I spoke to a mama this week who was suffering. She’s been trying desperately to navigate her way through postpartum depression ALONE for one and a half years. She is so much stronger than she knows and braver than she can imagine. Yet I heard her say, over and over, things like “What’s wrong with me?” and “I’m not a good mother,” and “I should be happy. I used to be happy all the time.” My heart broke for her, having personally battled with depression, I get it. I have been there, and it’s a dark tunnel you pray ends in light, but midway through it’s hard to keep the faith. So I had a lot of arguments…
Me: “What does it mean to you to be a good mother?”
Her: “I don’t know. Someone who’s there all the time and raises a child and is happy.”
Me: “Have you been there with your daughter for 1.5 years?”
Me: “Have you gotten out of bed every single day—tears streaming down your face—and breastfed her during that time?” (*Note: This is something we had already discussed.)
Me: “So you’ve kept your daughter ALIVE and fed all this time when you felt like you could barely keep yourself alive?”
Her: Giggling. “YES.”
Let me be clear. I’m not insinuating that only those who breastfeed are “good moms,” but I am insinuating that a mother who is clearly struggling to get out of bed, has no help and openly admits she is DIY-battling postpartum depression who ALSO is totally devoted to breastfeeding her daughter IS A GOOD MOM. To me, being a good mother is about SHOWING UP when you feel like you can’t go one more day. Putting a tiny human’s needs before your own, even when you feel like you’re so sad and so alone that you might die of loneliness and self-loathing. That is nothing short of warrior status. And I’ve already talked before about how selflessness is not the aim; sanity is. So let me be clear (again) about what I’m saying: 1) There will be times in your life when keeping your baby alive and fed will be the best gauge for you being a “good mom.” 2) Choose sanity over self-loathing. That means ask for help, take the meds, remind yourself every day “My baby needs the BEST of me” and then figure out how to get the “best of you” back.
I truly, truly understand we want to be the BEST mothers humanly possible. I feel that in my bones and in my soul. It’s why I started my business. Because being just an okay mom did not feel good enough. The distinction I’m making is this: We all have dark, human moments when we feel down and we feel out of touch with ourselves and our shiny, happy identities. This is a natural part of the human experience, and it doesn’t make us any less than or any less worthy of our beautiful children. We each have all the tools we could possibly need to make it through those human moments. We can do really hard things! That being said, those are the times when you gotta make peace with GOOD ENOUGH. Those are the days, weeks, months when you do everything you can to just put pants on and keep your kid alive and pray to something that it will be enough 20 years from now when they are a fully formed adult. You do the best you can, given the situation you find yourself in, and if your BEST during a dark time is “GOOD ENOUGH,” then that is ENOUGH. You being there, loving your child(ren), and giving them all you have in that moment is showing up. And showing up day after day with the best, most devoted intentions is what makes you a “good mom.”
And if you’re wondering how to get THROUGH that crappy time into the next phase where you can feel a bit more confident that you’re giving your BEST to your family, you know what I’m going to ask of you, right? TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. No matter what that means. Whether it’s seeing a therapist or coach, scheduling a date night, calling a girl friend, taking those meds (another gentle reminder that meds are not a cop-out), or taking up yoga. Make your self-care a priority! Because to get past GOOD ENOUGH and evolve into the best mother/human being you can possibly be, you have to pay yourself some attention and listen to what your mind, body and soul need.
I left the sweet mama above with a mantra to repeat to get her through the next few days:
“I can do really hard things, and I can do THIS.”
I’d love to share my free gift of 5 more mommy mantras to help you wake up every morning and love your life—the whole beautiful mess of it.