It’s seems apt that after five months maternity leave, I’ve returned to work at ThinkTwice just in time for Maternal Mental Health Week and World Maternal Mental Health Day.
Motherhood and mental health are strange bedfellows; we know that maintaining good mental health relies on good nutrition, good quality sleep and exercise; none of which are particularly attainable when you have a small human entirely dependant on you, who is yet to understand the concept of day and night.
For me, the things I rely on to keep me ‘well’ felt a million miles away, and they would have been, if it weren’t for one thing.
My husband, family, friends and church who rallied in the most spectacular way to support and encourage me in my new role as “Mummy”. From my husband being committed to us and parenting as a team, to my Mum coming to stay for a few days, to the church meal rota that provided us with meals for almost three weeks, the friends who came to cuddle my son so I could nap and the ones who just came to hang out. I am aware that I’m incredibly fortunate; many people do not have access to the kind of support I have enjoyed, and that support has been a lifeline.
It’s where our churches can step in. Whether we live in a city or a suburb; churches can be the village new parents need.
- Meal rotas: good nutrition is so important in those first weeks and yet often falls by the wayside. Providing filling and fuelling meals is an easy way to reach out not just to members of the church, but the wider community, too.
- Baby groups: they’ve been one of the best parts of my week, providing company and people with whom I could cry “me too!” I found groups for under ones particularly useful; calmer than their toddler group counterparts, they’ve enabled me to form friendships and have conversations with others at the same stage as my son and I.
- Listening ears: there are no two days about it, parenting is difficult. It’s joy-filled and amazing, but it’s all consuming and can be lonely; creating spaces where people can be honest about how they’re finding parenthood and venting without fear of judgement is sanity-saving.
- Babysitters: even if it’s just for a couple of hours so parents can get out together or just have a nap!
- Be aware: even the best support network in the world doesn’t guarantee that postnatal mental health problems won’t arise. By keeping in touch and being aware of the signs that someone might be struggling parents can get an early diagnosis and access to extra help.