Monday, 4 February 2013

Leoarna reveals the secret to good mental health

With a CV best described as eclectic, I have, in no particular order, managed numerous bookshops, completed a law degree, delivered smoking cessation courses to hundreds of people, qualified in psychotherapy, designed and run relationship enrichment programmes and inspected early years settings for the government.

All of this has been an aside to my long-held ambitions to 1) be a mum and 2) make a living from writing. And while endometriosis and premature menopause symptoms did their best to prevent my achieving the first of these, I am now extraordinarily grateful for my four year old daughter and one year old son. These days I produce content for parenting websites and have a real passion for my blog, Not Different But Interesting, where I write about the challenges of parenting small children in modern Britain; the juggle of work v money v ‘quality time’, the difficulty of making good choices for children, and my efforts to get things right for my own two little ones . 

Parents - The secret to good mental health revealed! (Or, why blogging is good for your mummy-ego…)

Freud first told the world that we were all in possession of this cumbersome thing called ‘ego’ in 1911. While in Eastern religious traditions, the ego was something to eschew, diminish, abandon even, in the West we quickly became wedded to the concept. The net result of his ground-breaking psychological theorising was to land us with the task of ego-care, and thus the notion of maintaining ‘good mental health’ was born. In 1943, Maslow took the notion further and talked of our individual hierarchy of needs. These needs included feeling safe, loved, and a sense of belonging, with robust self-esteem and the opportunity to work for self-actualisation thrown in for good measure. Without these elements, it seemed, our ego would crumble and our life would be miserable. That’s quite a lot for one bunch of neurons to attempt to maintain on our behalf. Throw the role of parenting another equally complex being (or two) into this mix, and it is as if one has turned on the blender without putting the lid on. But hold on, there is a solution. Blogging, and being part of the blogging community, might just be the answer. I have found, just a couple of months in to my own blogging career, that blogging can really help with all those pesky needs that must be met, both within ourselves and for our kids. Blogging can truly contribute to the maintenance of a ‘happy’ ego.

Modern motherhood can be isolating. I’m not the first person to observe this. Many mothers enter the condition having enjoyed an enriching, ego-defining career and whizzo social life. Finding yourself home alone with a helpless, wholly-reliant soul who can’t discuss the content of Woman’s Hour with you can get a tad frustrating.  Some of us feel depressed by the knowledge that the world continues to turn while we, seemingly, stand still (You’re not actually standing still, you’re doing a Very Important Job. it’s just that it feels that like you are rocking back and forth on your heels, not achieving very much.) At this point I could launch into one of my post-feminist polemics about the downgraded status of the ‘mother with young child’ in our society, but… I’ll save that for another post.

Parent-land is not only isolating but also pretty confusing these days, too. Time was you just did for your child what your parents and older siblings did for you when you were a nipper. The map was uncluttered, the path clear. The wisdom behind childrearing was held in the stories of your grandmother, and the notion of reading a book to help you be a better mother was an utter anathema. Then came Dr Spock and his friendly but firm tone, and as the 70s, 80s and 90s rolled on, the snowball of parenting books became a snow-boulder of conflicting advice, that smashes all over you the moment you discover your baby doesn’t eat / sleep / poop / gurgle the same was as your friend’s baby does. Your left soaking wet, chilled to the core, and wondering what you have done to your life – or what you’re doing to theirs.

Let me lift the mood by reassuring you that blogging can do much to limit this peculiar kind of loneliness and confusion, and can bring a true sense of connection to others. And not just any old ‘others’. Real people who wrestle with the issues you do, feel the high and lows you feel. People who are willing to share their decisions, worries, hopes, dreams, and who do so knowing it might help you with your own. We are elephants, not cheetahs; we’re supposed to live connected to our fellow beings, not prowl our territory in solitary fashion. Blogging will give you the natural high of being meaningfully bound together with others who try to live as you do. There are blogging sub-communities for every kind of mum and dad; Stay At Home, Working, Home-Educator, those who raise children with particular needs, those who conceived through fertility treatment, or raise adopted children, and those who parent within the guidelines of a particular religion or philosophy. Advice is offered, but it is always underpinned with the clear acknowledgement that ‘you’re their mum (or dad), and you know your child best’. Less Gina Ford, more your modest, thoughtful ‘best mate’ who popped by for a coffee (and rescued you from a puree-splattered nervous breakdown) at just the right moment.

Blogging gives you a voice, and a community to belong to. It can broaden your view and leave you better informed. It can give you an identity away from the intensity of being someone’s mummy or daddy. The relative anonymity blogging brings can liberate you to share far more than you might with you nearest and dearest - and thus find solution and resolution to your parenting problems, and restore your ego’s equilibrium. Your blog can be your guide, resting on your shoulder and nudging you towards a more centred and kindly parenting path. And it can lead you to the service of others; to pass wisdom and empathy forward, knowing it will circumnavigate the virtual isles of Bloggingdom and be back with you when you need it - again. Freud and Maslow didn’t get to see the advent of blogging, but if they had, I’m guessing they would have been impressed.

Thank you Leoarna, come back again tomorrow for another great post, this time from who says leave your blog alone!
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