Beyond Manicures & Massages: What Self-Care REALLY Means For Moms

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Self-care. It’s a term that’s become part of the mommy zeitgeist to the point where we can’t open our Instagram feeds without being bombarded by memes touting, “Caring for yourself is mandatory” or “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Between us mamas, it’s getting kind of annoying. The first issue is, the current conversation about what self-care means is shallow.

It goes something like this: “Go get a manicure or a quick massage and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to handle motherhood again.” That’s what we’re told. Here’s what we hear: Self-care is as easy as painting my nails and will make me a better mom.

Wait, so, a new coat of nail polish is a mommy miracle that will make us happier about our child having a tantrum in Target? Not buying it.

Issue #2: Making superficial self-care the de-facto norm assumes all moms have access to both the childcare and the cash to spend on it.

They don’t. And now we’ve not only made them feel like they’re bad moms because they don’t do it but we’ve shamed them because they can’t afford it. Not nice.

Third, doing something as superficial as getting her nails done will in no way make a mother suffering from issues like postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression feel better.

It just won’t. Because that kind of self-care doesn’t address or help these moms’ deep emotional needs. In fact, asking some of these mothers to leave their children (or just leave the house in general) in the care of another person, particularly the moms suffering from PPA, can have the opposite effect of self-care; it can actually make their lives worse, not better. No bueno.

Crappy situation all around, right? Pretty much.

Can we make the concept of self-care for moms more personalized and attainable?

We’re not entirely sure but we have some ideas.

For starters, we can stop assuming all moms can use grooming, spa services or gym time as a self-care method. Don’t get us wrong, it’s nice. Doing some cardio or having our feet rubbed feels great and might boost our dopamine levels for a bit. But it isn’t going to solve our bigger issues of maintaining our composure during whining, sibling fighting and making six different meals because none of them are satisfactory to our little food critics. In short, it’s a temporary high.

We need to make self-care more about caring for our souls and less about caring for our appearance.

That means promoting things like venting, empathy and surrounding ourselves with supportive friends, things that will fill up our emotional tanks. We need to position self-care as an internal thing, not just an external thing. And the best news is, we’re primed to do this! Moms were literally MADE for this kind of self-care.

Turns out women are genetically wired to crave community, and we function best when surrounded by those who “get us.” We need a mom tribe to thrive. Encouraging moms to seek other like-minded mamas, either virtually or locally, gives them soul-satisfying, long lasting self-care.

And bonus. It's free!

Lastly, we have to do a better job helping moms identify dangerous mental health issues and provide them with the resources to get better. Self-care for these mamas means getting help, both medically and psychologically, so they can adequately care for their children and not kill themselves. Literally. We know. We’ve actually been there.

Look, we’re not trying to be too critical of today’s self-care narrative. We’re just saying it could use some tweaking.

At its core, self-care is a mommy time out for our insides as much as for our outsides.

We happen to think the former is more effective than the latter. The bottom line is moms today have it rough. And sometimes sloughing off our callouses during a pedicure helps. But for most of us, it’s not really enough.

You feel us? Good. Because we gotta go FaceTime our BFF about our kid smearing poop on his wall. She’ll totally get it.

Written by Brooke Christian and Jen Schwartz for Today's Parenting Team.

5 Lessons Celebrity Moms Can Teach Us About Maternal Mental Health

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In the last several years, more and more celebrity moms have opened up about their struggles with postpartum depression. They are women who look like they have it all. They are women we assume live perfect lives as they travel on private planes with their personal chefs and glam squads. They are women we would never think could have any problems because why would they? They are beautiful, famous, and wealthy enough to afford anything they want, including teams of baby nurses, nannies, and other child-care services that make a mom’s life easier. They are also women you didn’t know struggled with mental health issues in their first year of motherhood because they kept it secret. They are women who became moms and had no clue that motherhood didn’t always come easy. Moms who didn’t know what was happening to them when they didn’t experience the magic of motherhood portrayed by the movies and TV shows they act in. Moms who didn’t admit they suffered from postpartum depression until after they made it through to the other side. Most importantly, they are moms who can teach all of us some valuable lessons about maternal mental health and why we must keep the conversation about this very serious, even life-threatening issue going.

1. Postpartum Depression Doesn’t Discriminate.

The list of celebrity moms admitting they had postpartum depression grows longer every year. Postpartum Depression made headlines in 2005 with the infamous feud between Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise over women taking medication for maternal health issues and the release of her memoir, Down Came The Rain. Since then, the list has grown significantly to include Bryce Dallas Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and more. These women, who we believe live easy, perfect lives are proof that postpartum depression doesn’t care about who you are. It doesn’t matter how successful or talented you are or how much money you have. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, and support system. I’m sure, just like me, none of these women thought postpartum depression could ever happen to them. And just like me, they were wrong.

2. You Can Still Have Postpartum Depression Even if You Don’t Want to Harm Your Child.

Hayden Panettiere told Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan in 2015, “When [you’re told] about postpartum depression you think it’s ‘I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure or hurt my child.’ I’ve never, ever had those feelings. Some women do. But you don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on.” Postpartum depression is different for every mom. All too often, the media mistakenly labels moms who harm their babies and themselves as having postpartum depression when in reality, they have postpartum psychosis. Even though we read about these stories the most, postpartum psychosis is actually the least common of the postpartum mood disorders and only affects 1 or 2 in 1000 new moms, according to Postpartum Support International. As a result of these misconceptions, many new moms don’t know they have postpartum depression and don’t seek the treatment they need to get better.

3. We Are All In This Together.

Adele told Vanity Fair in 2016, “I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant...One day I said to a friend, ‘I fuckin’ hate this,’ and she just burst into tears and said, ‘I fuckin’ hate this, too.’ And it was done.” Imagine what could have happened if Adele’s friend judged her or made her feel like something was wrong with her or that she was a terrible mother? Instead, her friend made it clear that she struggled too and they were in it together. The empathy and compassion she received from another mom validated her feelings and let her know she was not alone. Motherhood is a team sport and really does take a village, a village you desperately need when you can’t physically take care of your child because you have a mental illness. Moms need each other. There is no place for shaming because whether a mom has postpartum depression or not, she will struggle and needs others to support her and remind her she’s doing the best she can and she’s not alone.

4. Help Needs to Be Accessible and Affordable for All Moms.

Sarah Michelle Gellar recently posted on her personal Instagram, “I too struggled with postpartum depression after my first baby was born. I got help, and made it through, and every day since has been the best gift I could ever have asked for. To those of you going through this, know that you’re not alone and that it really does get better. And if you believe that postpartum depression should be covered by healthcare, please take a moment and go to callmecongress.com today, find your rep’s numbers and let them know.” When 1 in 7 new moms suffer from some form of postpartum depression, but only 15% of them receive treatment, we need to do more. All of these celebrity moms had access to resources and the ability to afford the treatment they needed to get healthy. Not every new mom does. Therapists and psychiatrists, especially ones specializing in maternal mental health don’t always take health insurance. Antidepressants, if not covered, are expensive. We need to make this type of care available for all new moms, not just the ones fortunate enough to be able to pay for it.

5. The Stigma Is Real

Chrissy Teigen told Glamour in her March 2017 cover interview, “It took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.” The common thread among these celebrity moms is none of them talked about their struggles until after they got better. Why? Because as women, we think that being anything less than super mom isn’t good enough. We have bought into society’s ridiculous expectations of the perfect mom and when we can’t live up to them, we believe we are failures and don’t want anyone else to know. Chrissy goes on to say, I’m speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody, and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone. I also don’t want to pretend like I know everything about postpartum depression, because it can be different for everybody. But one thing I do know is that — for me — just merely being open about it helps.” As a postpartum depression survivor, I believe I have an obligation to speak out to help lessen the stigma and make it easier for the moms who come after me. I’ve also realized, just like Chrissy, sharing my story helps, lets other moms know they are not alone, and gives them the courage to share their own without the fear of being judged. No mom should ever have to suffer in silence without the treatment they need to get healthy and happy. The more these high-profile women (who have tremendous reach and influence) come forward, the greater chance we have to show postpartum depression is very real and can happen to anyone.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost.

At some point, all of us will know a new mom suffering from some form of postpartum depression. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so no new mom suffers in silence. Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say.