You might have heard of a mid-life crisis or more recently, even a quarter-life crisis, but have you ever heard of a mum crisis? A mum crisis is another thing people keep on the down-low while they struggle through thinking they aren’t allowed to feel anything other than grateful and in love with their new pēpi. Newsflash this is a rough and instant change and you are allowed to feel how you feel about that.
My mum crisis started when my partner went back to work. The only person I could talk to all day couldn‘t speak back and cried at me for the majority of the day. My brain was getting 0 stimulation and there was no real reason to get dressed in the mornings. What was my purpose now? Other than the obvious - feeding my child and cleaning, there wasn’t a whole lot to look forward to, or so it felt like. The phases and growth spurts in the first 3 months all come back to back and that can make it really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Some people might think this was part of the baby blues but to me the mum crisis was something entirely separate. This was about who I wanted to be now, how I saw myself and how others saw me. When I went to the supermarket without my son I wanted to tell everyone “I’ve just had a baby” so they would understand why my hair was a mess, at the same time I wanted to deny my new role and get a bit of the old me back, the one who could leave the house with just phone, keys and wallet instead of packing half the house up in the nappy bag. I wanted the world to know I was a mum now but I didn't know what that looked like. I had to navigate who this new me was and what did she like to do, what did she wear, what were her goals, how did she measure her success?
I know that in order to feel capable, independent and not like a total failure I need to be able to set goals and measure my success. I discovered very quickly that having a baby changes how that looks and you have to be a little bit more flexible. For example, cleaning, the old me would work all week and do all the cleaning in one day on the weekend and measure success by having a clean house at the end. You would think being home all week that would mean the house would be clean all the time right? Nope. Mum me has to be a bit more strategic and clean one thing per nap - sometimes even that has to be paused and come back to later. To measure success while cleaning in bits is a little bit trickier and took some getting used to because you don’t have a clean house at the end, you get 5% clean at a time. If the baby is fed and happy and you got one job done in a 24 hour period you can pat yourself on the back.
As a Māmā you don't get praise or a spreadsheet to show your success for keeping your baby alive like you would in a working environment but the statistics are still hiding there in that well child book, or in that pile of clothes that no longer fits your pēpi. Some days you just need confirmation that you are doing a good job as you navigate this entirely new space where you feel like you have no clue what you're doing. I read somewhere recently "If you're worried about being a good Māmā then you're halfway there." That really resonated with me because as mums we tend to worry so much which usually leads us to research or follow our instincts, either way the worrying leads us to do the right thing for our pēpi.
A part of my mum crisis impacted on my relationship. As a couple, my partner and I had to navigate what we liked to do and what we could do with a baby tagging along. I don't know if there are any couples out there who really understood the impact a child could have on your relationship but wow did we get a wake up. It can be really hard to remember to talk about something not baby related with your partner. Healing your body and then having a baby sleeping in your room puts a strain on your relationship. As if that wasn't enough you also have to discover this whole new level of communication because you're both so tired and learning how to do new tasks that either didn't exist or weren't your responsibility before. All common sense goes out the window - on both sides. If you thought you were on the same page going into this and that your communication as a couple was pretty solid then there's nothing like a baby to bring you back down to earth. All mum's will know what the mental load is - it goes right down to knowing at all times how full each washing basket is and what is in the fridge - if you don't know what I'm talking about try sending your partner to the supermarket without a list and see what he comes back with. It can be frustrating to be responsible for the mental load but a little communication goes a long way and your partner will have his own mental load. We continue to work on because we know we make each other happy. We aren’t perfect, no relationship is.
My mum crisis was also the realisation that I was guilty of dismissing other mum's struggles before I had lived it. There really is no telling someone what you're going through sometimes and motherhood is HUGE for being this 'exclusive club' where we all get each other but nobody outside the club could possibly understand. At the time that I was trying to have my baby and hadn't been successful in conceiving yet, that fact was painful and raw and I would deny it and put it down to my mum friends intentionally excluding me. Now that I am on the other side I know that there really was no telling me how stressful and draining full-time care of children can be. What I have learned is that non-mum's might not get it but that doesn't mean we shouldn't tell them. In fact it's kind of our job to tell them so that when/if it is their turn they know what is coming, even just a little bit. Even if they don't fully comprehend it at the time, we should still include them and vice versa if you're a non-mum try not to dismiss your mum friend's hard day as 'not as bad' because at least she was at home. This whole 'mum' vs. 'non-mum' thing played into my crisis as a new mum because I felt as though I couldn't be honest about how much of a hard time I was having because I had dismissed my mum friends when they felt this way and my non-mum friends would be dismissive of me because they probably thought the same as I had done in the past.
Another element to my guilt was that I felt like it wasn't allowed to be hard because loads of other mums do it every day. Yes they do but that doesn't mean they don't find it hard too. There are a selct few who openly admit how hard it is at the time but it can be so much easier to just shut the world out while you push through and get on with the hard bits. I am guilty of that too. Some of us even forget how hard it is. Nobody is perfect and that includes motherhood.
Last but not least, this blog itself is a part of my mum crisis because I started to realise how much was unsaid and how many other Māmā feel like they lack a village too. Some people might think I am being negative for speaking out about the hard stuff but I like to think it shows the positive side to the hard stuff because we always get through it in the end and I will always try to show the end product of that struggle and have a laugh about it. I haven't figured it all out just yet, maybe I never will, but I now have a better understanding of; who I am; what I like to do; my relationship; and most of all, what being a Māmā means to me. You will too.