“Nothing prepared me for the unrelenting demands of motherhood: the realities of a 24/7 responsibility that left no time for myself, that lonely time after the front door closed behind my husband each morning while I felt like I just had to cope.
I had wildly unrealistic expectations of myself as a perfect mother and was hard on myself if I didn’t live up to them, and I was stunned at my level of exhaustion. I had no “off switch” – when was it OK to rest? When did my baby stop needing me?
Even though I was living a dream come true, and I loved my daughter to the moon and back, the sense that my life was somehow out of my control was quite a shock. It was a whole new world full of emotional highs and lows and I became invisible as anything other than her caregiver.
Thank goodness for mothers group! It was a lovely safe place to find out if other people were in the same bewildering fog. But I needed more. I was running on empty and pushing myself through each day so it’s not surprising that feeling totally depleted, I broke down when someone told me I was a “control freak” around my baby! Me?
Finally I let myself give in to the exhaustion and cried my heart out. When the calm reappeared, so did the insight that I couldn’t go on like this. I reached out to my husband and was open about the overwhelming weight of feeling like I had total responsibility for the most important person on the planet. It was wearing me out. I had no family to call on for support and so I had just taken for granted that the village it takes to raise a child would be more like a ghost town for me.
Reaching out for help was the start of my recovery. Well, that and gaining a little perspective. I was a control freak to an extent but that’s what my baby needed to be happy and well. What she also needed though, was a mother that took care of herself, developed healthy habits of switching off the hyper-vigilance of postnatal anxiety (ouch I still find that hard to say), filling the fuel tank back up again and yes, remembered everything she used to know about mindfulness and wellbeing!
You see, as a psychologist, I knew the research evidence on mindfulness, I’d even practiced it off and on – but it’s like I forgot everything I new about mindfulness and wellbeing as the sole focus for my world became this little needy bundle.
Now as the mother of two delightful, exhausting children, I am fully convinced of the profoundly soothing “kindfulness” practice I do daily and the solid ground mindfulness meditation (and positive psychology) provide in helping me to be a happier, more settled and responsive mother, and a calmer and more accepting person.
Mindfulness and “kindfulness” has changed me and how I parent. I’ve come back to what I now know to be a rock solid way to care for myself and my family – that both are possible – and now I share that with other mothers through my online program.
My wish for you is that you:
- Resist the urge to do it alone – tune in to what you need and ask for help
- Prioritise your own well-being – for your sake and your children
- Remind yourself you are doing the best you can – we all are
- Try mindfulness and “kindfulness” – they are life-changing supports”
Kellie Edwards has shared her story with us to promote PNDA Awareness Week 2015 (Nov15-21). Kellie runs an online program called mindfulness4mothers.com. If you know a new parent, take a moment this week to check in with them and ask how they are going. For support, call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 10-5pm AEST or visit www.panda.org.au.