Your Mental Wellness Matters: I See You, Mama

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Hey there, Mama. I see you.

Let’s talk about your mental wellness. Let’s sit down over a cup of comfort and really take a moment. I see you pouring from a nearly empty cup, soldiering on, prioritizing others’ needs before your own. Take a minute to describe what that feels like for you.

Guest Post by Jennifer Welvaert-Koch, LCPC

What we push down, comes back up.

Sure, we can deny the challenges, or minimize them, but at the end of the day, they still show up. All those needs and challenges we push down show up as physical aches and pains, irritable outbursts, numbing, loneliness, and more. As a society, we’re pretty good at normalizing the super mega expectations placed on parents to raise these amazing, complicated human beings without ever breaking a sweat.

You know what I’m talking about, right? It might be the desire to look like the nearly perfect family with a small dose of personal quirkiness so your family doesn’t seem too perfect, or precocious. All the while you’re seeking evidence of how you rank as a parent with some degree of vigilance.

Ever find that you compare yourself to those you follow on social media? Ever think, “What would people think if they knew …?” Perhaps you prefer the opposite route, and close yourself off so much that you approach the world with such cynicism and sarcasm that you don’t give a darn what anyone thinks of you, even the people who truly love you and are invested in your well-being.

 

 Mental wellness is not the absence of mental illness.

Parenting is hard work, and it can take its toll on our mental health reserves when we’re not paying attention. It’s time to start tending to our mental health and wellness just as we would our physical health and wellness. We visit the doctor for wellness check-ups, exercise our bodies, feed our bodies nutritious foods, and practice healthy sleep habits, why wouldn’t we do the same for our mental health and wellness?

Just like physical wellness is not the absence of illness, mental wellness is not the absence of mental illness. Wellness takes awareness, intention, and follow through whether it’s physical, spiritual, or mental. It’s time we become aware of our mental health, commit to caring for our needs, and follow through with actionable steps and practices.

Get curious and give yourself permission to acknowledge your needs and your challenges. Talk to the people you trust. Ask for what you need. Treat yourself with the compassion you reserve for your children in their times of need.

Mama, your mental wellness matters. Your mental wellness matters because it shows up in everything you do, the ways you parent, the way you relate to others, and the good work you’re contributing to the world. Even more important, your mental wellness matters because you, my friend, are an amazing, complicated human being.

You have the birthright to unconditional love and care for yourself. Your needs matter just as much as your children’s, or your partner’s, or anyone else’s. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to fully engage with your life because you’re too busy hustling to look like you’re on top of it, or you’re on autopilot trying to coast through parenthood on fumes before you really hit empty. The world, your partner, your children need you, the whole, real you, preferably now, not after some imaginary milestone or breakthrough.

Let’s start a genuine conversation about mamas’ mental wellness.

What are your needs and challenges around being a mama in this day and age? How do we begin to tend to our mental wellness?

I’ll go first.

    • I need a true-blue mama tribe that has earned the right to hear my story, and respond not with judgment, or gossip, but empathy and the ability to kindly call me out on my b.s. when it’s not serving anyone.
    • I need the time and energy to spend on the relationships and activities that nourish me beyond my role as a mama – for me that’s professional development as a counselor, friendships, making art for art’s sake, and furthering missions I believe in beyond my family.
    • I also tend to my mental wellness by practicing healthy boundaries, saying yes without regret, and no when I really mean no.
    • I love learning new things whether it’s a new recipe, meditation practice, gardening without a green thumb, or stuff I really like to geek out on like interpersonal neurobiology – all without apology.
    • I’m getting better at slowing down and making time for play and rest, but it takes intention on my part to get it started.

A version of this story was published on Jul. 19, 2019, by author QCM; it has since been updated.

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