This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. (Try saying that three times to a pre-schooler!) Today, Friday 3rd, is the day for talking about “recovery, looking ahead to the future and self-care.” So as I look at my experience of postnatal depression (PND), I’m thinking about ways I can have a more nurturing and caring response my own actions in motherhood.
What would it take to be OK with letting your child down?
A good friend and advisor challenged me with this question recently. While it’s certainly shocking, it’s not such a brutal question as it might seem. I’m currently operating under the influence of PND and one of the ways it is manifesting is huge anxiety about letting my kids down. I’m aware that my altered state of thinking at the moment means I don’t always have a terribly accurate picture of what is really going on, but the fact remains that, regardless of whether it’s true, I regularly feel like I’m letting my kids down.
And I’m pretty confident most parents feel the same at some point.
So I want to explore it a little…
None of us are perfect and we’re going to make mistakes. I know this, and I am actually OK with it. I’m comfortable with the knowledge that I’m learning as I go, and that at some point I’ll have to apologise to my children. I’m OK with this because I want to model those behaviours for them; learning; reflecting; taking responsibility; apologising and making amends when possible. These are all valuable and difficult lessons to learn.
But how to come to terms with acting in a way that feels like you’re letting them down at that moment? That whatever you do (including nothing) will let them down?
This is not about looking for the ‘oh you’re not letting them down’, ‘you’re doing great’ platitudes, or rationalising. The ‘truth’ of the situation is, to a greater extent, irrelevant. What I’m trying to work with here is the emotional content. It feels like letting them down. What would it take to be ok with that? To let go, surrender to it, and stop beating yourself up?
Or is that it? Simply to accept that there’s no correct answer available to you at this moment (or possibly none at all) and instead aim for damage control?
Like that’s a ‘simple’ thing to do.
Maybe there’s something around examining what it means to let them down? I think I mostly mean not doing the best I possibly can for them, not following through on what I feel I should be able to do. But I am doing the best I can – even when the result is dire. Your best is not the result you get when you give your all in the best possible circumstances. Your best what you put in – whatever the circumstances.The result is irrelevant.
I feel like I’m getting closer to a gentle approach for myself. But it’s still not there. When I think about the look in my little boy’s eyes when Mummy gets it wrong (again), everything falls apart again.
What would it take to be OK with letting my child down?
I have no idea. But I’m determined to figure it out.