Motherhood and The Invisible Mental Health Battle
I woke up. I finished my coffee and chores before the kid woke up. Its already 9, the husband is busy with his stuff (work and mobile). Kid is still sleeping and online classes starts in 15 minutes. Cooking is not over; maid has not reported on time. I need to log into my office. I scream, there is a tension in the house, we get started. Mealtimes are a fight, kid demands time, household chores despite having a maid demands time, office demands time, and there is my inner self demanding some me time. A hobby I wanted to pursue or a show that I wanted to watch or a friend I wanted to catch up with or even the walk I wanted to take. Everything demands time. Repeat. How many of us women can resonate with this. I am sure most of us do. Constant stress slowly impacts mental wellbeing. The mental burden of motherhood is not discussed as much as its glory.
Many people today are battling depression and anxiety. Not just because of the pandemic but even otherwise. People have to be a parent, especially mothers, when they are actually battling mental health issues. Now how difficult is this, rather what is it like. It is a sad state that most people don’t even know they are having mental health issues. Unattended mental health issues result in constant tiffs, unhealthy home environment, divorce, family feuds, physical health issues and in worst case suicides. This is traumatic for the children and carries a long-lasting impact on their character. Mental health issues such as Depression, Anxiety, Post-partum depression and stress related issues are becoming more common these days. There is a constant battle inside their head about the gender roles they play. Simple tasks start getting overwhelming, words and actions from fellow beings start being a trigger to a lot of emotions. A feeling of void inside, loneliness, helplessness, a sense of nowhere to go creeps in. This leads to hysterical outbursts, trying to hurt oneself or others physically, anger issues and sometimes headaches.
In India, there is a lot of taboo associated with mental health. It is less understood. Most often when a mother says she’s overwhelmed she is often met with a response ” there are so many people doing what you are doing at much difficult circumstances and why are you complaining?” Or ” I did more than this , your generation is unable to handle stress.” They are thrown into a slurry of criticism or toxic positive statements and are made to feel guilty for voicing out their feelings. This has a direct impact on their healing and more on the child. The initial years are crucial to children. Children as small as 3 years to 5 years are able to grasp and remember everything that is happening around them. Unfortunately owing to lack of support many mothers tend to take out their frustration on children because they are easy targets. Some mothers hold on, cry themselves to sleep or cry in shower to not let the child know. This is equally dangerous to the mother’s wellbeing. Children can sense everything even if we don’t say it out.
Mothers sometimes fear judgement and fail to ask for help in turn ruining themselves. It is important to reiterate to mothers that a child needs a happy and peaceful mom than a perfect mom. They would cherish the moments with the mother than the food on the plate or the gifts they get. It is okay to give the child fast food once in a while. Its okay to have a clumsy home and prioritize a hobby, peace of mind, playing with the child or reading to the child.
Most women today are building wonderful careers and have to take a break for bearing a child and nursing them. They are hardly educated about the reality of motherhood and mostly hear about its glory and paint a fantasy. When reality strikes they are caught in a web of guilt, fatigue, choices, priorities and responsibilities. Woman today are expected to do a lot work- nurse children, cook, play, read , manage the house and their careers. Or is this an expectation they have set on themselves? Women Empowerment is very often misunderstood and women are made to believe that only a working woman an empowered woman. If they are a homemaker they tend to feel inferior.
Thanks to advent of social media most woman are constantly comparing their lives with that of others. Nobody knows the exact state of mind of a person posting on social media, yet we all get carried away by flashy posts. Just a picture of a mother and child taking a selfie with goofy faces is enough for another mother to think they are having the best life and she is not.
Guilt has now become synonymous to motherhood. mothers want to do it all. There is a secret competition among mothers about who is taking up maximum load and the associated glorification of suffering. Remember that your child will only be guilty that you had to go through all this to bring them up. It would create an unhealthy attachment style between the parent and child.
Many women are made to feel guilty if they choose to work to meet ends; also made to feel guilty when they choose to stay at home to manage family. A question rises, oh you studied so much to stay at home? there are many women who don’t want to work. Its their choice. it’s okay to not be able to manage work and home. Women are pushing themselves into guilt by many support groups they follow on Facebook and Instagram which glorify specific ways of living or parenting and feeding the child.
An unhealed mother often times passes trauma to the child unknowingly. The child tends to develop attachment issues and many a times grows up in survival mode. This leaves a lasting impact into their adulthood and parenthood. It is very important for mothers to take care of themselves and not pass on trauma as this would travel generations. Many of us are unknowingly carrying generational trauma and it is important to break the cycle.
An empowered woman is one who takes steps to discover her purpose of life and strives to fulfill that while improving the lives of those around her. An empowered woman is confident, vulnerable, knows her worth and loves herself and body. It is important for mothers to remember this. A woman need not be a scientist or social worker or altruistic politician to give back to the world, being a good mother and leaving good human beings behind who carry her legacy of kindness, love and sensibility is a lot she is doing for the world. The rest will come along with this automatically. Mothers need to slow down, take a breath and understand that empowerment is within and nobody has to give it to them, it is the choices they make that will make all the difference to them and the world. It is important to act on mental health issues as early as it is recognized. We don’t go on for a long time with a fever or back pain we act upon it, similarly we have to take steps to ensure we are mentally healthy too. Having me times to do things we love, being physically active every day and being mindful are ways to cope up.
Shreyaa Nirmal Kumar is a free spirited mom of two, living in Dubai. She worked in IT as a Business Analyst for about 10 years. Currently , she is a homemaker, yoga practitioner and artist. Her hobbies include music, books, art and gardening. She has also learnt Carnatic music. Her interests are cooking, psychology, yoga, music, art and technology.
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