Being a Mami in lockdown: How mum groups are helping me manage my bipolar
Julia describes the pressures of being a 'mami' during lockdown and how connecting with other parents is helping her manage her mental health.
How are you? Just you, not 'how are you and baby?' Just you. As a mother, this is something I often forget about. I am separate from my baby, even if a lot of the time I don't feel that way. We are programmed to be our baby's everything, and this is not a bad thing. I have loved becoming a mother, my son is now 14 months old and it's been the best, hardest, happiest, challenging, inspiring, demanding, amazing and emotional 14 months of my life. There are days when I think I feel every emotion possible and other days where I have no idea what I have felt or even what I have done.
Some days I feel like I've 'won' at being Mami to my son and two dogs, at being wife, at being homemaker and all the other personas that I am. Whereas other days I feel like I have failed to be good at anything. Learning to accept that some days I feel like I have succeed and other days I haven't has been hard, and I sometimes still struggle with feeling like I've failed.
Having a baby, toddler or small child during lockdown brings its own challenges, then add a mental health issue into the mix and things are even more difficult.
Lockdown is hard, it's hard for everyone. We all miss our extended family and our friends. Having a baby, toddler or small child during lockdown brings its own challenges, not only for baby but for us as parents too. When you add a mental health issue into the mix things are even more difficult. I have bipolar, which has its challenges on 'normal' days. Lockdown has been an emotional rollercoaster for me. Some days I feel like I'm only just surviving, that I'm going to break any minute. At times I feel like sitting in a corner and crying. I feel like I'm not giving my son what he needs, that I'm a bad mother. Having a little time, even if it's only five minutes, for self-care in whatever form that takes makes these days a little easier to get through. Often I feel guilty about having a hot cup of tea (why do babies know when you have just made a cuppa?), a bath, 10 minutes sat on the sofa, a nap, or even just going for a wee by myself (I'm hoping it's not just me that doesn't get to do that very often!). I know I shouldn't feel guilty and it's important to take these moments.
My son has congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) which means we see several different health professionals, lockdown has meant that appointments have been cancelled and others we have managed to have via phone call and video call. Although this is a solution, it is not the same as actually seeing a professional. For example a video call with a physiotherapist was difficult, it was hard for her to assess my son and it was difficult for her to then advise and show me what I need to do at home to help my his development.
Being stuck in the house has also been difficult for me. Since having my son I have enjoyed going places more than I used to. I enjoy taking him places where he enjoys, learns, explores and gets to experience new things. I think my son is finding it hard to be in the same four walls, with the same people and same toys all the time. It's hard to know how to help him overcome this. Coping with being stuck in the house all the time is the main thing I struggle with, I've been making the most of the sunshine and spending time in the garden, and I almost enjoy shopping as I get to leave the house! I video call with my Mum most days and have weekly contact with a mental health support group for parents, Mums Matters. Both of which help to get me through each week.
'You can't pour from an empty cup'
I miss Mami (Mammy/Mummy/Mama) conversations. Conversations where you can say, 'my little one has started doing/not doing this or that', and someone says back to you, 'yeah we went through that stage', or even, 'that's not something we have had to deal with'. I miss conversations that revolve round your small human that you care for and try to understand, conversations where you throw around ideas and suggestions that may help or where everyone is as baffled as you are about what may or may not work to help. I also miss having non-baby related conversations with these same people.
Being part of the Mums Matter course online has helped as it gives me that support. It has helped me to accept that I can't be perfect. It's also really helped me to remember that self-care is important and that I need to look after myself to be able to look after my son. I've learned a great phrase that I try to remember when I am feeling overwhelmed and there's no time for me: 'You can't pour from an empty cup'. It's so true, and although it often feels impossible right now, I have to remember to take care of my own mental health, to take care of my son.
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