Sunday, May 18, 2014

How to Combat Post Mother's Day Depression

I feel a little bit guilty admitting and writing that Mother's Day often makes me feel a little bit deflated. But I've noticed this week that I'm not the only one who struggles with feeling a little depressed after Mother's Day.

For so many years when I was struggling with infertility I would dread Mother's Day. I so desperately wanted to be a Mummy and my exclusion from being honoured on that day was sorely felt. Back then, the worst part of the day, without a doubt, was during the church service when the mother's would be asked to stand up, and they would be given a small gift to honour and thank them for the contribution that they are making. I still feel slightly embarrassed when I stand up, but I do stand. Not because I want others to feel excluded, but rather because it is right and good for motherhood to be honoured. Which is why I still attended church when I had no baby to hold and call my own despite it being an emotionally painful Sunday. (I know lots of women avoid attending services on Mother's Day though, and no condemnation to you. You know if you are mentally able to cope with the event, you do what you need to do.)

Fast forward to the first Sunday I finally could celebrate Mother's Day. Oh the joy, the anticipation, the eagerness I felt to be a part of church service and the family lunch that always followed.

I did not expect to be depressed by the end of the day. I did not expect that I would be crying tears of sadness and feeling undervalued and insignificant and very, very inadequate. Over the years, I've noticed that some Mother's Days are better then others, but it's common that I feel a little bit down as the sun sets each Mother's Day. Here are some of my tips to pull yourself out of the post Mother's Day funk.

1. Be Grateful
It's easy to feel guilty that you aren't feeling grateful on Mother's Day. Stop looking at the things that you aren't feeling grateful for and acknowledge all that you are grateful for on Mother's Day. Start with your gorgeous kiddos. I've found that if Mother's Day isn't living up to my expectations, at the very least I can use it as a day to reflect on how incredibly blessed I am. I think perhaps it's easier when you have been through infertility to know how just immense this feeling of blessing is. When you remember the yearning that was once there and the joy that it has been replaced by, your heart overflows with gratefulness. Mother's Day is a time to cherish each cuddle and to reflect on the things you love most about each child.

2. Lower Your Expectations
Oh Pinterest. How I love you and hate you. Your mother's day might have looked like the picture below. And if it did, I'm happy for you. Ever so happy for you.
Image Source

But most of ours didn't look picture perfect.  And if it did, most of the time, it only looked like that this year. Next year it will probably look like this.
This was my son's bedroom. To be fair, the day before Mother's Day, after several hours of cajoling and threats, it was remarkably tidier then this photo. Two days later it had reverted back to this state though, I might add. 

Because that my friends is the real world. Proceed back to step 1. Be grateful that you have children to mess the room up in the first place.

Perfection is something we constantly see on Pinterest. But perfection is a picture. A snapshot that doesn't show the reality outside the frame. Picture perfect leaves out the exhausted mother, the ugly cry as she sobs with frustration, the dirty dishes and the toys littered over the floor. Yet, we look at the small corner of perfection and feel inadequate. It has to stop. Life is not perfect, it never will be. There will be perfect moments, rejoice while they are there, do not expect them to last forever. On Mother's Day, there will be sweet moments, cherish those moments, but don't be surprised when a second later you will be changing a dirty nappy while another child has dropped to the floor and performing a well executed tantrum.

3. Don't Expect a Complete Break From Mothering
There seems to be a lot of publicity that Mother's Day should be relaxing. And oh yes, as mother's we totally buy that line. Because let's face it. Motherhood is just plain hard work. And it exhausts us. And we want to have a break.

Right from the start of Mother's Day 2014, I was trying to make my house tidy while also getting ready for church. Because the thing about Mother's Day is that many of us are blessed to celebrate it with our Mother's, so it is not a day just for ourselves. The kids were aware it was a special day, and in between bouts of their egocentrism, they were wanting it to be special for me. They had made breakfast with Daddy, and gave me the little creations they had made at kindy and school. But because everyone coming around to our place for lunch, I was frantically rushing around trying to do last minute tidy ups, since I had given up the night before and gone to bed because I was exhausted. In the rush we ran out of time before church for the kids to give me the gift they had bought. This made things strained with the children, and I was stressed that they were disappointed while being stressed at getting things right for lunch, even if I wasn't going to be cooking. (Which incidentally the reason that we go out to a restaurant most years, but money was tight this year.)
Mother's Day flowers from our garden.
Let me add, that I did relax on Mother's Day. Alex has learned to make Mother's Day special. He took care of breakfast, lunch and dinner! What a man! But at the end of the day, laundry needed to be done. Nappies needed to be changed, children needed to be dressed. Discipline needed to be administered. You just can't switch of being a mother for a day. I have found that my attitude can get a bit sour if I expect the whole day to be relaxing, I now expect that there are still jobs I need to do, and I try not to feel resentful for having to do those jobs. And above all I am appreciative for the gestures and attempts the children and my husband have made to make the day special.

And here's another hint to have a relaxing day! Stop doing stuff! I know some mother's find it difficult to switch off. Just do it. Your children and their Daddy cannot do nice things for you if you keep doing everything! Allow them the opportunity to take control. We know it won't be to the same standard, but you can always fix it up tomorrow! If you don't give them the opportunity today, they may stop trying tomorrow.
My brother-in-law's salad. It's called an 'echidna salad'. Yup, men often don't approach things the same way as us women! But we didn't have to make the salad, so - SCORE!

4. Communicate Your Wishes With Your Husband (Or Significant Other or Someone Who Influences Your Children)
Sometimes we can be disappointed on Mother's Day, (Or birthdays, Christmas, etc.) because we are wishing for beautiful gifts or meaningful moments orchestrated by significant people in our life (if you're married, a lot of that expectation lies with our husband) and then it just doesn't happen to some of us. I have noticed that disappointed mothers play the role of martyr quite regularly. We really ought to stop this. Especially if it's happening year after year.

If you are disappointed regularly after special events, communicate your feelings lovingly with your husband. Don't start with words like, "You Never…" or "You Should…" Sensitively explain to your husband (or other person) how you are feeling, make practical suggestions on what you would really appreciate. Don't demand things that are too difficult to be delivered. Men actually appreciate direct talk. Subtle hints can often be a waste of time when you are trying to suggest what you would like.  In my Mother's Day Prelude post I suggested writing a list for your husband to take with the kids when he goes shopping. Consider they male tendency to minimise shopping time and list which stores he can buy your desired item at. Having plenty of suggestions on the list means you will still get a surprise, but you are actually being kind to them and yourself.

After my first couple of Mother's Day, my feelings had really been hurt by my husband's proclamation, "It's not about what I do for you on Mother's Day. You're not my mother." Because even more so when the children are very young you need their Father to make the day special for you. I also communicated with Alex how feeling honoured as the mother of his children meant a lot to me. Since we've had that talk Alex has made big efforts to make Mother's Day special by cooking meals, taking the kids shopping, do extra chores around the house and changing the majority of nappies on that Sunday. This year, because we had invited a lot of family around for lunch, he also helped with the preparations and cleaning up in the days leading up to the event. It's just little things like this which makes you feel appreciated as a Mother and gives you energy for the never-ending mothering tasks.

5. This Is Not A Day For Comparisons
To be truthful, this is what got me down the most last week. We had a tough week leading up to the weekend with behaviour. Kids can't just switch on and off. So if there are issues, they will continue to 'manifest' even on special days. We still started Mother's Day with whining, arguing, angry words and tears. (The kids, not me. Ahem. Mostly.)

During the church service the big kids were lolling around in the seats, not following instructions and the little children were being noisy and very active. I was incredibly embarrassed and feeling like a complete failure that I couldn't 'keep them under control'. (Therein lies part of the problem, it's not my job to keep them, 'under control'. It's my job to train them to make choices that are considerate and respectful to those around them. Although, had I thought 'correctly' I still would have felt dejected that I have not been inspiring them to have better behaviour choices.)

The kids church leader was running a very fun service, and it was brilliant. Jonty was involved in a game out of the front where he was a rooster and the Mum's (myself included) had to run out the front and 'stuff' him with balloons down his overalls. He was very cute, crowing enthusiastically the whole time he was out the front, and getting lots of laughs. (Jonty loves making people laugh.) But because of his previous behaviour beforehand, I couldn't even fully enjoy his cuteness. And then I felt even more awful for being so negative.
My son the rooster with his cousin.

There was also a beautiful video of some of the children saying things about mother's. My two boys got a lot of air time. They were very adorable! It was one of the high points of the day, and I had to keep wiping tears away, because at the end of the day, no matter how naughty they are, I love them a squillion times over.

Here's the video - my boys are spiderman (Trent) and his puffer vest counterpart. (Jonty) The three girls on the lounge are my nieces and the tall boy with the little boy are my nephews. (I just about died of cuteness overload when my little nephew whispered his answer in his big brother's ear.)



But here's the deal. My children are not perfect. No child is perfect. My children each have issues that they are working on. Childhood is one big work in progress. (And actually it doesn't stop at childhood, does it?) And as a mother it's my job to accompany them along their journey and do all that I can to assist them to grow and develop into the person they are created to be. Once again, it's a journey, a long term project. This one day in the year is a part of their journey/our journey that we are on together. The issues never disappear overnight, so if they surface when you really don't want to deal with them, it's just time to pull your big girl pants up and continue with the job. Motherhood is beautiful, but most of the time it's not comfortable. It just isn't. But it is full of love, and when we're tired and feel like we can't keep going, we need to remember the depth of love we have for each child, then also draw on the love that is being given to us, from others and above, take a deep breath and keep on going.

Mother's Day is not a time to look around and compare yourself with others. Your child is different to the others. You are different to the others. You are on a different journey. We all have our high points and low points. You might be admiring the 'picture perfect' family, but you don't know what stage of the journey they are on. And you don't know what is happening outside the frame. Most of the time the picture perfect is only one snapshot in time. Scratch below most surfaces and you will see a whole heap of issues. We all have issues. We all need to deal with each challenge. One challenge at a time. Over and over again. We can move forward, it is possible, and we will.


I could keep writing about a whole heap of other feelings that can take the shine off Mother's Day. I haven't even touched on remembering absent Mother's or children who are not around to celebrate the day with us. There are so many other issues as well, I don't dismiss any of them as greater or lesser. I just wrote from my own experiences in this day just past.

How was your Mother's Day? Do you ever feel the blues before or after Mother's Day? How do you deal with the complexity of emotions post Mother's Day?



3 comments:

  1. At our church every woman was honoured and given a gift if they were mothers or not which I thought was lovely because I cant imagine how hard it s nt be be able to have a child of you're own when you really want to be a mum. My Mothers Day was lovely. Spending time with my family and going to church.

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  2. I used to get very upset if my day wasn't perfect but this year I had no expectations and it was a fantastic day, hubby took them to the park to give me a few hours peace and I ended up cleaning the house and then driving down to hang with them at the park. Once a mum always a mum x

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  3. My own journey to Motherhood was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. We lost our first baby at 22 weeks. Then followed a period of anxiety of depression while I desperately tried to fall pregnant again. Eventually I fell pregnant again and we were blessed with a beautiful daughter.

    During my period of depression I spent a lot of time on Pregnancy Loss and Infertility forums so I feel I understand the angst associated with Mother's Day. I can remember a Father's Day after we lost the baby my Mum made some comment about how the Dads were going off to do something and she didn't include my husband. In her mind, my husband wasn't a Father. I found this really upsetting.

    So each Mother's Day I make an effort to acknowledge all the women in my life who are involved in a child's life. As far as I'm concerned it takes a village. Just because you haven't given birth doesn't mean you don't have a mothering role in someone's life. You too should be acknowledged on Mother's Day.

    This year though I felt like I was hit a little bit by the guilt stick regarding Mother's Day. There were several posts on Mamamia about pregnancy loss, infertility and absent parents. These all reminded us that we needed to be grateful that we were mothers. A lot of Facebook updates in my stream were also about being grateful every second that we get to be parents because not everyone does.

    All these posts made me a bit cranky. It seems as Mothers we must be selfless ALL THE TIME! Are we not allowed just one day that is about us without having to think about every other person in the world and how our actions affect them? In my heart I know this is a mean reaction. I think though that we can help people empathise with the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss without making them feel guilty.

    Sorry for the essay! I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm glad that this post didn't appear on Mother's Day. Also, I think you did a great job of talking about your own feelings without laying on the guilt.

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Thanks for making my heart that little bit happier by leaving a comment!

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