Not okay, and that’s okay

So, it’s been a rough few months for our family. We’ve had unexpected things go wrong, new schedules that we can’t keep up with, and seemingly a hundred appointments that I have either forgotten, misplaced or written down as the wrong day.

Now, organisation was never my thing. I start systems and don’t follow through, and I insist on buying a new diary every year that is usually ignored by March. Having a special needs family, I now know to call this an issue with ‘executive functioning’- not that giving the problem a name makes it any easier to plan out my day’s activities!

I don’t know when everything first started to pile up around me. I’d spent so long chasing my tail and trying to make sure the family was okay, that I never stopped to ask myself if they actually were. I found myself crying in doctor’s offices, at parent-teacher interviews, and worrying incessantly anytime the kids were away from me- even when I knew that they were fine.

In hindsight it seems so obvious that the family weren’t the ones in trouble- it was me. They were all doing surprisingly well, in fact, and that should have told me something much sooner. It was me who wasn’t okay- and it turns out that admitting that to myself and to others was just about the best thing that I could have done.

Now, most of us will experience either stress, depression or anxiety – or even all three – in our lifetimes. As mothers to young children, you could say that worry comes with the territory. We want so badly to succeed, we want the very best for our children, and to us that means a constant fear that we aren’t enough.

We see mums who pack lunchboxes that an Olympic athlete would approve of, mums who do karate with their children (and darn it all, look svelte while doing it), and mums who are just so together. That isn’t me  – and I remember the growing horror inside when I realised that not only was it impossible to live up to it fully, at that point in time I didn’t have anything left inside to do any better. I wasn’t okay.

Since that point, I’ve had good days and bad ones. I’ve had to learn to say no to some things and to admit that I’ve not been doing so well. I’ve had to accept that there are times when I simply won’t be enough right now – and to my surprise, my children have coped with that just fine. They are actually okay that I’m not okay. As a family we are growing closer because we need to work together more. We grow frustrated and, sometimes, we lose sight of what is important. However, those things are a part of us growing as a family.

I believe we make it so much harder for ourselves when we try to prove that we are fine. Sometimes we aren’t. Sometimes we struggle to get out of bed and our beloved little monsters insist on partying late into the night. Sometimes they tip a vase of water over the TV. And sometimes they display their very worst behaviour for the doctor whom we have waited six months to see.

The truth is, that sometimes as mums, we won’t be okay. I have found that admitting this is freeing – not just because we can stop pretending, but because we make it possible for others to come alongside of us, and perhaps admit that they are not okay too. When we chose to be vulnerable we give others permission to do so as well – and there is freedom when we realise we aren’t alone.

I’m not sure where this finds you right now. Perhaps it’s a good season and things have been fine for you – or perhaps, like me, it’s been a rough one. If there are other mothers in your life, I would encourage you to talk to them and maybe be prepared to tell someone that you’re not okay. It doesn’t make you a bad mum; it makes you human – and by raising tiny humans (or in my case, humans that are gradually becoming taller than I am), we are performing a mammoth task. We might fear that our kids deserve better – but it’s us they need, whatever shape we are in at the time.

Take off the pressure of being perfect- it was never a part of the plan for our lives. Instead, be who you are. If that’s a bit of a mess right now, that’s fine – you will come through this. And for now, just be okay with being not okay.

Cate Stephens
MOPS Blog Writer

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