18 May ‘Mum bloggers’, the Daily Mail and what new mothers who are struggling really need
Judgemental crap and mum bloggers
A few days ago the Daily Mail featured an article by Ana May Mangan titled ‘Why ARE so many women boasting they’re slummy mummies?’ (Link: Daily Mail article) – An entirely unhelpful, typically divisive article designed to trigger. The Daily Mail fulfilling its need to top up the vile pile of judgemental crap that plagues new mothers.
Pushing its horrendous judgemental-ism aside, what the article reveals is nothing new. Underneath all the labelling and swiping what resides is the fact that many mothers are struggling in their new role. The ‘Mum bloggers’ (aka: Katie Kirby ‘Hurrah for Gin’; Sarah Turner ‘The Unmumsy Mum’; Steph Douglas ‘Don’t buy her Flowers’ and Clemmie Telford ‘Mother of all Lists’) whom Mangan berates for their ‘race to the bottom to prove themselves the worst mothers ever’ exist because of this truth, their witty irreverent words resonating with many of us as we navigate our way through motherhood.
New mother struggles
What we hear in their experiences is challenge and struggle, we also hear it in Mangan’s (more that unites than divides perhaps?). New motherhood is a rollercoaster of a process. Some women will ride through their new mother experiences, able to maintain perspective and a sense of humour (for the most part) and not get entirely flattened by the bad days. Others of us won’t – the rollercoaster of new motherhood leaving us reeling, feeling unsteady, unwell and a shadow of our former selves, but does this have to be the case? And what’s the difference between the mums who ride that rollercoaster able to still have a laugh and those who feel like they’ve got massive sense of humour failure? The serious implications of postnatal depression are well documented and the latest figures of it affecting around 1 in 10 new mothers are acknowledged as a likely underestimate due to the nature of the illness.
Becoming a mother should not make us ill
I think it’s unacceptable that through the process of becoming a mother women become unwell. This is not, and does not have to be an inevitability. It is every woman’s right to feel well as a new mother and the ripple effect of well mothers is huge. There are things that we can do to create the circumstances in which we are more likely to thrive as a mother, for life to feel that bit easier and more cope-able with – this is within our power. It doesn’t have to be shit. I wish I had taken my own self-care more seriously when I became a mother for the first time.
Build your resilience
One of the things which contributes to wellness in new mothers is personal resilience, our ‘bounce-back’ ability. The psychologist George Bonanno identifies key components of resilience as: self-esteem; the amount of control we feel we have over our life; having a purpose and the use of positive emotions such as humour in stressful situations (it serves to alleviate stress and attract people to us which provides social support, there’s your science behind why funny mum blogs are useful!).
Almost paradoxically, resilience is needed to work through the process of becoming a mother but the nature of early parenting has the potential to deplete resilience. Fab. Luckily, there are things we can do to build resilience, a significant one being to reframe the way we think about things. People who have what psychologists call an ‘internal locus of control’ i.e. they believe that they and not their circumstances affect their achievement have significantly greater resilience. How might this work as a new mother? Positive self-talk. If we make an effort to notice our internal dialogue and change it from blame, negative and generalised; to kind, positive and specific – then this changes the way we are likely to behave and has a stress-reducing effect, sending positive ripples through our lives.
I have made it my mission to contribute to changing the situation where we have some new mothers struggling. As well as my work as an NCT practitioner I have set up my ‘Thriving Mothers’ day-retreats, with the aim of bringing new mothers together for a day to relax, celebrate their mothering strengths, share experiences, explore techniques and elements which bolster resilience and wellness, along with gaining an understanding of what is ‘normal’ in that first year of motherhood – it’s a practical, nourishing, empowering day. Like the sisterhood that the ‘mum bloggers’ foster, the value will come from the sharing of knowledge woman-to-woman and that feeling that you do not have to do this alone. Whilst the days will be of value to all new mothers, those who will benefit most are women who are feeling like they are struggling, finding it harder than they thought it would be.
Following on from the retreat days, later this year will be the publication of my Thriving Mothers book which I hope will make this knowledge accessible to all mothers who feel they need it.
I don’t pretend that there is any magic wand to make things ‘better’ – there isn’t, it requires a nuanced holistic approach. By focussing on the elements that we know make a difference to women as they adjust to their new role I hope to contribute to more women enjoying early motherhood and feeling like they are thriving mothers. That way the decision to have a gin and tonic is because you fancy it and not as desperate relief!
Find out more and book on to Thriving Mothers retreat days here https://www.mirandawebb.co.uk/