Sometimes I go down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest and see all the wonderful ideas that I could do. Sadly, my attempts could go on one of those ‘nailed it!’ posts. I’m no good at making things look pretty. I’m no good at lighting for photos. Boo doesn’t follow my plans for activities. Ever.
But I’m not a Pinterest Mum. I don’t care. I’m not trying to be one.
When I was diagnosed with PND, I was given lots of support in both of my roles – Kate and Mum. The perinatal mental health team were amazing at looking after me and the health visitors were wonderful at helping me look after Boo and learn to parent. The system worked for me.
Then 2 years later I relapsed and have been in a really bad state. I have received so much support from various professionals and I am so grateful. But that support is all for me. It’s all about healing my mind.
But I still spend 24 hours a day being Mummy. Nothing about that role has changed. I’m still expected to just get on with the job. Of course, in the extreme, there’s the threat of ‘mess this up and we’ll get social services involved’. There’s no in between – no help with how to parent on the dark days. How do I help my child thrive when I can’t leave the house? Any advice that is available seems like it’s just paying lip service. Patronising. Not real.
So while I want to get in bed and hibernate, I have to face my responsibility as Mum. On my worst days I face that responsibility because Boo nags me until I get up and participate. On my better days, I face it because I want my daughter to thrive despite not feeling like I’m thriving myself.
Parenting through adversity
Parenting is HARD. Now throw mental illness into the mix and parenting seems impossible. We have to find ways to keep going when we feel like giving up. So I write about what we do together because they are activities that help. They help me to be the Mum I want to be even when I’m not the person I want to be.
Sometimes I feel withdrawn and unable to talk. Some of these activities keep Boo so engaged she stops talking for 5 minutes giving me the quiet I need.
Some of the ideas are good for Boo’s development which helps alieviate the guilt I have about not being good enough while I struggle.
Some of the ideas are good for both of us. The sensory play always calms me too.
Some ideas are things I hoped to be as a Mum (cooking in the kitchen) but modified and made possible.
The ideas NEVER go to plan. That is fine. Boo is her own person and it is only right that she helps guide play. Children make mess. That is normal and good. It is also good to teach children how to tidy up. Sometimes I want a duvet day. That is fine too. I do what works at that moment. If these ideas help you on days that you are struggling that is great. But don’t feel bad if they don’t – find what fits for you and do things you enjoy. I understand that lots of people hate crafts and messy play – don’t feel bad because I manage to do it while I am depressed. Craft is my thing – I do it because it’s something I can easily do. You do you and I’ll do me. Don’t force yourself to be a parent you’re not. If these ideas help you, that is fantastic, but please do not worry if they are not for you at all.
In the new year, I will be launching a series on parenting through adversity. If you would like to contribute with your story, or activity please get in touch using the form below. You don’t need to have a mental illness – parenting is hard work whatever your circumstances. I’m interested to share how you coped with being a parent when you found your own life tough. Maybe through illness, redundancy, divorce. Maybe you are just bloody knackered. My aim is to create a bank of ideas so that anyone can find something that they will feel comfortable doing. Please do get in touch if you would like to contribute!
Here are some of the posts I have in the pipeline to get the activity bank underway:
Ugly cheese straws
Free day trip: Toys R Us (or any other shop with toys)