Thursday, 3 February 2011

Not Perfect

3rd January 2011

“The statistics say that roughly 20 per cent of women suffer from some form of depression in the year after giving birth, but the true incidence is probably far higher, for postnatal depression is often missed or misdiagnosed since it can be provoked or compounded by unavoidable aspects of motherhood such as exhaustion, poor health and changes in marital relations. Women are often reluctant or simply too tired to consult doctors. Sometimes they do not know that they are depressed until they emerge from the fog and look back on those grey days.

Postnatal depression is not something that happens to a small group of unfortunate women at the very end of the spectrum who cannot cope. It is a sliding scale, starting with the ‘baby blues’ affecting 80 per cent of women, and ending with majority of women sit somewhere on this scale, and the extent to which a woman suffers depends on her individual psychology, her ability to tolerate stress and the amount of emotional support she enjoys.”

(Kate Figes, Life After Birth).

“Motherhood, for me, was a sort of compound fenced off from the rest of the world. I was forever plotting my escape from it. “ (Rachel Cusk, A Life’s Work, On Becoming a Mother)

In her introduction to Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali writes “Books about the inner lives of mothers tend to be depressing reports portraying us as victims suffering a lifestyle that nobody warned us about.”

What about when depression goes beyond the postnatal period? Perhaps you’re not depressed but you just have a feeling that you are somehow failing to live up to your own, or other people’s expectations? The website Netmums wants to lift the expectation of being a ‘perfect parent’ from our shoulders by starting the Real Parenting Revolution. Accept that you are ‘Good Enough’. The campaign urges us to be honest with other parents about the challenges we are facing, and be more accepting of each other’s different parenting choices.

For me, sharing the challenges and difficulties with other new mums over coffee helped me through post-natal depression. As a new mother I was confused by conflicting childcare manuals, doubted my own intuition and lost self confidence. I’ve had to learn to have more realistic expectations of myself.

The Real Parenting Revolution says get R.E.A.L

R Relax and trust yourself

E Enjoy being a parent

A Accept each other’s choices

L Look out for each other

I’m also interested by Linda Jones’s question, ‘Does depression contribute to a messy living environment (through not having the get up and go to get up and clean) or does a messy living environment add to depression?’ Find out soon when her article appears in One in Four magazine.
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