Something awful happened to me last week. I spent five hours of Wednesday walking aimlessly around our flat weighed down with a heavy sadness. My usually active mind had gone on strike and left me in a state of quiet hysteria. The new-mum blues had been creeping up on me as I was feeling isolated at home with my two cherubs. Guilt had finally set in and I had to face reality – I needed someone to talk to throughout my days besides little people.
In my bid to beat the feeling of isolation that sometimes set in when my most intelligent conversation for the day had been about which of Thomas’s tank engines was the fastest, I turned to Facebook while my little ones slept. If there’s anything that I hope you’ll get out of this post then it’s this – when you’re a new mum at home and your baby has been sick on you for the tenth time that day, your cat is happily feasting on your toddler’s upturned bowl of leftover cereal and you haven’t yet managed a shower – Facebook isn’t always the best resource to cheer you up, more like a case of ‘the grass is greener’.
In the space of a few days my thoughts transformed my life – and not in a good way. I no longer felt like a normal busy mum who experienced the perils of parenthood. This manageable existence was instead replaced by one that had me thinking that our family was the only family that went on holiday and it wasn’t all smooth sailing, that I was the only woman who was struggling to find the motivation and time to exercise, that I was the only mum who worried unnecessarily… the list went on.
At risk of this post becoming just as depressing to read as I was feeling last week, let me turn it around for you – I’d simply lost sight of the fact that there were millions of other mums out there who were feeling just like me and that no one lives a perfect life. I’ve since been reminded that it’s okay to feel as though my life is chaotic (it usually is with little ones). This doesn’t mean that I’m a bad mother and it’s certainly not an indication that I love my babies any less.
Thankfully, my husband helped me to see reality by sharing his view on Facebook. He described it as an ‘imaginary world’, where most people project the version of themselves that they want everyone else to see. He wasn’t saying that people told fibs on Facebook, but rather that they censored their lives, picking and choosing the bits they shared. For example, there’s the mum whose status update informs everyone that her and her partner are having a beautiful child-free night out for dinner at [insert name of sought-after dining location in your area]. However, she leaves out the fact that getting out of the house was like trying to desert World War I and that this was followed by an argument on the way to the restaurant over who was supposed to get the kids’ dinner ready.
I’m not one to preach – I’ve certainly shared snippets of my cherubs’ cutest moments, the best parts of a holiday, a day or night out, work achievements or acts of kindness on the part of family and friends. It’s natural for people to want to share the good things that happen to them and to be seen in a positive light. Due to this, the probability is pretty high that the majority of status updates you will read on Facebook will be filtered to include the highlights of each person’s day. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. I don’t think many of us would want to log into Facebook and read a news feed full of depressing lowlights, either.
The good news is that I found a solution and it turned my life around in a matter of days – online forums for parents. If you’re feeling isolated and you have any worries, concerns, or even if you simply need to chat and share your thoughts, online forums came up trumps for me. Not only will you feel like a normal mum again, you’ll be reminded that no one, no matter what they post, has a perfect life. If, however, you’re feeling so unlike your usual self to the point where you can’t cope with everyday life, or you’re frightened for your little ones to be in your care, you should talk to family or friends (especially those who’ve had children). It’s also a good idea to contact your doctor so that you can talk about how you feel with someone who is qualified to help.
Here’s a list of some parenting websites around the world with online forums (please leave a comment below if you know of a respected parenting website with an online forum in your country):
BabyCenter – This parenting website is published in many languages all over the world. Go to their homepage, scroll to the bottom of the page and see the list titled ‘Our International Sites’ (bottom, right), to find your country or language.