Being a new parent, is it any wonder I’m a few days late for Parent Mental Health Day? Making time to sit down and write is one of those things that’s gotten harder.
Long time blog readers/ or podcast listeners will know I’ve spoken before about awareness days and the importance of them to prompt conversation, awareness and or signposting to support. Being a parent is definitely a time when new struggles and stresses can begin to impact your life and wellbeing. If, like me, you have existing mental health challenges or illnesses that can sometimes cause an extra need to pause. So having a Parent Mental Health Day that prompts a pause to reflect and recognise is in my opinion extremely valuable.
In terms of reviewing where I am, first up on things that have impacted my mental health as a new parent is, sleep! Sleep is so important for our wellbeing. And with a baby, sleep is possibly the thing you lose the most. Both in terms of quality sleep and your end of day routine. I’ve only just this week started to try and reintroduce my own bedtime routine after six months of just crawling into bed after Henry’s asleep.
Seeing friends, those important people that are part of my support network, now requires more planning and preparation. Are we going somewhere baby friendly? How many nappies, bottles, changes of clothes, toys do we need to take? How do Henry’s naps fit in with that trip out? Everything is still possible, but it requires that much more thought and effort. Which has meant that I have seen a little less of my friends over the last 6 or so months. Hopefully as we get more confident and settled this will become slightly easier in future.
That said I have very much enjoyed seeing the friends I have. And a big thank you to them for being flexible with how and where we meet.
Sense of identity is another thing that has changed for me. I am now fully responsible for a human that’s totally reliant on a provider. The role of ‘daddy’ is a huge privilege and one that has reframed how I see myself and how I perceive certain situations and actions.
Making time for our own wellbeing. That’s been something I think we have been quite good with. We do our best to make sure we both have time for the things that support us (For me that’s running and the gym). While we do try to protect this time, for both of us, our regular 'wellbeing' activities are predominantly indoor activities. Meaning as we move out of winter, we both want to try and make time for those outdoor activities/ adventures.
There’s been plenty of things as a new parent I’ve found tricky. However, where I found parts of our pregnancy harder because of my depression (constantly worrying everyone would die), I believe some parts of parenthood have been easier because of my experience with depression. For the most part I feel calmer in potential moments of panic or worry. Because I’ve experienced constant worry and panic. I’ve also dealt well with the lack of silence because I’m used to needing noise to drown out my mind. There's got to be some advantages to surviving depression!
As someone with both lived and current experience of depression, my mental health is something I actively manage everyday. While it can feel overwhelming and difficult to make time for a wellbeing break, I find ways to. Sometimes (most of the time) an hour walk isn’t possible, but two minutes stood outside is. And in the short term that’s often enough. Assuming I fit that hour walk in sometime soon.
Parenting is already feeling increasingly like an adventure rather than a journey.
Mental health affects us all differently. We all have our own lived experiences that frame how we see, experience and interpret our current situations and how we process them.
Parent Mental Health Day is a great prompt to review how you’re doing. And whether it’s well or not, to consider if there are things we could all be doing to support our mental wellbeing as parents.
If you'd like to find mental health support near you: Find your local Mind
If you'd like to talk to someone: call, text or chat with Samaritans