I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for me, kids are the easy part of parenting.
Sorry – they’re not easy. They’re easier.
The hard parts are the bits to do with me – my changing identity and relationships, and a lifetime of emotional baggage. Even when your childhood is happy and weird, as I lovingly recall mine was, it still has a huge impact on you as an adult.
And that makes me a little paranoid about what I am doing to my kids.
On so many fronts.
I often have a flash-forward to them in therapy revealing how I would let them watch TV if they got dressed quickly. Or wouldn’t allow them to watch TV because I said so. Or had breakfast for dinner some nights. Many nights. And the permanent psychological scars this has left on them.
But what I deeply worry about is what effect me having Post Natal Depression will have on them.
I feel guilt and shame at having put them through the Bad Days.
And want them to know that it was never – not for 1 millisecond – about them. They were the easy part … easier part.
And as I speak out loud about My Journey and Truth, this is something I have been thinking about a lot.
So I spoke to Angela, my counsellor, about it; my voice of wisdom and reason. And she reminded me back to the Circle of Security course which I attended a couple of years ago.
Circle of Security is the only parenting course I have ever been to, apart from the one at the hospital where they try to scare the bejeebers out of you. It taught me to trust myself as a Mum. It didn’t give me specific strategies. Rather, the key concept is that as a parent you are called upon to be bigger, stronger, wiser and kind.
And everything else flows from there. It teaches that all emotions are ok, some are just big and uncomfortable, while others are more pleasant to experience, but none are to be feared or suppressed.
And that is the key teaching that I’m trying to draw on when dealing with my PND and my kids.
I want them to grow up knowing that Mum had PND but that it wasn’t a big deal. And for there not to be a time when we need to sit down when they’re Old Enough and Have A Chat to Reveal All; that it is a natural and normal-ish part of life which they have always known about.
You may say I’m a dreamer … but I’m not the only one.
From Circle Of Security and through various books (like “In My Heart” – that gorgeous French picture book), we try to talk to the girls about their feelings. Trying to help them to articulate when they are feeling an emotion and how it feels: “Aud, I can see you are feeling really frustrated right now, and it looks like that is really big and making you angry and like you need to shout.”
It is a bit weird at first to talk like this, but it seems to be working … Audie will come up to me and say, “Mum, I don’t feel happy … my toes don’t feel happy today”. And it’s not up to me to fix it, but to sit down and to hug her and say, “That is fantastic that you can say that Aud. Lets see how sad feels and take some deep breaths and I’ll be right here with you, and you will move through it too.”
And its not 100% of the time that I do this; my neighbours will vouch for the screaming banshee routine as we rush for school, along with general bribery, hushing and “because I’m your Mum and I told you so”.
But when I do, it helps them know that feelings don’t need to be feared or avoided, they are all safe, and they all come and go.
Ha! If only I could remember that sage advice in moments of my emotional freefall!
So, what I am doing is talking to the girls – particularly Nina at this stage, that I have big feelings too and sometimes they get too much for me to handle, and I have people who help me with that: Dad, our families, my friends, our GP, Angela … and that it can be really hard because it makes me not be very patient or fun sometimes. And that I am sorry for taking it out on her.
And in the way of kids, she is beautifully gracious and accepts my apology with a hug and “Oh good, well if you’re feeling better, can you please play School Girls with me now?”
Help me! Not bloody School Girls again!
I already talk to them about the blog – that I write about my thoughts and feelings to get them out and ordered, and to share My Truth.
In time, we will talk about anti-depressants and actually use the words “Post Natal Depression”. As Angela said: “It’s just a label we use on a set of big, sometimes out-of-control, feelings”.
And of course Glennon Doyle Melton has wisdom to share:
Then I remember what my most important parenting job is, and that is to teach my children how to deal with being human. Because most likely, that’s where they’re headed. No matter what I do, they’re headed toward being messed-up humans faster than three brakeless railroad cars.
There is really only one way to deal gracefully with being human, and that is this:
(“Carry On Warrior”, Scribner, 2013).
Amazing! Isn’t she just the bee’s knees?! We are all human – wonderfully imperfect humans; and if we can show that to our kids and teach them how to deal with it, then it seems to me that it is much better than trying to uphold yourself as a shiny, perfect illusion. And a lot less hard work too.
And that got me thinking that what I want to teach my girls is to be courageous, and that we can do hard things (another Glennon Gem), and that speaking Your Truth is scary and amazing and the way forward. And PND has been the catalyst for learning these lessons and for living this way. And so, in a twisted way, it has been a blessing for us all.
The PND hasn’t been the easy bit. But then nothing good ever was.
I will finish with this beautiful paragraph from Jessica Rudd’s short story “What to expect when you’re someone’s favourite colour” which so exquisitely expresses something I didn’t even realise I felt until I read it. Just now re-reading it I have goose bumps at this deeply reassuring sentiment:
One day, my girl’s heart might forget how to sing when it should be at its most songful, and I need her to know mine did too and that, through it all, she thrived and flourished and knew – just as she does now, and always will – that she is my favourite colour, too.”
(from “Mothers and Others”, Macmillan by Pan Macmillan, 2015)