I’m not going to get the best parent in the world award after I admit this, but my son is almost 10 months old, and today was the first time I took him to a baby group, well it was a soft play, but I digress.
The point is that before today I had never got him out of the house to socialise with other children. I tried last week, but failed (see previous blog post). Now you may think well he’s only 10 months old so it’s no biggy, but even babies need to socialise and get used to being around other kids, it’s important for their development. He’s been around my best friends little one a handful of times but I’d say that’s about it.
I haven’t got anything against baby groups, in fact I researched a lot of them with every single intention of attending, but sadly, my mental health sometimes prevents me from being able to do these things, and I know that it’s the same for other mums.
You see, I can either be a social butterfly or the most socially awkward person ever, and there is literally no in-between. My favourite thing to do lately is make lots of promising plans to meet with my Mum friends and then get myself into such a panic about it, that I cancel last minute.
I say Mum friends like I have loads, I don’t. There’s my friends who are mums and then there are Mum friends. There is a difference – Mum friends are the people you only socialise with because you both have children and my friends who are mums are the ones I can actually admit to that ‘My kids are really pissing me off’ and they won’t judge me. I’m in my late 20s, so I’m at that stage in my life where everyone seems to be having kids. I see more scan pictures, baby announcements and milestones on my newsfeed than anything else.
So why on earth am I so lonely? Why, when I know a handful of mums with children of similar ages do I suffer and isolate myself? I could list of a variety of reasons but truth is, they all stem from my mental health.
I’ve suffered from post natal depression in the past, but with Max things were different. I suffered with separation anxiety, it’s usually only recognised as something a child experiences but the diagnosis is now categorised as an anxiety disorder that can affect all ages.
I didn’t want to put him down, I didn’t want anyone to take him out, I just was, well a little bit obsessed. Thankfully now I’m much better, and I’m finally ready to get back into work, but the first six months of his life I had no life of my own.
There was so much stuff going on in my personal life as well that I just threw every ounce of energy I had into Max. He was my positive distraction, but I was smothering him and I didn’t even see it.
My family noticed it first. I got anxious if anyone held him, and I’d be there waiting to take him back as if the person holding him was a dangerous stranger. Even if it was my mum, and she has had 5 kids so she knows what she’s doing.
I picked him up all the time, I never let him cry, but even if he wasn’t crying I would pick him up. The first time he hurt himself I had a panic attack (bare in mind I’ve got two other sons, so I’ve seen my fair share of bumps and bruises).
I had absolutely no desire to go out, at all. If I did go anywhere, I would leave early, and I would make excuses but really it was to get home to the baby. Some mums are naturally this way inclined and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but for me, it wasn’t normal, or healthy. It was only when my boyfriend sat me down and talked about it that I even realised it had become a problem.
Luckily, with support from my family and the peri natal mental health team, I was able to recover and get better and now I’ve slowly started to unravel the cotton wool I’ve been wrapping him up in.
I felt a huge pang of guilt today as I saw his little face light up in soft play. I thought to myself, I could have taken him here a long time ago. He absolutely loved it, and I’m the worst mother in the world for not doing this sooner.
But I could beat myself about what I have or haven’t done or I could make the most of the moments I have to look forward to. There’s so much pressure on parents, and it’s challenging, even without mental health battles.
We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, yes we’re parents but we’re also human beings. Sometimes, we mess up, often we wish we could have done things differently but the most important thing in the world is that we love our kids.
Sometimes, that love takes time, and sometimes that love takes over, but however you choose to bring up your child, know this;
You are doing an incredible job.
You are everything your child needs.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and the most important thing is that I’m trying. I’m trying everyday to be the best parent I can be and that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do. So, here’s to better days, I’m looking forward to going to more Mum and baby groups, and support groups starting with Perinatal Mental Health Cymru this Monday at Llandaff North hub 9.30 – 11.30.
PMH Cymru is a mental health and family well-being peer support organisation in Cardiff run by Charlotte, who has shared her own story to inspire others and make positive and lasting change in the way we view parenting and mental health.
I’m really looking forward to it, and so is Max. It will be a chance to meet other parents who have shared the same struggles as me, and who knows we might even make some friends. I certainly hope so.