It’s the month of May and that means Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a month where we work hard on ensuring others who have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and other mental disorders that it is okay to not be okay. That we are allies. That we are here to listen and be with them every step of the way. I hope this movement becomes more than just something we work on one month out of the year. We are slowly lifting the stigma but we have a long way to go.
The one group of people that we really need to embrace? Mothers. Mothers all around the world are largely suffering from some form of guilt, anxiety, depression, etc. The United States, in particular, is behind in maternal care. Our “maternity leave” for most working moms is around 6 weeks which is the time allowed by using the coverage offered through short-term disability. In other countries, mothers are given a whole year. We are, too often, forced between continuing to thrive in our career or staying home with our child and facing criticism with either decision. Most women who suffer from post-partum depression still face a stigma that they are unnaturally bad mothers who need to “just snap out of it!”
Mothers shame themselves. We feel guilt on our own. We don’t need others placing shame on us, as well. We need support. We need recognition that we are trying our hardest and will make mistakes. We need the ability to talk about it without judgment and we need breaks from it all sometimes. What we don’t need? We don’t need the side-eye from all the passengers we are passing by on the airplane as we make our way to our seats. We don’t need other women telling us we are doing it wrong and this is what they did. We don’t need shame for also living our own lives outside of our children. We don’t need to be made to feel uncomfortable for feeding our child when we are in public. And, we certainly don’t need opinions about our child and our mothering styles from people who don’t have children. I could go on.
So, I challenge everyone. Find a mom- even better if you don’t know her. Tell her she is doing a great job. Tell that mom who you think looks the most disheveled, that she is beautiful. Tell the mom who is trying to calm her screaming child, it’s okay and let me know if I can help. Tell the mom who is facing depression, we will get through this together.
I am still working on working through feelings of shame and guilt. Whenever I feel somebody might be questioning, shaming, or judging me, I take a deep breath and hold my head up and walk away. I don’t entertain their comments. Sometimes, I stare back and smile and watch them shift in their seats and look away quickly. I refuse to let somebody else lead me to questioning myself as a mother.
I am here for you. Let me know how I can help. You are beautiful and doing a wonderful job. You are a good mom. It will be okay.
And, it’s ok to feel the way you do.