Thursday, 22 September 2011

Stepping off the hamster wheel of life

I wonder how many mums have watched the new Sarah Jessica Parker film I don't know how she does it and thought, well I do, because that's my life.

And I wonder how many mums wish that they could replace their own Kate Reddy character with Sarah Jessica Parker's better known Carrie Bradshaw and switch their carry cot for a Cosmopolitan.

I was moved this week when I came across a blog post about how depression can make you a bad parent. A little harsh, I thought but when I read it, it made sense. It's about how ignoring the signs and refusing to seek help can make you a bad parent - and this created a little ouch in me.

The truth is that I have fought those demons in my head since my little girl was born, and six years on they still come up and bite me, gnawing away at my ear with negative thoughts about my parenting abilities. And I can say with complete conviction as I write that my thoughts are completely irrational but when they take hold then the only voice I'm hearing is that one that tells me I'm a bad mum.

My second admission of the day is that I didn't want to be labelled. I didn't want people to know that I was struggling. I didn't want people to think I wasn't a good mum...until it drove me pretty crazy.

And all this because everyone else around me seemed to be managing OK. Or were they?

Being a mum is by far the hardest job you will ever do so it's no wonder we end up feeling like we've lost the plot. Sorry dads, I'm not meaning to exclude you here, but mums come equipped with extra helpings of stress, worry and anxiety genes, not to mention the hormones.

But the more I hear and the more mums I speak to it appears that PND and/or parenting related anxiety is more common than not - but what's causing it? Of course if you speak to our parents or grandparents they seem to tell a different story of how you "just got on with it." So what's changed?

Personally I blame the media and its portrayal of parenting - the beautiful celebrities and their perfect bundles - for creating a rose-tinted impression of what parenthood is all about. And what happens if you set your expectations to high? You come crashing down in a big heap. Accepted of course that PND can be caused by a chemical imbalance too, but surely the perception of parenting and the sense of failure we feel when things don't go right must be a huge contributory factor?

Combine that with the pressures placed upon the busy working mum and the enormous dollop of guilt she's carrying around on her shoulders and is it any wonder that we're silently screaming for help?

At the start of this week I had a collision with those demons once again. Faced with the choice of jumping on the first aeroplane out of this country and my life, or finding a way to muddle through the quagmire in my chaotic head, I decided to step off the hamster wheel by taking a week off work, checking in with my counsellor, and giving myself a break.

These last few days have helped me put things back into perspective and get a handle on the negative thought demons that do paralyse me and stop me from being a good parent as the Real Supermum's blog points out. But by facing up to, rather than ignoring them, I can get back on the right track towards happy mummy state.

And I think it's perfectly OK to long for a Carrie Bradshaw moment in my Kate Reddy life. Whose to say carry cots and Cosmopolitans shouldn't go hand in hand?

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