Mental Health and Motherhood: how my mom impacted my life

Mental Health and Motherhood

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this story. I’ve written about my childhood in the past, so it’s not the vulnerability that concerns me. I guess I don’t want to be misunderstood. This post isn’t a pity party, nor is it a cry for attention. I just want to shed light into an angle of motherhood that you read about in the news or you hear about in political posturing, but maybe you’ve never seen the real face of it: mental health and motherhood. So, in order to explore this topic further, let me tell you my story.

My mom was a drug addict who suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. You might have noticed I used the past tense “was” in introducing her; that’s because she died in 2009, when I was 22 years old. She struggled with addiction and impaired mental health for all of my life. I’m pretty sure her battles began before I was ever born.

She once told me a story about my older sister that illustrates her mental instability. As an aside, my older sister died before I could ever meet her – she had health issues and severe mental retardation, probably owing to the fact that both her parents conceived her while under the influence (we didn’t share a father). Anyway, one night she was crying inconsolable, and my mother, exhausted and delirious from unsuccessfully comforting her wailing child, covered her face with a pillow to escape from the mind-numbing screams. She left the pillow there until my sister quieted; she had lost consciousness. My mother didn’t kill her, but she relayed to me many years later that it was this night when she realized she was unwell, mentally. She also said it was this night when she began to hear the voices in her head that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

This story is only one example of how my mom’s mental health struggles impaired her ability to relate to her children in “normal” ways. I could tell you many such stories, all equally horrifying. Like how she asked me to burn my stepdad’s clothes in the yard after they had an argument, and rewarded me by burning my new Easter clothes 3 days later when they reconciled. How she taught me how to weigh out marijuana, and asked me to bury it in the yard once when the county was on their way to raid our house (I was 10 at the time). How I discovered her sitting in a cold bath, covered in blood, after her first suicide attempt when I was 12. Or like how she kicked me out of the house when I was 13 years old because I refused to place my body underneath her boyfriend’s truck to prevent his abandonment of her.

I could tell you about how she was in and out of jail up until she died, arrested on charges like forgery, possession/distribution of controlled dangerous substances and larceny, which happen to be the primary offenses for women incarcerated in Oklahoma. At one point, she was even listed among Oklahoma’s Ten Most Wanted, which I discovered by seeing her face broadcast on TV during a public service announcement.

My mom was just one woman of many just like her in Oklahoma, which incarcerates nearly twice the national average of female offenders, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In that same study, critical issues for incarcerated women are explored, and chief among them are history of substance abuse, mental health issues and women offenders as mothers. My mother was a classic example of the mental health crisis in Oklahoma, and how it affects the rate of incarceration for women in this state.

As an adult, my mom’s mental health has not affected me as directly, but it still impacts my life. When I was in college, I was ultra sensitive to the reality that I could very well develop some of the same mental health disorders that plagued my mom. I did struggle with anxiety for a while, but I learned how to cope through spirituality and lifestyle adjustments. Since becoming a mother myself, I have felt the absence of having a healthy mother to mentor me or to turn to for guidance and wisdom. As a mom, I can’t understand the decisions she made towards my siblings and me, or how she treated us as her children.

I tell you this story for two reasons: one, to give a human face to something that’s more than just a policy issue; two, to motivate. I will be the first to admit I’m not as involved as I should be in making my voice known to those who have the power to do something about it. But, I hope by writing this story, I’m taking one step towards being more active.

My mom may have had a chance at rehabilitation if there had been a mental healthcare system that could provide her the help she needed. Instead, incarceration was the bandaid applied to the gushing wound of her mental instability. My story, her story, is not unique; a quick Google search of “mental health issues in Oklahoma” will illustrate the gravity of the mental health crisis in this state.

From postpartum depression to personality disorders that fuel substance abuse, mental health and motherhood are inseparably linked. If we don’t give a voice to these issues and put a face on them, they will remain as simple policy positions and budget line items. Nothing will change if nobody tells their stories. This one is mine.

Mental Health and Motherhood

Mom Quotes

Mom Quotes from Real Moms

 

Yesterday, I crowd-sourced my Facebook friends for some of the common phrases they often say to their kids. They did not disappoint. Their contributions were hilarious and heart-warming, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites. If you came here to find poetic or inspiring thoughts on motherhood, you should look elsewhere. Instead, here are real mom quotes that reflect real life motherhood:

“As long as you live in this house, you will follow our rules.”

“Because I said so!”

“Please engage your brain!”

“Put kindness in your voice/face/eyes/hands.”

“Stop, you’ll hurt someone or break something.”

“I could never stop loving you.”

“Can you please just stop!?”

“This day is over!”

“Be gentle!”

“Use your words.”

“Please stop touching me.”

“You cannot still be hungry.”

“I just want to pee alone!”

Funny Mom Quotes Coffee Stains Blog

“What were you thinking?!”

“Don’t pee in the hamper!”

“Please put on underwear.”

“Why is there poop in the bathtub?”

“No, people don’t eat poop.”

“I will pull this car over!”

“I love you.”

“May the odds be ever in your favor!”

“I’m proud of you.”

“I want to squeeze you until your head pops off!”

“I’m gonna kiss you forever.”

“Act like we let you out of the attic once in a while!”

“I’m gonna eat you up!”

“Be nice to your brother. He’ll be bigger than you one day!”

“Mommy loves you so so so so so much! And Jesus loves you more than that!”

“Stop licking the fridge.”

“Make sure you wash all your nooks and crannies.”

And the best…..

“ASK YOUR DADDY!”

Funny Mom Quotes from Real Moms

 

I hope these mom quotes made you smile or laugh. Motherhood can push us to our limits some days, but it’s healthy to laugh at the funny and crazy moments that come with it as well. What are some of the funny or weird things you say to your kids often?

Introverted Motherhood: how I deal with it

Are you an introverted mama? Here are some tips for how to deal with it.

Even though I don’t feel like writing tonight, I made a goal to blog 3x/week this month, so here we are. Since Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, I want to share some different angles on motherhood throughout my posts this week. Something that plays a bigger role in my mothering than I expected is my personality type: I’m an introvert. I’m an INTJ if we want to get specific, but I’m focusing exclusively on my introverted side today.

A quick Google search including “introvert” and “mom” will give you plenty of reading material on how to survive as an introverted mom. In other words, nothing I am about to share is revolutionary or life-changing, and there is plenty of other material out there if you’re looking for a good how-to guide. However, I was surprised by how much my introverted side affects how I relate to my children, so I wanted to explore that in writing, because maybe you’ve found yourself in that position as well.

What it means to be an introverted mother

If you don’t know much about personality types, the simple explanation of what it means to be an introvert is that you derive your energy from within instead of without. Extroverts are energized by those outside of themselves; introverts, on the other hand, need time alone to refuel and renew their energy. We’re not antisocial or isolationists, we just need to escape from others occasionally to avoid being rundown or burned out.

Now, it’s not a huge leap in logic to see how being an introverted mother might be a challenge. Particularly if you have little ones, your children need and want your attention almost exclusively throughout most of the waking hours (and sometimes throughout the night as well). If you’re an introverted mother and you’re attuned to your kids’  every move and every word all day, your energy supply is quickly drained and you’re exhausted by the end of the day.

That is how most days feel for me. Although I don’t spend all day with my kids throughout the week, I am physically, emotionally, and mentally drained by about 7:30 pm every night from their demands for my attention and affection. I’m not complaining or whining about that, it’s just the reality of being an introverted mother. And since providing something as basic as love and care is a nonnegotiable, it’s helpful for me to understand how being an introvert affects motherhood. I have to take care of myself in order to take care of them.

How to deal with being an introverted mother

Since being around others literally sucks the life out of me, I have found that I have to be intentional about how I get and use alone time in order to renew my energy effectively. As a mom, getting time alone is a precious commodity, and as an introvert, I need to use that time wisely or I’ll remain drained and exhausted. So, here are some things I do to deal with introverted motherhood.

  1. I put the kids to bed early. There’s nothing wrong with an early bedtime, especially if your day starts out early, anyway. Since I’m a working mom, this means that my evening time with them is shorter than I’d like, but it’s a compromise I have to make to ensure they get the most of my energy and attention. So, bedtime begins at 7pm in our home. I let our 3-year-old stay up a little later, and she’s usually in bed by 8. An early bedtime means I still get some time for myself as well as time with my husband, which are both vitally important for my sanity and the sake of my marriage.
  2. I spend my alone time pursuing my passions. Sometimes I use my alone time to watch Netflix mindlessly, but I get the most renewal out of spending my time alone to enjoy the hobbies/activities that bring me joy: reading and writing. Whenever I get a chance to pursue my passions, I experience personal fulfillment and I’m a better mom. Spending my time this way means I don’t resent my children when I devote myself to them, since they’re not distracting or taking away from the things I love to do for myself.
  3. I say no to things that aren’t life-giving or things I really want to do. As a middle-child people pleaser, this practice has been a hard one to develop, but it’s so important to my well being so I’m learning to do it more. You don’t have to answer every opportunity that comes knocking, and you don’t have to accept every offer that comes your way. From social engagements to professional pursuits, I try to be wise about what I say yes to, knowing that my time and energy can only go so far and my kids deserve it the most.
  4. I just get over it. Some days, you just have to put on your big girl pants and deal with it. Life is hard, everyone is tired, and children are only little for a short time. Someday, they’ll be teenagers and they won’t want my attention, so I better soak it up while I can. I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on sleep and hobbies in a few years. So, on days when I’m exhausted but the kids are circus monkey crazy, I just suck it up and deal because that’s just what you have to do. I don’t always deal with it gracefully, though.

 

Introverted motherhood can be a challenge, but motherhood generally is hard. However, we take care of ourselves and love our families better by understanding how our personality traits affect our relationships. What’s your personality type? How has it affected your mothering?

The Ugly Side of Parenting Nobody Warned Me About

The Ugly Side of Parenting

When I was pregnant, it seemed like I was inundated with people offering opinions and advice about being a new mom. From breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding to epidurals vs. natural birth, everybody had words of wisdom to share. However, there was something my friends and family failed to mention: mompetition.

You might think I’m off my rocker, that I’m just making up nonsense. But trust me, it’s a thing. In fact, mompetition is so notorious, it has it’s own listing on Urban Dictionary, which defines it as “the one-up rivalry that moms play, making their child seem better, smarter and/or more advanced than yours.”

For example, you might be talking with one of your mom friends and celebrating a new milestone in your child’s life, like the first time she rolls over or says her first word, to which your friend replies, “Well, my little Susie was walking at 5 months and now she’s going to college at age 2.”Boom. You just got mompetitioned.

Now, that example is a little extreme and unrealistic, but it is illustrative of our nature as moms to one-up one another when it comes to our children. As a new mom, I was totally unprepared when it first happened to me.

There I was, playing with my 3 month old, when I got on Facebook to see a new video from my sister-in-law of her 1 month old rolling overSince my daughter hadn’t rolled over, yet, I felt this  jealousy well up within me, as if I needed to defend my daughter’s lack of rolling ability. I found myself on the floor next to her, barking, “roll over! Come on, Ray, roll over for mommy!” Our  schnauzer just sat there judging me in amused confusion.

My friends, that was my first day as a mompetitor, and it was ugly. I’d like to say it’s only happened once. I’d like to believe I’m above that. But, I’d be lying. You see, mompetition is rooted in the wickedness of our hearts known as sin. From pride to covetousness, the underlying motives for mompetition are many, but they all come back to the same basic human condition: depravity.

So, as mothers under grace, how do we avoid mompetition? And what do we do when we find ourselves engaged in it?

1. Remember our identity in Christ. We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). We are ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). We are the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:17). We are personal witnesses of Christ’s (Acts 1:8). We misrepresent Christ and His work in our lives by playing the mompetition game.

2. Repent from the underlying sin fueling our mompetitive desires. For me, personally, I struggle with covetousness. As a result, I’m constantly preaching Philippians 4:11-13 to my wretched selfNot that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all these things through him who strengthens me.

3. Refuse to participate. 2 Timothy 2:23, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” If you have a mom friend who tells you about an achievement her child has accomplished, celebrate with her. Acknowledge and affirm her. Don’t interject with how your child has been there, done that, and already grown out of the t-shirt.

Being a mom is hard enough without the added struggle of competing with one another. Have you ever experienced this ugly side of parenting? How did you handle it?

This post first appeared on WordSlingers. You can find the original post here.