Experts in the Media

Nikki Weaver – Body+Soul

Brand Strategist & Managing Director at Brand Artisans

The sisterhood of the vomit-stained pants and the importance of support in motherhood.

Emergency breast pumps at the ready.

With today being Maternal Mental Health Day, Body+Soul contributor Nikki Weaver unpacks the social pressures that surround motherhood, shedding light on the common stressors that contribute to the overwhelming rate of postnatal depression.

Lying exhausted on the couch with one boob out, trying to feed a slightly grumpy baby in a mildly poo-stained onesie with vomit in your hair? Welcome to being a new Mum.

It’s Maternal Mental Health Day today and while it’s great that a day has been created to raise awareness on this important topic, what if we addressed the systemic cultural issues and gender expectations that created it in the first place?

Postnatal depression is very real, but how much of it is actually preventable?

The myth that ‘women can have it all’ is primarily to blame here, because here’s the thing… we can’t. At least not in the way we think.

The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ still rings true. In tribal times we lived together as a community. Women gathered, foraged and raised the children, while men went off to hunt. The tribe worked together to provide for the needs of every child, and mothers had support and companionship.

Skip ahead to modern times; tribes are a thing of the past and the nuclear family is the norm.

By the 1950s a woman’s role was ‘homemaker’ for her immediate family. Cooking, cleaning and caring for her children while her husband brought home the bacon. That was her job.

Today women are still expected to be the perfect wife and mother, but they’re also expected to work full-time and contribute to society. And society is surprised that maternal mental health issues are on the rise?

These social pressures are enough to create angst before a baby has even arrived.

Then when we have our bundle of joy, we’re supposed to breast feed no matter what (in the exact right way); use cloth nappies (because… environment); get the baby into a good sleep routine, then sleep when the baby does; eat an organic and dairy-free diet; keep the house clean (with chemical-free products of course); cook wholesome meals; all while looking flawless (even if covered in vomit) and be present for your child and partner at all times. You know, just normal Mum stuff.

Let’s also throw into the mix, severe sleep deprivation, a cocktail of post-pregnancy hormones, buckets of self-doubt and a million contradictory books and experts telling you all the ways you’re doing it wrong. And you have the perfect recipe for mental health triggers.

Add to that, the expectation of going straight back to work (I lost count of the number of times I was asked this before my son was even three months old), as well as the financial strains of being a single income family, and I’d say we’re firmly in the depression and anxiety zone.

Can we shift expectations and normalise having a ‘community’ around us? Let’s have real conversations about the fact that being a mum is hard.

Instead of shaming mums for all their mistakes, we should praise them for making it through the day. If we had experts talking from real-life experience rather than scientific concepts, we might help women feel seen. And instead of Insta-famous ladies posting pictures of themselves fully made-up and manicured, with a perfect baby wearing a pristine outfit and not a spec of vomit in sight… maybe they could share pictures of themselves exhausted on the couch with bags under their eyes, messy hair and a grumpy baby. Because that’s the reality of life with a newborn. And that’s okay.

So, if you’re exhausted to tears and doubting yourself on the daily, please know this… you’re not alone. Parenting is hard and the fact that you care means you’re doing a great job. Please don’t be ashamed or embarrassed, and definitely don’t be scared to ask for help. We need other mums, and other women around us. We need the sisterhood to make a comeback.

But failing that, just know that even if we’re not there in person, we’re there for you in spirit. You’ve got this… even if you do have vomit in your hair.

Nikki Weaver is the founder of Brand Artisans Australia creating intuitive branding & strategy for ethical companies. You can follow her Instagram here.