Why You Need a Break
What an understatement! The reason why Mothers Helpers provides mums suffering from postnatal depression (with no support system to help) with volunteers to help with childcare and housework is simply because we know how vital having a regular break is to recovery. Motherhood is relentless. It is a 24hr/day, 7 days/week job. For many of us with young babies or with babies that don’t sleep well, even night times are not our own to get sufficient rest. But too often, mothers have an expectation of themselves that a “good mother” is some kind of martyr/heroine/supermum that getting our own needs met is plain selfish. And here’s where we need to challenge that kind of thinking.
Challenging the Barriers
I’m not going to discuss where that thinking comes from or how we can challenge it. If you’d like to read more about Expectations, check out an earlier post I wrote titled “Expectations”. The first step to getting a break is to recognize that you need one, to accept that your needs are important too, and to give yourself permission to have a break. Many women with postnatal depression have anxiety about leaving their baby with someone else to care for them. This is normal. The best way to work through this is to start small with someone you know and trust and gradually build it up from there. The second step is to assess your current resources to see how it can be achieved.
Identify Your Resources
So many mothers truly believe they have no options. But you have more than you think. Let’s first of all take a look at your current resources:
- Make a list of all your family members that live in the same city and in particular, those that live close by to you. Consider their available time. Find out from those family members how often they’d be willing to take care of your little one.
- Have a discussion with your partner (or your child’s father or the father’s family) and find out how willing and available they are to take care of baby while you have a break.
- Consider your circle of friends and acquaintances. They might be other mothers from your coffee group. Perhaps they would be willing to do playdates or taking turns at taking the kids so that you can both get a break and mutually help one another?
- Consider your financial budget. Try to factor in some childcare costs whether that’s daytime or evening babysitting. Remember this is not a treat, this is a need.
Now that you’ve identified the current resources you have available to you, ask. It is the hardest part and so many mothers are so afraid to ask for help or for a break or for their own needs that they let things go on the way they are for month after month, year after year. But you cannot afford to do this. Your mental health is important. It affects you, it affects your family – your marriage/relationship and your child. You owe it to yourself, and to your family to take care of yourself and get better. So pluck up the courage and ask – and do it once. What I mean by that is, ask them for a regular day and a regular time and stick it in both your diaries or on both your calendars – so that you don’t have to pluck up the courage over and over again to ask for help. It will be too hard and you’ll stop doing it. Do it once and organize it so it’s a regular thing.
Now here’s some resources you probably didn’t know about or you’ve never considered before:
- Any family that receives any assistance from the Government (including Working for Families) is entitled to receive up to 9hrs subsidised childcare.
- If you have postnatal depression you are eligible to receive a Disability Allowance through WINZ – particularly if you are on a benefit. Part of that Allowance can include Childcare Costs. With a supporting letter from your GP you can receive up to 50hrs subsidised childcare per week.
- Consider having an Au Pair. An Au Pair lives in with you and provides you with childcare and housework assistance. Usually between 20 and 40hrs/week. Costs are usually around $180/wk. However, many young people with childcare experience on their O.E. to New Zealand are happy to provide some free childcare and housework hours in exchange for free board and accommodation. If you have the room in your house, I highly recommend this. Advertise for free on the Backpackers Noticeboard online!
- When your baby is heading towards toddlerhood you might feel comfortable hiring a student as a babysitter. Often students are happy to come and babysit a sleeping child while they do some study for a small amount of cash. Advertise on Gumtree for free!
- Consider attending groups that have a free or affordable creche (yes, they do exist!)
- Playgroups/coffee groups are better than nothing – so long as the mums really are socializing and talking amongst themselves!
What to Do With that Precious Time
Now that you’ve established a way to get a break, it’s really important that you use the time wisely. Don’t spend it running errands, paying bills, or getting the housework done. This time is for you, and it’s important. Here are some ideas:
- Attend counselling appointments
- Go for a walk
- Develop an interest/hobby: eg. scrapbooking, gym, swimming
- Meet a friend for coffee (no babies!)
- Go to a movie or out for a drink with a friend
- Go to a class of interest, eg. learn a language, cooking class, pottery class, art class, photography class, dance class
- Spoil yourself: a massage or a hair appointment or a manicure!
- Have a nap (particularly if you’re sleep-deprived – but don’t over-indulge in sleeping – often this can be a symptom of depression and if that’s your situation, it’s much better if you get outside for a walk than give in to the blankets!)
And yes, mum, your needs are just as important and you do deserve it! Talk to your partner and get his support. Help him to see that this will help your recovery from PND.