Maternal Mental Health Week- The Village.

They say it takes a village to raise a child… and anyone who has had one will agree wholeheartedly. The impossible task of balancing being a mother, being your own woman, being a partner or wife, being a friend, having a career, keeping your house as clean as Mrs Hinch’s, getting in some form of exercise, eating something other than cereal… is just that. IMPOSSIBLE. (If you haven’t found @mrshinchhome then welcome to a new world!)

In order to keep a relative sense of calm and sanity, we are told to ask for help. To rely on those around us. To lean on our “village”. We know that we need to rely on people around us, to help us and assist us. We need someone to come and hold the baby so we can have a shower, or cook us a hearty vegetable based meal and wash up afterwards. We need someone to hug us and tell us it’s all going to be okay. It’s safe to say this doesn’t have to be the same person! The more people we can rely on the better.

In decades gone by, family units were larger and more compact. It was common place to have multigenerational homes and neighbourhoods, where parents and grandparents would often live in the same household if not the same street. This therefore provided a large selection of helpful volunteers to rely on. We didn’t even need to ask.

As the world around us has changed however, our villages have taken on a new shape.
We no longer have a traditional, closely located, convenient group of people to lean on when we are facing tantrums and sleepless nights and endless piles of washing. We do, however have instant access to hundreds of thousands of people all around the world if you choose to reach out to them.

We have forums and Facebook and WhatsApp and apps. We have Google searches and YouTube videos and blogs. We have an unprecedented amount of information and support available to us as mothers, but the question is how effective is this support if it can only be obtained through a screen?

Will a blog post from a fellow sleep deprived mum be as useful as a neighbour with a pasta bake? Will a YouTube review of reusable baby wipes be as beneficial as talking to a friend over coffee?

Increasingly we are becoming distant from human contact, from our village, on account of the modern and fast paced world we live in.

But there are other ways to build your village, using the internet and of the technology we have at our disposal.

As awareness of maternal mental health and specifically maternal mental health is increasing, so the village we all so desperately need is rebuilding itself. We have prenatal groups, connecting parents and often creating lifelong friendships. We have prenatal exercises classes, such as pregnancy yoga. The focus of groups such as these are to form a network around new mothers and new parents, whilst also providing them the tools to adjust to their new life.

Baby Yoga Classes

Once our babies arrive into the world, there are seemingly limitless clubs and activities all for our children’s development, which can keep any new mum busy for weeks on end. But there are also hidden benefits to these as well. They are bonding social circles for parents. These weekly gatherings in the interest of our babies wellbeing are also life savers for maternal mental health.

There are 3 key post-natal mental health issues seen commonly in the 1 in 10 mums who suffer. They are; anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Now the severity of these can vary widely and largely this is influenced by the support each mother has.

When a mother is without her village, she is isolated. She is left feeling alone and desperate. The way we all feel after just 45 minutes sleep after a night of heavy cluster feeding or when those pesky teeth just won’t cut through. Being left alone, cut off from support and from that validation that you are not the only one is one of the most detrimental things to maternal mental health issues.

Being around others, getting exercise and fresh air, hearing from others experiences are all fantastic ways to help tackle maternal mental health issues. Talking openly about them is another hugely important one. As awareness of the importance of tackling maternal mental health rises, so does the conversation. The topics flow more easily and we become more readily able to spot the signs in other mothers and approach them. To break down that wall of isolation before it becomes a problem.

In this Instagram perfect, social media savvy world, it is all too easy to perceive what others display and feel like you’re the only one struggling. You’re the only one who doesn’t have friends to meet for coffee. But we are all in it together (Why not read this blog for a honest view on a post natal journey and how hard it can be! .

There is one thing we can do using the power of influencers and bloggers… we can build a village that invites ALL women in. To support each other from near and afar. To connect neighbours who didn’t know they had so much in common. To connect friends and build networks allowing us all to rely on each other a little more and stop striving for some ideal that doesn’t exist.

So, next time you’re at a baby club, a children activity, or just playing in the park, stop and ask yourself; am I a part of this village? Be the leader of the conversation if you’re brave enough and build your village around you and invite everyone in. Let’s build a strong support network for all mums and parents so that we can tackle maternal mental health issues together.