I’ve been talking a lot about Mums and Postnatal Depression (PND) lately. But interestingly, one of the things that regularly crops up when I speak to Mums about this topic is their concern or experiences regarding their husband or partner having depression.
It’s something that’s not widely spoken of or understood, but Postnatal Depression in Dads is a very real issue.
Which is why I’ve written this guest post over at Mum Central, talking about this very topic.
Head over to take a look and please share through your social media channels, so we can start to get this subject out into the public awareness.
Finally, if you’re concerned that you or someone you love needs support with depression, please speak to a trusted health professional, and check out any of the following support services listed below.
How is Dad Going?
Black Dog Institute
For immediate emergency support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Until next time,
When was the last time you felt the sand between your toes?
“I want my staff to work hard. But I also want them to play hard!”
This was what an awesome businessman once told me when he was discussing how he runs his clinic. He’s an Occupational Therapist – like me – and he employs about a dozen other OTs. He wants them to work hard, but he sets shorter working hours and is super-strict on his employees taking leave. Because he also wants them to have balance. Time for family. For rest. For recreation. For adventure. Time for life.
I like his thinking, because I know that far too often those of us who have families and mortgages can repeatedly put off doing those very things that can bring us balance.
To succeed in life we have to work hard. To make more money we have to work longer hours. More hard work equals more money and more reward. That’s how the story goes.
And it’s true. To a point.
But what’s also true is that we frequently fall into the old trap of working more, doing more, trying to be more. We drown out the little voice in our head that starts telling us to pull back, that we’re taking on too much, that we can’t possibly maintain the pace we’re setting for ourselves. That we haven’t taken a break in nearly two years. That we’re working such long hours some days that we barely get home in time to tuck the kids into bed.
But it’s okay, we counter – it’s just for now, just until the end of the financial year, just until we get through this round of bills, just until the kids go back to school. I’ll put in the hard yards now, and I’ll take a little break sometime soon.
It’s easy to understand why we do this. We all have goals, we want our careers and businesses to prosper, to create an ideal future for ourselves and our families. So we convince ourselves that the sacrifices we make now will pay dividends in due time. It’s the rule we’ve always been taught – delayed gratification at its darndest.
But the problem arises when that planned break gets continually pushed back. And back, and back. When we live our life constantly forging ahead, but never retreating.
Retreat is all about giving yourself space. Emotional, physical and social space. It’s important because space is where we bloom – both personally and professionally. It’s where and when we develop amazing experiences and memories with our partners and children. And experiences are more valuable to them than any gadget you’re planning to buy with your next paycheque.
I know it seems counter-intuitive. That to push your life forward you should step back for a bit. But it’s absolutely the truth. The challenge is knowing how and when to make that retreat – how to balance your work and personal commitments. This takes practice, and the ability to read your own personal signals as to your stress and energy levels. For some, it may mean enlisting a health or business mentor to help you learn how to do this.
My advice to my clients is to schedule your retreats. Plan your calendar well ahead of time and build space into your life on a daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly basis.
It doesn’t have to be oodles of space. Just enough to make sure that you (and your family) get the best version of you in the present, without sacrificing your future wellbeing.
So embrace your space. Value the importance of retreat. By allowing yourself the space to breathe deeply, you’ll breathe more life into your life.
I’m writing this from hospital. Sitting on the not-very-comfortable single person sofa bed, watching my 12 month old daughter sleep peacefully in her hospital cot.
Luckily for us, my daughter isn’t seriously sick. She’s had a cough and a mild fever on and off for the past few days. Originally the doctors thought it might be croup, but now we’re waiting for the full results of her blood tests which indicated she has some kind of infection.
While I’m telling myself I’m not really worried, there’s still a small part of me that’s quite anxious.
I’m sure most of us would agree the hardest thing about parenting is having your child get sick. Especially when that child is a baby – they don’t understand what’s happening to them, they can’t tell you how they’re feeling, or where it hurts. You can’t explain to them why you’re forcefully pinning them down to let the nurse take their blood, or why they’re lying naked and scared on the cold x-ray machine. It’s traumatic – for both the child and the parent. I know I barely held it together in the fourth hour of my emergency room wait at 3am when my bubba was getting increasingly distressed.
But as I sit here now, all I can feel is grateful. Because all I can think of is those Mums whose children are really, truly, seriously ill. Those Mums who’ve spent more nights on fold-out hospital couches than they have their own beds. Sleepless nights spent watching over their precious children, willing them to get better. Anxious days spent holding their breath, waiting for test results, hoping and praying for good news.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the parent of a seriously ill child. In the three and a bit years I’ve been a mum this is the first time we’ve dealt with a sickness which required hospitalisation. We’ve been so blessed to have robust, healthy girls, who are rarely ever sick.
However, some of my friends have not been so fortunate. Some of them have, and still do, live with the daily issues of having really sick little babies, toddlers and children. Mums whose babies spent the first few months of their life in hospital. Mums whose babies never made it home.
So I’m grateful. I’m grateful to have beautiful, chubby, healthy girls. To live within 25 minutes of an amazing children’s hospital. To have wonderful, caring and thorough doctors and nurses who pull funny faces at my little Moochie. To have an awesome supportive family. To have a flexible job where I can change my shifts with ease. To have enough medical knowledge to understand what’s happening and not be frightened of the hospital environment.
I’m even grateful for having to wait four hours in emergency, because it means that, while my daughter was sick, she wasn’t sick enough to need emergency intervention.
Because I know there are so many other Mums out there who have much less to be grateful for. And it’s to those Mums whom I tip my hat. You Mums (and Dads!) are amazing, truly.
I’m reading an absolutely awesome parenting book at the moment – it’s called The Parent Manifesto, by psychologist Jodie Benveniste. In fact, I’m also doing her parenting e-course at the moment too – having a spirited three-year old makes you keen to nudge your parenting skills up a notch!
What makes this book so appealing to me is the fact it doesn’t dictate one set of specific rules for being a good parent. It is about encouraging parents to be the experts within their own family and create their own parenting approach.
In the book Jodie encourages parents to write their own Parent Manifesto – “a set of values and beliefs you’d like to live by as a parent and as a family.”
Now, confession time – I haven’t written my family’s Parent Manifesto yet. Sorry Jodie – bad student here!
But, it just so happens I had already been working on a “What Makes a Well Mum” blog post, when I suddenly realised – it’s a manifesto!
It’s my list of values and beliefs around what makes me “well”. The important thing to remember here is these beliefs are mine – not necessarily yours, or my Mum’s, or my friends, or even Jodie’s. My Well Mums Manifesto has unknowingly been growing in my mind over the past few years. It has been slowly conceived and formed through four years of pregnancy and parenthood, against the backdrop of my whole life’s experiences. So this manifesto is mine, all mine! Though I’m totally happy for you to adopt it as yours too if you want!
So here it is:
The Well Mums Manifesto
A Well Mum understands she is fully responsible for her own health and wellbeing – she doesn’t expect others to improve her health for her, or blame others for her own poor health.
A Well Mum also understands she is fully responsible for the health and wellbeing of her children – until the age they are able to be responsible for themselves.
A Well Mum knows health is more than simply the absence of disease or sickness. True health and wellbeing is holistic – encompassing physical, psychological, social and emotional health.
A Well Mum recognises that every single thing we do in our lives contributes to our wellbeing. From the food we eat, to the way we move, the amount of sleep we get, the hours we work and the type of work we do, where we choose to live, to the sports we play, the shoes we wear, the thoughts and conversations we have. Every. Single. Thing. It all impacts on our health and wellbeing.
A Well Mum understands there is no one set way to be well. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Because of this, a Well Mum learns to listen to her body, her gut instinct, her conscience, her thoughts and beliefs – as tools for working out what makes her well and what detracts from her wellbeing.
A Well Mum commits to putting herself first at times. She knows wellbeing is intrinsically linked to self-care. Rest, recuperation and restoration are paramount. As is being kind to yourself.
A Well Mum knows health and physical perfection are not intrinsically linked. Health and wellbeing are more about how you feel and function, than about how you look.
A Well Mum does not take her wellbeing for granted. She commits to her improving her own wellbeing every single day.
So there you have it. My Well Mums Manifesto – at least it’s today’s version. I’m sure this is something I could add to or alter as I go along. Is it similar to yours? What would you change?
Until next time – Be Well.
ps. In case you were wondering, I’m in no way affiliated with Jodie – I just think her work is great. If you’re after parenting guidance her books and website could be a great resource. If you do know Jodie – tell her I said thanks!
It’s not often I strike up conversations with strange men on street corners. But I did yesterday.
Well, actually, it was a jetty, not a street corner. And he wasn’t really a strange man, just a stranger.
I was waiting on the jetty for a friend – taking photos of the sunny beach scene with my iPhone to pass the time. I saw a man running past, sopping wet in his bike shorts with his race number scrawled all over his arms – I smiled at him – I always tend to smile at joggers. He stopped to ask whether I wanted him to take the photo so I could be in it. And we started to chat.
Turns out, he’d just finished a jetty-to-jetty swim with his Masters Swimming club. He was 47, a single Dad to two teenage boys and committed to keeping himself fit and healthy, in order to be a good role model for them.
Bingo – I thought! Good on him. This dude looked fitter than your average 25 year old bloke. He was focused, he had goals. He wanted to live his best life, and he wanted his kids to do the same. He wanted them to “hit the beach, have fun”, but not get caught up in the culture of drugs and alcohol.
It made me think about my oxygen mask post – about looking after yourself in order to set a good example and look after others.
So, even though this site is dedicated to Mums, I couldn’t help but give kudos to this Dad. Well done healthy Dad!
Show of hands – who actually pays attention to the flight attendant when she (or he!) gives the safety demonstration when you board a plane? I think I’m one of the three percent of people who are nerdy enough to do so. Most others seem too busy with their nose buried in the latest 50 Shades instalment, or devouring the mini-sized packets of Pringles. Or if you’re travelling with your children – trying to keep them entertained as they’re already SO BORED!!!, before the plane has even started moving.
One thing I’ve noticed in these demonstrations is they always tell us to “fit your own oxygen mask first, before helping others to fit theirs”. And this totally makes sense right? You’re not going to be much help to someone if you pass out unconscious from lack of oxygen. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation where those little masks have dropped from the cabin ceiling – and frankly – I hope I never am.
But it often makes me wonder about how we implement this logic in real-life – particularly as Mums.
We Mums are well-known for putting ourselves last. It happens all the time, it happens in tv shows and movies and it’s universally accepted as a truth. And to be perfectly honest, some of us wear it like a badge of honour. Because it’s when we’re completely selfless and spend all our time doing everything for everyone else, that we’re the best Mum we can be, right?
Mum’s need to LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES. And yes, that means that we simply MUST put ourselves first sometimes.
I know running a family is hard work – there’s lots to be done, and a million competing demands on any given day. And I know that taking an hour out of the day for a pilates class or a much overdue waxing session might seem selfish. But it’s actually not.
Let’s think about what happens when we don’t do the things we know we should do for ourselves.
- If we don’t fuel our bodies with the right kinds of nutritious foods – we get fat and sick – or underweight and sick
- If we don’t make time for exercise – we get fat and unfit
- If we don’t get enough sleep – we get tired and grumpy
- If we don’t prioritise spending time with our own friends and loved ones – we get lonely
- If we don’t make time for rest – we get fatigued and potentially adrenally exhausted
- If we don’t take the time to recover properly from an illness or injury – we get sicker or our injury worsens
- If we let our hormones become disregulated – we get grumpy and emotional
- If we don’t make time for meditation and reflection – we lose direction and lack inspiration
- If we do everything for everyone else all of the time – we lose sight of who we are and we get resentful
Now who wants a Mum who is fat, sick, unfit, exhausted, grumpy, lost, uninspired and resentful? More importantly, who wants to BE a Mum who is all of those things? Certainly not me.
The Mum who is fat, sick, unfit, exhausted, grumpy, lost, uninspired and resentful runs the risk of becoming quite unwell and therefore being able to do less for her family in the long run.
But more importantly, this Mum is not putting forward the best version of herself to her children. Ultimately, this is the most significant point. We all want our children to grow up happy, healthy, strong, clever, confident and vibrant. We can help this along by modelling this behaviour. Our children learn so much through observation and role modelling – from the very earliest ages – they are tiny little sponges and they take in EVERYTHING – whether you want them to or not.
So when you take the time to look after yourself – for the sake of your own physical and mental health, you’re setting the best example for your children and encouraging them to look after themselves too. Because eventually, they will have to venture into the big, wide world on their own – without you at their side 24 hours a day. At this point you’ll want to be confident that they can keep themselves well – that they are perfectly capable of fitting their own oxygen masks.