Good enough?

This weekend I went to see LA LA Land and it was absolutely brilliant. Amongst the jazz hands, the beautiful colours, the incredible songs and the ridiculously good looking cast was a line that made me cry, it hit me in the gut. Don’t worry this is not a spoiler but at one point a character is challenged that they won’t do something because they think they are not good enough.

I’d had a tough week and was looking forward to a sparkly chick flick with friends which it was and my friends are incredible but at that point in the film everything in me wanted to escape which I was not expecting. I realised (maybe not new to some who know me!) that I fear that I’m not good enough and mainly I’m not good enough to be the mum of my 2 incredible girls.

On the way home I had a little chat to myself (do you do this?!). I realised and acknowledged that a lot of my pain, low mood and general difficulty with being a mum is because I can’t quantify what I do. I’m results or goal orientated and have worked a lot in sales/events type environments and I like to know I’m ticking things off, succeeding and moving onto the next thing. I want to be able to quantify ‘good enough’.

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Guess what… kids don’t come with a checklist and if they do it’s been created by someone else who doesn’t know you or your kids. A Pinterest mum who thinks there should be 20 things your child can do (as a result of your brilliant parenting) before they are 2, a letter for an 11 month check dropping through the door and a health visitor asking you what your child can or can’t do, milestone cards which although super cute also come with their own pressure points and I guess although I’m not fully there yet reports from school about your child’s progress or the subtle nuances about how many extra curricular activities your child does/doesn’t do.

We cannot and should not measure our parenting skills by these things, if at all.

Whilst thinking/talking to myself I realised that all of these things come from the external. Just like targets, events, more sales calls, more people through doors, more bums on seats are external ways that the world or a workplace judge us, they also can become internalised barometers of success for ourselves and I think the same can happen with the external expectations we experience about our children.

I’m beginning to think parenting isn’t something I can succeed at. Of course, I hope my little ones grow into people who are kind, caring,  and generally look out for and bring joy to people around them however I am becoming increasingly aware that of course not all of us end up being the people our parents imagined for a myriad of reasons but does this mean they are of less value, Absolutely flipping not. And if they are brilliant is that my success, nope

This seems like the perfect point to introduce my faith. I believe in Jesus and I believe he places massive value on individuals for who they are, no matter what. My value comes not from what I ‘give back’ or whether I am of use and it most certainly does not come from whether I am succeeding or failing in parenting, it comes from the fact that I am made in the image of God, someone who is love in and of itself. Also my children’s value doesn’t come from how they compare to peers, whether they are ticking off milestones like a shopping list or if they listen to what I say (thank goodness). They also are of worth because they are made by God and he knows them better than I ever will. Parenting is such an important job but it is one that doesn’t require goals to be achieved or one where we can predict outcomes.

My job as mum is to love my little ones in a way that works for us as a family and hopefully show them how worthy they are of being loved and how valuable to God and us they are. As a Christian, I believe that despite all the things I have done and continue to do wrong, I am deeply loved by God. I believe he made the ultimate sacrifice to be in relationship with me and as his child I want to honour this by loving him, even though I don’t always do this well.

As I thought about this, I realised that this releases me to be ‘good enough’ to be mum to my beautiful girlies. I am worthy of loving these girls and they are a gift. They know they are loved, even when the day feels like a battle, even when they slam doors as they get bigger or temporarily scream on the floor because I removed a toy for not sharing. The sacrifices I make are worth it to be in relationship with them and love them and I hope that no matter what happens to them or what they do in the future they will always know they are our girls and much loved. So stop worrying about whether you have done enough craft, taught them to ‘achieve’ or are doing the right thing by them. We WILL NOT get it all right but if you are loving your little ones then you are getting the main thing right.

Keep going, you ARE good enough and deeply loved and I hope this releases you to be free to love your little ones (or bigger ones) too.

As always I’d love to hear your comments on this, do you feel like a good mum? Do you feel external pressure?

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Milestones…

This past week on social media was mainly made up of looking through friends photos of their little ones ready for their next steps into the world whether that be pre-school, reception, new year groups or even high school and sharing posts about PND to mark the fantastic first PND Awareness week!

  

It also marked the first day of Tigger starting in Reception. This is huge for any parent. Our teeny babies starting full time school, having hot dinners on a tray, wearing a full uniform or needing a pump bag. It also brought that defining mum moment of ironing labels into clothes (I feel old whenever I do this!). This was a milestone for Tigger, for me as a mummy and us as a family. It also felt like a milestone in my PND. I don’t know about you but most birthdays and memorable days such as these can shake me in both good and bad ways.

Last week I was shaken. I felt out of sorts. My brain wasn’t functioning as it has been the last 3 or so months (when I’ve been relatively well), my head was foggy but my thoughts were racing, I wanted to sleep so bad some days and I ate lots of crap! I couldn’t work out what it was but after a bit of thinking and crying I realised that I felt that sadness all over again that these past 4 years of Tiggers life although amazing have also incredibly hard. I have fought to stay present in this parenting malarkey, fought to love my girlies as they deserve, fought for good medical help and fought sometimes to just keep going each day. A struggle I wouldn’t wish on anyone and something which has been present in my life for 4 years.

As I thought on this I begun to wonder if I would always think like this. Would I always spend birthdays or other special times thinking about how long this has been? Wondering what life would have been looked like without this horrid illness? How PND has affected my life and those around me? I guess this partly comes down to a choice of what I focus on. Yes, this is a reminder that it has been hard and at times continues to be but it can also serve as a reminder that it is getting better and as I improve hopefully this will be my focus. It can be a reminder of the amazing people around me who have supported me, a reminder of the love and bond me and my girls have even with PND in our lives, a reminder that I have my lovely girls with me each day to love and a reminder that I am definitely not where I was and that it’s worth keeping fighting.

From this point on that’s what I’m going to try to choose on these dates and I hope if you are reading this and wondering how things will work out, if you will feel normal or if you will ever get better, I want to say YOU WILL. Things can and will get better. Spring will come, even if the winter is long and dark.

Talk to someone. Just say ‘it’s hard isn’t it’ to another mum, you might be surprised by the response. Call the PANDAS helpline on 0843 28 98 401 to talk to someone anonymously to begin with. Just sharing your concerns or symptoms with someone can be the first incredibly courageous step towards being well.

Group…seriously??

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Here goes…. I’m not a massive fan of toddler groups. I know it’s a shocking revelation for a mum who is mainly at home with her babies but please read on. I should be a tot group loving, cake baking domestic goddess right? WRONG! I’m an individual (ie I will do this my way) and I sometimes bake and occasionally its successful, would rather do other things than clean and can’t wait to leave tots groups… but hear me out.

Me and a friend used to joke about ‘the pit’ at one of our groups where the chairs were round the outside and the children were in ‘the pit’ in the middle going nuts! I have always gone to these groups though as they are something of a lifeline as a break out of the house, potential for a not quite cold brew whilst having a few half conversations with adults and maybe even a biscuit or crumpet! When I’m struggling, the noise and chaos can be hard for my brain to process but I know that getting out of the house and wearing the kiddies out is good! I often feel like Mrs Fotheringill (Ben and Holly) when I leave hence the pic!

One day a while after I became ok with sharing my diagnosis of PND someone suggested I found a support group for mums in a similar position. WHAT?!? Essentially a tots group but with a group of mums who are depressed… Woop woop that sounds like a hoot. Anyone else share my feelings or am I the only one? HOWEVER this idea stuck with me and eventually I did the sensible thing and googled it! PANDAS came up and I found a local group meeting in a cafe near me, tea and beautiful cake sounded like a bonus and after a little chat with the group leader of Facebook messenger I was lured in!

Well it turns out that this sort of group is not such a bad idea after all even for someone who is not a huge fan of tots groups! The first day I went it was a bit terrifying and I wasn’t sure how I would feel but actually the overwhelming feeling was relief. I know that everyone in this room knows a little or a lot of what I have been feeling. I’m not on my own, a lie that depression loves to tell you. I’m not the only one who has had overwhelming anxiety about their babies, been unable to function because of the brain fog or felt like this will never go away. WOW. Also as you begin to talk with others your experience adds to the conversation and you begin to see that you being in this group could actually now and again help or provide some insight to someone else. For me this was a big help as it gave some purpose to the pain. I continued to go to this group and found some wonderful mums who’d I’d now definitely call friends. Over time it became my favourite thing in the week. It became somewhere to offload a bit and somewhere I felt I could completely be myself and gave me more courage to share my story not just in the group but also elsewhere. It reduced the stigma for me as I realised this could happen to anyone and does happen to lots. The physical space and the Facebook group became one of my safe places.

For me this has gone one step further too. I was travelling a little way to this group so have now set up a group in my local area which will be affiliated with PANDAS soon. I love meeting the new mums and giving them a safe space too. I guess this is a post to encourage anyone who thinks a group like this isn’t for them to give it a try.  Don’t get me wrong, the first time is still a bit scary but it could potentially become a really positive, safe space and a extra tool to help you towards recovery.
If you are in Stockport or South Manchester, click here for the group I’ve set up (don’t worry other people do the baking for our group!) and if you are anywhere else in the country check out the PANDAS website for groups local to you.

The dark before the dawn. 

This last couple of weeks has been wobbly to say the least. Some days have felt so hard and then I have a day being ok and then I do too much and feel like crap again the next day!!! One day I will learn what pace is good for me!!!

I have started this post so many times and feel it’s really difficult to write mainly because I like to have everything tied up in a pretty box with a bow on top before I talk about them but this isn’t like that and I really wanted to write something about what it’s like to be in the darkness holding a light but didn’t want people to read it and feel sorry for me or for people I know to worry too much. However I’ve decided that this is what I am currently facing, I want others to know it’s ok to not have it all packaged nicely and over with before we share and also my days are like this sometimes and that’s just that. So if you are a friend or family member, don’t let this post worry you, currently this can be my norm and I’m ok with that.

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My secrets! 

I was looking at Smiler the other day who is 13 weeks old nearly and wondered what babies might tell us if they could. Here are some ideas!

Dear Mummy,

I’ve seen you worried about how you are getting on as a mum, taking everything in and wondering whether you are doing a good job. Let me tell you, you are. I know there is lots of advice out there so I thought I’d share mine. Here are my secrets!

You are enough. You are doing a wonderful job and I love you very much.

Your body is stunning. I’ve seen you checking in the mirror and worrying about what to wear since I came along. Your body created me and continues to nurture me either with milk, cuddles or fun times as I begin to be on the move. You look amazing to me because your smile makes me happy and your arms keep me safe.

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I had no idea what to say….. 

How often do we feel like this? How often do we worry about saying the wrong thing so just don’t say anything? There are some great blogs written about what not to say to new mums and particularly those with PND. These are often hilarious and brilliantly put together so rather than duplicate those I thought I’d write about what is good to say. Through my own experience I have learnt that words are so powerful and when you feel so unsure as many mums do about your ability in a new role, words hold even more power.

Often the phrase if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all is thrown around but we all know nice is a word that means very little. I think this should be if you don’t have anything kind, real and thought through to say don’t say anything, instead LISTEN! Leave room for them to speak and if they can’t speak then sit with them. Be with them in their pain. This sounds quite scary but for me the times when people have done this with me have been some of the most comforting and precious times.

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The Jolt

Good days, that wonderful feeling of good days, when your head feels clear, you can process information, you don’t feel like you might cry if someone brushes past you or is too nice, you feel pro-active and ready for the world. These days are amazing, for some people reading these, days like this will be few and far between, don’t panic you will get better.

I am always grateful for these days but what about that first bad day after a few (or even just one) of these good days? I’m going to call it ‘The Jolt’ day. The day after a few good days, weeks or however long when you wake up and feel like crap. When your head is fuzzy, you feel like you can’t face the day and you are reminded that in fact that depression has not fully gone. You are jolted back to the reality that your mental health is not as good as it could be. The jolt that reminds you that you are still on the journey to recovery.

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