About Me

Kent, United Kingdom
I have the perfect family but still struggle to find the light in the darkness of post-natal depression.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What would it take to make you believe you're a good mum?

That's the question a friend asked me the other day.
And it's a good one.
My immediate answer was that I won't believe it until Miss T is an adult, or at least almost adult and I can see what sort of person she is; and how messed up, or not, she is.
That was the wrong answer, apparently!
And as I'm home (in a caravan!) alone with a sleeping child, now seems as good a time as any to consider alternative answers.
Of course, when I think about it, I can recognise some positive signs already. Tasha is very gentle, mostly, better than a lot of other children her age at saying please and thank you, is confident, funny and clever. In fact, she's very clever!
But how much of that is down to me, really? And surely there's more to being a good mum than having a well-mannered child? After all, we are not living in Victorian times...
There are other aspects - we do a LOT together (not always through choice, I confess!) so our days are very stimulating and educational, which must be a mark of good parenting? Maybe not...I mean, obviously there's more to it than that but at least we don't spend every day at home in front of the television.
Her speech and communication is fantastic and today she even wrote an N and told me she'd written Natasha - aged two and four months! But that's just intelligence again and that's probably genetic anyway. Or maybe it's not even that fantastic and I'm just being an annoying proud parent...
How about the fact that I care desperately about what her life is like, now and in the future and strive to do my best to make it as good as possible? Note how I wrote "strive to do my best"...maybe that's a mark of a bad mum? I know I don't always do my best - some days it's just too hard.
Or that I care about what she eats and what she does? But that's just normal, not anything special.
I honestly have no idea how to answer that question beyond my initial, wrong, answer. Anyone else got suggestions? How do you quantify good parenting? Help!

Monday, 20 April 2009

A calm week?

So it's been a week without posting.
And while that may be dull for you lot, it does, in general, mean that things have calmed down here. I haven't felt that burning urge to get everything out here before I explode.
Of course that doesn't mean we have been existing in a pink and fluffy world all week, sadly. There have been tears and tantrums, but luckily only from the toddler and I have been able to deal with them in a calm and consistent manner, mostly.
It is hard work, it's such hard work that it's difficult to explain to anyone who doesn't share their house with a wilful and intelligent toddler. You simply can't have a lazy day where you let things slide because the results are hellish for days. You have to keep on top of the behaviour, ideally in a calm and consistent fashion, with warnings and choices and consequences. It's exhausting.
We're on holiday at the moment, and while it's fantastic to be exploring a place as beautiful as where we are staying, it's bittersweet for me because there's not much change from my life at home.
Mark has a week without work to look forward to, but mine has come with me - although only for today, hopefully. And my day to day life at home involves much the same as days on holiday so it's hard to see it as a break.
However it is lovely to be able to share family time together so enough of the moans. As well as keeping on top of toddler tantrums (and I'm not sure I can really call her a toddler any more!), we're having some great conversations and this has been the first holiday where she has really understood what is going on and has been excited about it, which is fantastic. I am actually looking forward to some of the activities we have planned together, rather than thinking of ways to escape and plan time for myself, which is a huge achievement for me.
There's not really anything else to say at the moment so I hope this short update will suffice for now. Fear not, if another crisis looms, you will most definitely hear about it!

Friday, 10 April 2009

An end to the catastrophising?

But another excuse to use that word!
So we survived our afternoon, mostly. The chores were completed, the plants were planted and there was another witching hour strop but without the shouting from me this time.
I'm almost glad she had another meltdown moment because although it was, as it usually is, difficult to deal with, at least it showed I could deal with it without heading for the hills.
Since then, things have returned to a calmer state (on my part, at least - she is definitely demonstrating her two-year-old frustrations and opinions!), perhaps because Mark took a day off and is not back at work until Tuesday.
I am trying to remind myself of an important lesson that I had forgotten, that of picking your battles. It does help when I find myself saying no for the 50th time in a day...
And, it has to be said, I do feel a bit foolish for my over-reaction, or indeed, catastrophising, of the shouting incident. But that's how I felt at the time and I have little control over that, as I think I demonstrated!
Another companion of that good old black dog seems to be neediness - whenever he is around and the fog descends I need reassurance, and I need it quickly! I have been known to post on internet forums and then sit there refreshing and refreshing the page waiting for someone to reply. And if they don't within, oh, about five minutes, I have even posted again, reiterating whatever crisis I am having.
I'm not proud of it, I'm not proud of any of it, but I do accept it and I hope that helps in dealing with it.
Oh well, at least this latest episode has ensured a return to the central theme of this blog, which I hope will hope any new readers who may have wondered why they were here.
But for my sake, I hope the calm stretch lasts a bit so I can return to fluffier blogging!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

catastrophising, part two...

I love that word, catastrophising. And I can recognise it as what yesterday was about. It doesn't make it any better, of course, and I still wish it hadn't happened.
But today I can accept that it did, and that the sun is still shining today.
Of course, Miss T woke up her usual happy self, there were no dramatic "I hate mummy because she shouted" declarations, and I got my usual morning cuddle. Time will tell if there are any lasting effects but for the moment, we're moving on.
Which means that today continues as normal - and as of 15 minutes ago, I'm alone with her again until bedtime. Unless you count my five furry chaperones...
That does make me nervous, I have to confess. Today started badly for me, despite Miss T's attentions. It was one of those mornings where I knew I had to get up and face the world but I couldn't find it in me to do it.
That doesn't mean I just wanted an extra hour in bed, although that was a welcome benefit.
It means my head was saying, 'get up, get ready, you'll achieve so much' but my heart was stubbornly refusing.
All I could focus on was the catastrophising (I'm going to use that word as much as I can because it makes me smile!) of the previous day and the insistence that Miss T would have a better morning without me there. In fact, everyone would have a better morning without me there.
This is the part I hate most about the black fog of depression. It's all very well being aware of it, having coping strategies and of course fantastic friends, and thanks to all who responded yesterday, but when it descends like that I am literally powerless against it. I know I'm being irrational, just like yesterday I knew I was being unreasonable. But I don't know how to switch it off, or to switch the light on and banish the darkness.
Maybe that's just an excuse. I know it sounds like one and I'm sure that's what many of you are thinking.
So you'll be relieved to hear I am pulling myself together and I have plenty planned for this afternoon, including planting in the garden and errands in town.
Whether that will be enough to keep the fog at bay and the toddler amused remains to be seen.
All I can do is hope - and sometimes I can't even do that.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Spoke too soon?

Oh dear. It was all going so well, but today that run of positivity spectactularly ended.
I turned into one of those people I totally despise and lost my temper with my beautiful, clever, funny little girl.
It wasn't even her fault - she was ridiculously tired after a late night yesterday and has conjunctivitis so is feeling a bit miserable and as a result spent most of the afternoon moaning.
Couple that with the headache from hell for me, no paracetemol in the house and a bout of intense nausea and you have a recipe for disaster.
I knew what was coming, and did attempt to avoid the situation by arranging for backup but Mark was at work and couldn't get away and my parents were shopping. Which is fair enough, on both counts.
It was the first time in months and months that I've felt that I shouldn't be alone with her, and I wish now that I'd tried harder to find an alternative by contacting friends or just getting out of the house.
But there's no point looking at the ifs and shoulds. It won't change anything. I just have to try to learn from the experience and move on.
Reading that back, it all sounds terribly dramatic and actually I'm sure it's something that happens in a lot of houses every day. I didn't batter her over the head with the book I'd just had to read for the 15th time, I didn't strangle her with the cat's tail she'd just been pulling. I just shouted at her.
But I really shouted at her. Proper, grown-up out of control shouting. Not a sustained bout of abuse, just a sentence. But that doesn't excuse it or justify it. There is no justification, in my eyes, for what I did.
I'm not sure I, or she, will ever forget it and the look on her face will certainly stay with me for a while. It's definitely not something I want to repeat. But of course that's obvious.
I'm desperately trying to be a positive, loving, patient parent and of course I shout at her sometimes if she misbehaves (although to be honest, mostly I just use strict voice coupled with a warning about a consequence). But routine discipline, and behaviour shaping, is a world apart from losing control and bellowing at her to be quiet. And she knows that as well as I do.
The whole situation has brought back so many uncomfortable feelings for me that I wonder if actually I was doing as well as I thought.
Maybe I am just not cut out for this at all. There was a moment, after I'd apologised to her, explained I felt poorly and had a headache, and was tired and therefore got grumpy, just like she does, and she refused to give me a hug, that I just felt she would be better off without me.
It sounds ridiculous now but I was close to calling Mark and telling him to come home because I had to leave because I couldn't be near her.
I realise that is a huge overreaction but it feels like such a setback for me that I can't help it.
And of course now many other incidents from the last week or so are coming back with a fresh context, including a conversaton I had with someone who asked me how I was finding motherhood.
When I said it was okay, he was clearly shocked and I knew I had given the wrong answer. The correct one would have been a gushing monologue about feeling fulfilled and enjoying every second.
But I don't think that will ever be true for me, and now I'm wondering if my best, and the compromise we have reached, is actually good enough for anyone.
I'm hoping things look better in the morning.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


I'm in a bit of a quandary today, and I shouldn't be. It's all very odd. But I expect you are used to that by now.
So this afternoon we popped out to buy some laminate flooring - it's my first big purchase using my redundancy money (although at £160 it's not exactly massive!) and we decided to go ahead with it despite the potential lack of future paycheques simply because the carpet downstairs is getting too awful to live with.
This is important, honest...bear with me!
So after paying for the flooring I decided to pick up a free newspaper on my way out of the shop. No real reason other than I hadn't read a copy of it for a while, and I'll read anything!
We then went off out and about and I've only just managed to read it. And noticed that they are advertising for freelance and contract journalists. And wasn't as excited by that as I thought I would have been.
On the surface it looks perfect - a freelance position should, in theory, give me the flexibility I need, and it's the profession I've dreamed of, trained for and dedicated my life so far to.
So why am I not already composing my application?
I'm not really sure. Maybe because the state of the industry makes me nervous still. Maybe because a return to the stress of a newsroom dooesn't seem that great after a few months out of it. Maybe because I'm enjoying all the other bits and pieces I'm doing.
I've thought and thought and worried and thought about what to do and have decided to go with the flow for a bit. Maybe the advert was the reason I was meant to pick up that edition of that paper today. So I'll respect those signals from the universe and sent off my CV, and if it's meant to be, then it's meant to be. But if it's not then so be it and I'll continue with everything else I'm doing. Maybe I can even do both - and conquer the world at the same time! I'll let you know...