Mother’s Day is a very tough day when the last thing you want to do is celebrate your mothering. I know, because last year I wanted Mother’s Day to pass me by completely. I couldn’t bear to be celebrated for something I felt so profoundly bad at.
I’ve never really thought I’m a good mother. Or maybe it’s that I am not the mother I thought I would be. I thought I would be good at this. I thought I would find a secret reserve of patience somewhere and be able to draw on it when needed. I thought I would enjoy it more.
Last year wasn’t my first Mother’s Day, but it was my hardest. It was a particularly rough time, and about a month before Mother’s Day – after about 2 ½ years of not being treated properly for postpartum depression – I had a breakdown and ended up taking time off work. My husband and I quickly acknowledged that, at that time, I wasn’t actually able to do the toddler care stuff. So I didn’t do any of it. I didn’t get him breakfast or brush his teeth or keep him entertained or put him to bed. I played a little bit here and there, but mostly I hid in our guest room and tried to get over the feeling of wanting to die. Not exactly a great lead-up to a day that celebrates motherhood.
As the day got closer, I started to panic. I didn’t want to celebrate and I didn’t want others to celebrate me. I felt unworthy of recognition. And I felt so, so sorry for my poor son for ending up with me as a mother.
Sound familiar? So many moms equate their struggle with postpartum depression with not being a good mother. You’re depressed (or anxious or angry) so therefore you must not be a good mother. You haven’t bonded with your baby, so you clearly weren’t cut out for this.
Let me tell you one thing I now know for sure: None of that stuff your brain is telling you is true.
Last year, I told my husband I wanted to skip Mother’s Day. He told me it wasn’t an option. At first I was mad, but then I started to think about it. (And with all the hours I spent hunkered down in our guest room, I had a lot of time to think about it.)
By the time the day came around, I was willing to see some of the stuff I hadn’t been willing to acknowledge before. Like that I’m good at talking about stuff and answering endless questions. I’m really good at dealing with a sick child. And I have enough photos from my son’s first years where he is grinning from ear to ear to believe that perhaps I haven’t entirely ruined his life.
And the same goes for you. You haven’t ruined your child’s life, and you haven’t ruined yours. You’re just struggling, like so many of us do. But you are asking for help and you’re doing your best. And that’s enough. And it’s worth celebrating.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Robin Farr is mom to a four-year-old with a baby on the way. She suffered with undiagnosed and untreated postpartum depression after the birth of her first child and credits her blog, Farewell Stranger, with helping her recover. You can also find her on Twitter at @FarewellStrangr.
The 4th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.
Robin ~ thank you for your letter. Some of my best memories from my childhood are when my mom was by my side when I was sick. She, like you, was also really good at taking care of a sick kid. You are a wonderful mama. I hope you let yourself be celebrated today. We’re celebrating you here. Happy Mother’s Day! xoxo
I think a lot of moms secretly enjoy the sick days, because that’s the time we really feel like we’re doing what a mom should. I definitely do. And the cuddles are nice too. 🙂
Robin, I needed to read this today. Today has been a hard, awful, breakdown-ish day. at one point I was standing in the middle of the living room bawling my eyes out and stamping my foot and I realized that all three of my boys (hubs and two sons) were just watching me breakdown and I fled to my room, closed the door and sobbed.
I decided to come and read one more letter before I go to bed. And it was this one.
Thank you. SO SO SO much.
Oh honey. We’ve all been there. ALL of us. I’m sorry it was a hard day, but tomorrow is a new day. xo
“You haven’t ruined your child’s life, and you haven’t ruined yours. You’re just struggling, like so many of us do. But you are asking for help and you’re doing your best. And that’s enough. And it’s worth celebrating.”
It took me a while to figure all that out, but I got there. As we all eventually do. 🙂
Thank you for this. I haven’t been dealing with PostPartum Depression but I’ve had a LOT on my plate and a ton of very stressful things going on recently, on top of being 23 weeks pregnant with an unexpected baby that we were actively trying to prevent. I’ve been crabby, irritable, and short-tempered lately and today was no exception. I actually tweeted earlier that I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My husband hasn’t let me lift a finger, much less a baby or preschooler, today, and has generally just made me take it easy and insisted that it was my day to be spoiled and taken care of. And yet, I’ve been crabby and impatient and fighting a foul mood and couldn’t figure out why.
Reading your letter struck a cord, I think I’ve been so overwhelmed and feeling like a horrible mother that I don’t think I deserve Mother’s Day, and Mother’s Day, and being celebrated, just rubbed it in that I feel like a total failure as a mom.
Your letter helped. Thank you.
As someone who struggles with Mother’s Day, even years after PPD, I thank you for this post.
of all the posts published in this rally, this is the one that’s sticking with me most. thank you so much for saying what you said.
You haven’t ruined your child’s life…or yours…no you haven’t. Not at all.
There is so much life ahead that’s left to be lived, soaked in right to the bottoms of our feet…we just have to keep fighting.
I was like this on my first mothers day. I bowed out of our annual BBq and said I had the flu.
Robin, thank you for this. I had a tough night last night, and all I could think was that I am ruining my girls’ lives due to the leftover rage rearing its ugly head again. I am so glad that I have gotten to know you this past year. Your love and support was a shining light in those early dark days.
Thank you. I’m dealing with complex PTSD from the birth of my son and postpartum on top of it. I needed this today and I’m glad to know that someone else has been there. My husband does the same time as yours did, giving me time and space when he can. My PTSD has noise triggers associated with my son, so it’s very hard to work with a screeching toddler. I will try and celebrate my achievements for a) admitting there was an elegant in the room and b) making strides through therapy and at home.
Your letter has helped someone two years later!