What’s it like to struggle with anxiety as a mother? Becoming a mother is meant to be one of the most exciting times of your life. You’ve spent nine months growing and carrying this baby inside you, and now that they’re here you’ve become a family. But what affect can this have on your mental health?
A guest blog by Gayleen Hodson.
The first two weeks of having a baby was a whirlwind. I didn’t have a clue what I was meant to be doing and I was so very tired. Then my husband went back to work and suddenly I was alone with our baby.
That was scary. Suddenly I had a person’s life in my hands. I was worried that something would happen to him in my watch. This sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly how I felt. I was responsible for his safety and wellbeing. I had to put his needs before anything. I was worried about how I was going to manage to go to the toilet, washing myself or making dinner. It was exhausting juggling it all and figuring it all out.
What if he didn’t stop crying? Was he having enough milk? Shouldn’t he be sleeping through yet? Was introducing the dummy a mistake?
Suddenly my mind was racing with a thousand questions and worries a day. I just wanted to be the best possible parent for this tiny baby and I felt so utterly overwhelmed.
As the days went on, I became more confident as a mother but less confident as me
I was losing myself, losing my confidence, my self-esteem. Although I would have the odd play date, most of the hours of my days were spent just with my son. I couldn’t communicate with him like I could an adult. I couldn’t express what was on my mind. I would sit and scroll aimlessly through social media, only that made me feel worse as everyone seemed to be living exciting lives. I was left with only my thoughts and feelings to wonder inside my head for hours every day.
I felt like a prisoner in my own head.
Not only was I stuck with all of these thoughts and feelings, but I couldn’t even do anything for myself- I couldn’t take 5 minutes to watch my favourite show, exercise or bath. It was a loneliness I can’t quite explain because, in reality, most of my time was spent holding another human. But, this human couldn’t talk like friends could.
I was spending all of my time looking after my baby, and no time looking after me
Soon the anxiety crept in, and it’s never really gone. Only, I have so much more control over it all now. My biggest problem was that I was spending all of my time looking after my baby and felt guilty about any time I spent looking after me.
It’s gotten easier as the boys have gotten older as they have been old enough to watch TV, or play with toys with each other, or gone off to pre-school or school. That has helped no end because I then had time alone. I had to prioritise what I needed in that alone time. Even when I am home alone now, my mind is no longer a prison. I no longer feel isolated. Now, I have time to myself but it’s time for myself. I work from home, so I have to be strict with my time still, but I make sure that most days I have a little time for something for me. I realise now how important this was.
Becoming a Mother was the best thing I have ever done as I love my children so much and we have such a strong and beautiful bond. But it was difficult at times. It was lonely and it was testing. Now we can have conversations and they make me laugh so much. They’re demanding still, but less demanding and I’m not so drained anymore. I can balance the care of them with self-care.
My advice for anyone that feels isolated as a mother
Connect with other mums, maybe take your baby or toddler to a group that may be held in your local community, or get out to the local play park frequently. By leaving the house, it opens up opportunities for you to interact with other adults. Have friends and family pop in as much as you can. Even if you only get to spend an hour over a cup of tea with someone, it gives you a chance to talk to someone else and not be a prisoner in your own mind.
Most importantly, make time for yourself. I know it’s difficult when you have young ones at home, I have been there myself but it’s self-care and it’s for you and your baby’s good to have some time for yourself.
Find more self-care resources and information on anxiety here.