Last month I wrote about Mental Health and Motherhood, and immediately I wanted to add an addendum. In my post, I listed a few key components of mental health for mothers based on my experience as a psychotherapist and a mom for over ten years. I realized afterward that the list might be interpreted like a checklist rather than observations about components that can help.
In a conversation with a friend, she shared what she felt she was attending to and what was “missing” from that list. Yikes! I certainly didn’t write it to have it used as a rubric for what a mom “isn’t doing well enough” for their own mental health! So what I want to say this month is: You are enough, and you are the one you need.
Not only that, but you can’t check every box all the time. Some things are lower on the priority list for different periods of time because there are only 24 hours in a day! The last thing we all need is to believe there is some gold standard of mental health criteria that we should be maintaining.
It is beneficial to check in with yourself to see if maybe getting that walk in today would be helpful for your state of mind or if adding a volunteer activity could bring a sense of joy. Still, the mental health components are not meant as a yardstick for being the best mom at taking care of yourself. Additionally, if you aren’t doing all the things on my list, it certainly doesn’t mean that you are not maintaining your mental health. I encourage all of us to check in with what works for us. Taking a walk might make me feel great, while another mom might crave a run. Find what works for you.
I often say to clients, “if you are sitting around wondering if you could be a better version of yourself, the chances are that you are a pretty great mom and person.” That said, perfectionism is often part of anxiety, and anxious people can hold themselves to unrealistic expectations and standards.
Be kind to yourself. But more importantly, try to consider yourself. You probably consider everyone else!
Mental health means self-acceptance and self-love as much as it means mood balance. And as always, seek out professional help if you feel overwhelmed or that your usual coping mechanisms aren’t working as they once did. Another perspective and some extra support may help.