How I eased the mum-guilt and tamed the exhaustion
By definition, we prioritise their well-being. It is our instinct, as mothers, to ensure that our children are safe, sheltered and nourished. We place their needs, interests, activities, wants, dreams and desires above our own, doing all that we can to give them everything they deserve and more. It is easy to understand how we can lose sight of who we were before children, and how frequently we run for days, weeks, months, even years, on an empty cup.
From the moment we found out we were pregnant with our boy, I have dedicated my life to him. I am his voice and fierce advocate. Our four children got the best of me. My husband got what was left. I was tired, lacking identity and motivation, and starting to resent the daily grind. The mental and emotional load of being ‘Mum’ was wearing me down. Add to that the additional load of caring for Christopher and all that entails. Medications, appointments, therapies. I found myself longing for a moment longer than 5 minutes in the shower where I could just be ‘Pam’. This was immediately followed by a cascade of mum guilt. How could I wish that with so much magic in my arms?
I had heard a lot about The Healthy Mothers Healthy Families program from a girlfriend, and seen it advertised through Kindred. Initially, I was hesitant to commit to one more thing, to use up the already limited mental capacity I had, but curiosity got the better of me, and I signed up.
As it turns out, it was exactly what I needed. Night time Zoom sessions, after the kids are in bed; curling up with a cup of tea, and like-minded people was healing. And comforting. Their narrative was my narrative. The solidarity of our shared experiences allowing us to bond, feeling the lows and celebrating the highs.
The Healthy Mothers Healthy Families program provided me with a clear, step-by-step explanation of the very fluid and transient nature of the grief and guilt that come with parenting a child with disabilities, and all the emotions in between. It also solidified the notion that in order for me to continue caring for my family, for them to continue getting the best version of me, I needed to take the time to spend on myself. The self-reflection allowed me to think about who I am, what makes me tick, what fills my cup, and what I needed to ensure I was the best version of myself.
Taking the steps to carve out non-negotiable time for me each day, amidst the chaos and the grind, allows me to keep focus, stay positive, be in the moment and enjoy my family. I am no longer on auto-pilot, cruising through each day, counting down the hours until bedtime. I have more energy, am more self aware, and able to soak up the fleeting moments that make these long, hard days with little children so magical. Not only am I prioritising myself to ensure my family get the best of me, I am leading by example and teaching our babes that self-care is important. That goes beyond a hot shower and a rushed trip to the supermarket on your own. That by loving yourself, by granting yourself grace and kindness, you can fiercely love those around you, creating memories to treasure for a lifetime.
I cannot recommend the Healthy Mothers Healthy Families program highly enough for mothers of children with disabilities. Its unique perspective allows participants to reframe their thinking, take control of their narrative and vastly improve their lives.
If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your children – they deserve the best version of you. Always.
You can join one of Kindred’s Healthy Mothers Healthy Families groups HERE
Healthy Mothers Healthy Families is an evidence-based online health education and empowerment program for mothers of children with disability. The program was developed by and is proprietary to A/Prof Helen Bourke-Taylor from Monash University. Visit https://healthymothers-healthyfamilies.com/.
Pam, along with her husband Tom and their children – Christopher (7), Charlotte (5), Matilda (3), and Maxwell (3 months) – live in the ACT.
Pam is passionate about supporting new mums and their mental health, particularly mums of children born with disability / additional needs and receiving diagnosis. She is also passionate about ensuring siblings get support too. Pam is actively involved with a number of groups around the ACT, to provide friendship, support and understanding to families in this space. A mum four times over, her eldest born with cCMV, she has a unique insight and knowledge of the multifaceted journey many families face. Sharing their story, not only helps her heal but also allows her to help others.