Depression

Depression

This is probably one of the most difficult posts I am ever going to write. 

I have depression. And I have done for a very, very long time. 

My daughter is now eight. Her entire life, she has been used to seeing me go through periods of over-the-top-happiness (often short lived), followed by periods of sullenness, tears and rage. She has made me laugh when I’m happy, hugged me when I’m sad and avoided me when I’m angry. And, particularly in the last year, she has become my strongest supporter. 

This time last year, after one of the longest “happy periods” I can remember, my daughter became a big sister. When I was pregnant and for a short while after my son was born, I thought I had finally gotten rid of depression. So did my daughter. We were relaxed and enjoying what seemed like “normal” family life. 

Then it hit us from nowhere. I say “us” because it’s not just about me or what I was feeling, it’s the effect that it had and continues to have on my daughter that worries me the most. She became someone that not only cared for her mother during dark periods, but her baby brother too. 

My daughter keeps her brother occupied while I sit in the bathroom with the door locked for long periods of time. “Mummy’s on the toilet – she must be doing a really big poo!” I hear her say to him and giggle. We both know that I’m not. 

She plays ‘peek-a-boo’ with him while I try to change his nappy, to stop him from rolling around and to stop me from getting frustrated. 

She shuts the door when I’m in another room crying, or sometimes screaming. She comes to hug me when she hears that I’ve calmed down, telling me “I’ve put him to sleep. He loves having his head stroked!”  

She is everything. But she shouldn’t need to be. She shouldn’t have this weight on her shoulders at eight years old. She shouldn’t have to go to school wondering how her mum will be when she gets home. She shouldn’t have her childhood clouded with memories of stress and responsibility. She shouldn’t need to worry that her baby brother will have the same experiences as her. 

Something has to change. I haven’t figured out how to change it yet, but whatever it is, it starts now. 

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I’m a Mum and…

I’m a Mum and…

PROUD.

story of mum exhibitionBritMums - Leading the Conversation

Yes, that’s right. I know I’m a mum and many other things, and I was going to use my Story of Mum mini-exhibition to tell you all about my secret ninja double life, but then it wouldn’t be very secret. I was also going to use it to list all of the fabulously cool and fun things I am aside from being a mum, but I’m far too modest. Besides, you’ve probably already noticed how fanbloodytabulous I am anyway, so I’ve decided to use it to tell you that I am proud. This coincides with both my Story of Mum mini exhibition and the #NoTeenShame campaign that I’ve been reading up on lately.

Until fairly recently, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I was a teenage mother. When I was pregnant, I got the stares, I got the whispers, I got the lectures. I was told “well that’s the end of your life now then.” I hid my pregnancy with clothes as much as I could, and rarely left the house other than to go to sixth form.

I thought that this might change when I had my daughter, but it didn’t. I told myself that it was because I wasn’t doing anything “other than being a mum”, so I avoided places that I could bump into too many people that I knew.

This would clear up when I finished my gap year and started uni though, right? Wrong. While it did shock the doubters into silence, it didn’t stop me from feeling the shame that had been built up for so long. I realised that I was slightly nervous when explaining to the students of my own age why I couldn’t come out for drinks after lectures. I could feel my face burning as I picked up my daughter from the university nursery and pushed her through crowds of classmates at the bus stop. While they probably weren’t judging me at all, the shock on their faces took me back to being the pregnant seventeen-year-old who was told she had no future. I was embarrassed.

It wore off. I started getting good grades at uni and the nursery staff were forever commending me on how bright and well behaved my daughter was. I was proud. I am proud; I just wish that I had enjoyed motherhood properly from the start.

This is why I was so saddened by @CandiesOrg’s #NoTeenPreg campaign. They are using tactics that will make other young mothers feel ashamed of what should be the most joyful experience possible. Why should a mother not enjoy parenthood just because of her age? Young women and teenagers have been having children since man begun, why has it been made so taboo today?

Using posters with comments such as “You think being in school sucks?” followed by a picture of a bottle is offensive. School didn’t suck, and neither does motherhood. Putting pictures of celebrities who are idolised by teens next to these quotes won’t stop teens from having children, it will just make other teens look down on them more. Having Carly Rae Jepson tell them that they should be “changing the world, not diapers” is not going to stop teens from changing diapers. It will stop many young mothers from feeling like she can change the world though. Bullying and isolation is not going to create brighter futures for anyone. We all have a right to enjoy parenthood.

I’m a teen mum and proud.

#NoTeenPreg #NoTeenShame

I created this:

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I curated this:

As part of my StoryOfMum mini-exhibition, I’m sharing this photo from the Brit Mums tour (I think!) What I love about this is how happy this mum looks. She’s on child number six, and – while she may not be a teen mum – she’s a mum and NOT ashamed! And what a beautiful bump she’s sporting.



 

 

My Cheeky Child

My Cheeky Child

I got through the screaming nights of the newborn, the “grabbiness” of the one-year-old and the tantrums of the two-year-old. Three has been a nice age. She’s old enough to know right from wrong, and young enough to be fun and cute.

Three-and-a-half-but-I’m-nearly-four is becoming a new age all together. My child is rude. What sets other people off in giggles (usually family and friends without children, may I add), makes me want to scream into a pillow and lock my daughter in a Rapunzel-style tower until she has learnt some manners.

It’s probably my fault, I admit. The first time my daughter made a cheeky remark, I giggled too! I said “no, you don’t talk to Mummy like that” through a tittering red face and watering eyes. It was funny, I couldn’t help it. But my oh my, do I regret it.

I’m told “Watch the television, not me”, “Am I talking to you? No.”, and “Fine then, I won’t eat my dinner.” I’m seriously considering putting a few boarding schools on my 2013 primary starter application form.

Now, I know there are a few factors that are contributing to my madam’s diva attitude. The first being my inadvertent encouragement of diva-like behaviour during the early stages. I wish I had realised how much my laughing at her was affecting her ego… Another contributing factor is my inability to not nag. She hears me nagging at, well… everyone, and thinks that it’s acceptable. It’s my fault. I know! Another problem is her nursery is absolutely full of children just as cheeky as her. She’s there full time, there’s just no getting away from it.

I’ve tried many approaches to nipping this attitude in the bud. I’ve scorned her. I’ve ignored it. I’ve told her in my “nice voice” that that’s not the way we speak. I’ve put her on the “naughty step”. I’ve confiscated toys. I’ve sent her to her room. I’ve banned Peppa Pig. I’ve tried everything. All of which have worked instantly. And all of which have had lasting effects of about one hour.

What gets me though, is she doesn’t behave like this with anyone but those living in our household. When I speak to her nursery nurses about it, I get “Really? No! We’ve been really impressed by her manners actually.” When I visit my grandparents, I’m told “Isn’t she well behaved! All the children in our family have good manners, don’t they?” (Erm.. Yes Grandma, I’m sure they do…) And when I ask her aunties how she’s behaved when they’ve babysat, I get “she’s been very good, until you got here and the cheekiness started!” I would really, really love to delve into her mind and find out why this is.

I’m probably painting a terrible picture of both my child’s persona and my parenting skills, especially if you who are reading this doesn’t have any children of your own (“but I have loads of nieces and nephews” doesn’t count! They behave differently, to all of you backseat drivers out there…) She’s not an awful child, nor am I an awful parent. What she is is bloody cheeky and what I am is bloody stressed!

I hope it’s all a phase. And I hope the phase passes before she turns into a little prima donna forever…

Aside

The Perfect Mother

Before I start on this post, I’d like to state one rule. Each time you read the words “perfect mother”, please imagine it to be said with as much venom as possible. Because she is our enemy.

Look at her, with her perfect smile, her happy, well behaved children, and her perky little boobs and ironing board stomach. The Perfect Mother: She. Is. Evil.

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So, if she’s so evil, why do we all try so hard to be her? You don’t? Oh, I think you do! Put yourself back here: you’re just getting used to motherhood, your child is about five months old, and has been up all night for four nights in a row. You’re shattered, but you know you need nappies so you rush out to the shop with your hair in a state. As much as you know that this is perfectly normal, (after all, you’re a mum now), you still hope you don’t bump into anyone. You don’t want them to say “well she’s really let herself go since she had a baby!” But, typical, you do. An old “friend” who you’ve barely spoken to since you were preggo. She asks “How’s motherhood?” And what is your response? YES! You said something along the lines of “Oh, I’m loving it”, or “it’s amazing!”, didn’t you? I knew it. You put aside the fact that you were on the verge of tears, or even already in tears, last night because you were just so bloody shattered, didn’t you?

Now, it’s not that motherhood isn’t “amazing” or that we’re not “loving it”, but, let’s be honest, it is hard work. And that hard work often overshadows the fun parts. And that’s the harsh reality.

So why do we do so much to try and prove ourselves to be like… Her? We pretend like everything is fine, when it’s not. We avoid asking for help, because we don’t want people to say “I told you so!” And, in general, we try to do too much. 

Let’s kick the Perfect Mother to the curb. If we love, our kids, do our best for them and put them first, is that not enough to make us better than her?

She’s not real!