In a country so often divided by hot button issues, something I think we all can agree upon is this: Parenting is hard. Adulting is hard. Add to the mix a chronic mental illness and these things might feel just short of impossible. As a single mother possessing lived experience in momming with mental illness, here are my top five tips for crushing motherhood while mentally ill.
5 – Take it One Day at a Time
This may seem like a no-brainer. But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to remind myself and others that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You’ll have days when you’re totally crushing it and winning at mom life. You’ll also have days where you feel like you’re being crushed under the weight of mom life and its many responsibilities. Don’t be discouraged. Remain determined, understanding that each new day is an opportunity to try again.
4 – Build a Dedicated Support Team
You’ve heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” right? Well, I’m a firm believer that every mom needs a village of her own, especially when she lives with chronic mental illness. For this reason, you should build a team of trustworthy individuals that you can lean on in times of crisis and rough patches. This team should include your psychiatrist, therapist, and primary care physician, as well.
3 – Do Your Part
It isn’t enough to have a support team. When it comes to your mental health, you have to do your part, as well. If your condition requires medication, take it as directed. Don’t skip out on your therapy appointments. Protect your peace of mind and emotional well-being by limiting or eliminating your exposure to certain triggers whenever possible. Keep your support team up-to-date on how you’re doing and, when you need help, sound the alarm!
2 – Plan for Downswings
Not every day is filled with sunshine and rainbows, whether you have a chronic mental illness or not. When you live with mental health challenges, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for rainy days. Your plan might include reaching out to a designated mental health professional or another member of your support team, taking a “mental health day” off from work, having a playlist of upbeat songs that inspire you to get up and dance, streaming your favorite comedy on television, journaling your feelings, or praying/meditating.
1 – Tell Your Kids the Truth
As moms, we naturally want to shield our children from unpleasant things. Still, when dealing with mental illness, you should consider having an age-appropriate conversation with your child(ren) regarding your condition. Allow them to ask questions and give transparent and honest answers. Let them know that when you’re having a rough time, it’s not their fault, and, no matter what, you love them immensely. You never know how this act of vulnerability might inspire them and foster a resilient spirit within them in the years to come.
In a nutshell, momming with a mental illness can be challenging, but it is not impossible. In fact, taking the necessary steps to properly manage your mental health while balancing the responsibilities of motherhood is, in my opinion, the mark of an amazing mother. So, don’t allow yourself to be defined by chronic mental illness. Don’t buy into the lie that you’re a terrible mother just because you have days when it’s harder to get out of bed than others. You are still amazing. You owe it to yourself and your children to hold on to that knowledge, even on the rainiest of days.