels like a daily struggle to the top of Everest, where I get stuck at base camp every night no matter how hard I climb all day. The summit just seems forever out of reach. So, I asked Diane so to save my sanity and shed some light on this feeling and the current situation.

“The current home situation is difficult on many fronts, firstly, as we discussed last week- there is a huge sense of the unknown and a lack of control- that is inclined to make any person anxious, but particularly for Mum’s it can be very jarring as we feel a sense of hopelessness at not being able to tackle the situation. That is the first attack on our self-confidence. Secondly, there is now no structure- no known breaks in the routine. From waking to bedtime, you are home, with your entire family- meaning there is no natural respite from usual daily activities such as school, preschool or work used to provide- and added to it there is then the increased work associated with everyone being in the home space constantly- and meeting the additional needs that go along with it”. “When you combine these two things- this hit against your confidence and the removal of structure and routine, the compounding effect day in, day out, let alone the sense that it will continue indefinitely, is huge!”. “When in this position, the first thing to go will naturally be a woman’s inclination to do for herself- she then fills in that time with meeting the additional needs of others. That’s natural- women are nurturers at heart. But it’s a dangerous response- because over time, we become more and more depleted until we emotionally or physically burn out! And that’s absolutely the last thing we want at this time!”.

It makes total sense when we stop and think about what Diane says- in our heart of hearts we know it’s the truth, we know that it is normal and reasonable for us to need that time. But I personally always find it so hard to justify! Although I know it to be a fundamental human need, although I know I need to meet that need to give my family my best- I still tend to get the guilts and push it to the back of the line. Diane made a really profound point to me on this one; that I know it to be true, that I know it to be important- but that I’m forgetting one of my biggest roles as a parent when thinking about it, which is role modelling to my children.

“When you demonstrate that you care for, value and cherish yourself- when you model your sense of self-worth by taking the time to look after yourself- that is something you role model for your children, it as a vital lesson that they need for life too.” That really hit me. We all want to raise beautiful well rounded humans and it made me sad that when I make the choice to put myself at the end of the line- I not only give them a tired stressed Mummy- but I model that my needs don’t matter as an individual or Mother, which I would NEVER want them to grow up thinking. So, in that sense, the guilt train has departed from my station once and for all!

But how do we make that space and communicate that need to our families- in particular our children? Diane recommends setting clear boundaries and adding routine to our new situation “you have to make the time- as you would in your ‘normal’ daily routine. If it won’t work during the hours your children are awake- schedule it at a reasonable, achievable time once you’ve put them down for the evening- and keep that appointment with yourself! Everything else, except a waking child of course, can wait!!”.

Self-care can be many things. It can be stopping to minfully breathe for 2 minutes. It can be setting the kids up with a quiet activity so you can sit and drink a cup of tea warm. It can be making your lunch the night before as a nursing Mum to make sure you have something delicious and nutritious ready to go the next day. It could be getting the kids to do your video workout with you. It can be listening to a meditation session in the bath. But regardless of the way you choose to care for yourself and relax- the most important thing- is making the time to facilitate it! It won’t happen on its own.

I’d encourage any Mum’s reading this to really take some time once the kids are down and it’s quiet one evening, to think about and plan out how you can make some space to look after you during this time, and to reflect on the value that it adds to your family life. Start small so that it’s not intimidating and doesn’t feel like extra work- pick one small thing and a day and time, and as Diane said, make sure you keep that appointment with yourself! You deserve it and your family deserve to benefit from it too!

Our upcoming third instalment with Diane will take a look at the impact of this time on family life with a particular focus on supporting our children's emotional and mental health and what signs we can look out for to gauge how our children are coping.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below on your own experience as a Mum during this time!

Again if you feel you need professional support at any point confidential services are still readily available- you can find contact information below, and via our Instagram @nikisnaturalwipes.

Stay Healthy!

Love,

Kat & The Niki’s Team

This week’s Niki’s blog was contributed by Katya Zahn. Kat is our ANZ Managing Director for Niki’s Natural Wipes and a Mum of two boys aged 1 & 4.

She has a background in Marketing, Events and Operations Management. She also specialises in eating chocolate biscuits hidden behind the pantry door without making a crunch so she won’t have to share, not swearing when she steps on Lego in the dark and ruining fun things like jumping out of trees with rope tied around ones waist, so that no one accidentally bisects themselves today.

If you need emotional or mental health support, you can access immediate and confidential support via the following resources:

General Emotional Support:

Lifeline Australia PH: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue PH: 1300 224 636

Online Mental Health Tools

Black Dog Institute via www.mycompass.org.au

Support For The Kids

Kids Helpline PH: 1800 551 800

Support For The Hubby

Mensline Australia PH: 1300 789 978

If You Are At Risk, Or Feel At Risk For Domestic Violence

IF YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER CALL 000

If you need counselling and practical support call1800RESPECT PH: 1800 737 732

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