Guest blog by: Mercedes Samudio, LCSW
When I think of maternal mental health, I think of more than just mental illness and postpartum depression. I think of the stereotypical super mom who is trying to do it all and ends up neglecting herself. I think of the pressures places on mothers in our world and how impossible those expectations are for mothers to reach. And I think, how can we support the notion that mothers are humans who have strengths and weaknesses and can’t do everything?
One of the many ways to help mothers be healthy – physically, emotionally, and mentally – starts by giving them the space to be human. Woman have a tendency to want to nurture and help all the time and rarely get a space to be a mess without scrutiny and judgment. But, when we give mothers the space to be authentically human we give them the best gift they’ll ever receive. We allow them to be reflective of who they are as a woman, sister, mother, friend, wife, business owner, stay-at-home mom, etc. We give them the space to say “yes” to things that energize them and “no” to things that add stress to their lives. Lastly, we give mothers the space to feel and not pretend. Essentially, allowing our mothers to be human – flaws and all – gives them more space to be there for their families in an genuine, less stressed way.
On that note, Brene Brown – legendary speaker on vulnerability and shame – shares that “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” This quote really resonates with the message of being able to understand the difference between doing your best and being a perfectionist and what it looks like when we don’t give ourselves space to human. When we talk about maternal mental health that quote rings true for helping mothers understand that trying to reach the ultimate goal of doing it can lead them on a path to not being able to do anything for anyone. I tell mothers this simple truth: If you have no more reserves at the end of the day, who are you really helping? And, I challenge you to ask yourself this question as you struggle to get through your to-do lists and push through fatigue to get one more thing checked off. Think for a minute of what you have to do and what you want to do; think about the pressures placed on you from society and the things you have come to value as true for you. Getting to a place where being human outweighs meeting social norms and expectations will not only begin the process to reducing negative mental health outcomes for mothers, but it will also help develop the supports that mothers need to be a model for positive self care and mental health for their families.
Overall, the idea behind maternal mental health month is not to just linger on diagnosis and mental illness. It is a movement to bring awareness to our society about the struggles mothers face as they strive to provide healthy environments for their families.
Mercedes Samudio, LCSW
About the Author
Mercedes Samudio, LCSW is a parent coach and family therapist who supports and guides parents raising children in today’s world. She has been working with families for over 6 years helping them achieve results in parent-child bonding, decreasing power struggles, and developing effective discipline strategies that foster strong, nurturing relationships. She is a parenting expert certified in several prominent parenting curricula including nonviolent parenting and attachment parenting. She received her MSW from the University of Southern California and BA in Psychology from UCLA.