Parenting

I was reading some posts on a counselling web site the other day and I came across a comment from a fellow counsellor. They noted that many more people are coming for counselling because of feeling anxious, depressed, not motivated, insecure and with no confidence in their own abilities to live an independent life.

I have noticed this is my own practice and at the moment it tends to be that the most affected age group is people between the ages of 30 and 40.  

Mental health or lack of it is certainly on the increase with more people coming forward for counselling and treatment.   But is it on the increase…or is it because people have become more aware?

Have we enabled people to recognise the symptoms themselves and not be afraid to reach out for help?  Or have we enabled our off spring to not cope with disappointment, rejection or loss? Or is it because the style of parenting we now use is very different to parenting in the 1940’s, 1950’s.

Parenting styles in the 1940’s – 1950’s appeared to be brutal to say the least.  In this era, babies were left in prams in the garden so they couldn’t be heard crying. They were kept in play pens like caged animals, kept on a rigorous feeding routine of 4 hourly feeds with a drink of water in between.   And they were held out over a potty at regular intervals in an attempt to toilet train them from the age of 6 months!! 

This was just the tip of the iceberg and children really were believed to not be seen or heard. How scary for babies and children this must have been.   No cuddling was allowed and mothers were certainly not allowed to kiss their male babies for risk of making them ‘soft’ and having too many feelings that were considered inappropriate for a male.

The point that the counsellor was trying to make, was why in this day and age when parenting styles allegedly are more responsive to the child’s needs, is there so much insecurity, depression and anxiety and an inability to cope with life in general.   When in the past, mental health problems were not so prevalent from an early age and people more or less just appeared to get on with life.

Reported cases of mental health were not so high five decades ago but this could have been for many reasons. Mental ill health was not recognised and talked about. People were reluctant to confess to mental ill health for fear of losing jobs, children, homes etcetera. In the past, it was seen as a weakness if you said you were sad or scared or not able to cope with life and you just struggled on until either physical illness or a mental illness stopped you in your tracks and maybe then you gave yourself permission to ask for help.

But was this way of parenting really so detrimental to the child’s development and have our ways of parenting now contributed to the rise in mental ill health, with parents providing instant gratification for every need and solving all their children’s problems instead of enabling them to problem solve for themselves and deal with disappointments and failures.  

Or have our generation and product of the parenting on the 1950’s, over compensated with our parenting styles thus producing a generation of children unable to cope with life’s demands.

I am not saying either style is right or wrong.   A blended, common sense approach is needed towards parenting.  But an approach that has love and communication as its foundation to enable a child to reach his or her full potential.

It will be interesting to see the results in the next 50 years, of the research studies on parenting now.

To be continued

New Year’s Eve Babies

When I was a midwife working on the Delivery Suite, I had to work some night shifts to ensure that the ward was covered for twenty four hours. This is usual for all nurses and midwives.

We also had to work Christmas and New Year and we usually tried to be fair to each other to ensure that we all had some of the holiday off with our own family and friends.

I have to say that sometimes, as well as being excruciatingly busy, there was always a lovely festive atmosphere in the unit and we would all bring in non- alcoholic drinks and nibbles to snack on. This was of course in between births, completing paper work and clearing up.

Babies born on Christmas Day were given a small, wrapped present and babies born on Christmas Eve were given a stocking to leave at the end of the cot which was filled by whoever was on the night shift.

All Christmas Day babies and babies born on New Year’s Eve, were, with their parents’ permission, photographed and published in the local newspapers. This seemed to add to the festive atmosphere and feeling of excitement and joy.

One New Year’s Eve, not long after I had qualified as a midwife, I volunteered to work the night shift on New Year’s Eve. I was not really looking forward to this. Night shifts were always difficult.

We are not meant to be awake at three in the morning making decisions about people’s lives, communicating and just generally functioning as you would in the day.

However, I must admit I was excited about the prospect of maybe delivering the first baby of the new year and seeing the baby and mother in the newspaper.

Delivery suite was eerily quiet when I arrived on the shift but there was just one woman in labour who had had a baby previously, so there would be a good chance that she would have her baby before I went off shift at eight in the morning. Women who have had a baby before tend to have quicker labours and births the second time around so I was pretty sure that this would be the case with this woman.

Of course, there is always exception to the rule and this doesn’t always happen. Mercifully, this did happen in this case and the woman went on to give birth to her baby at two minutes past midnight, which was definitely the first baby of the new- year.

I was so excited and in my naivety and enthusiasm completely forgot about the woman being physically and emotionally drained after the birth and as soon as the placenta had been delivered my first response was:

“Congratulations. Would you like your photograph taken for the papers”?

I can’t write what she told me to do but it wasn’t,

“Oh yes I’d really like that – thanks”.

I felt rather deflated after that response and that was lesson learnt.

Not everyone wants to be in the paper especially the next day after giving birth.

Happy New Year.

Motherhood

The first mother mentioned in the Bible is, of course, Eve.

Genesis 3:20 says,

“The man called his wife’s name *Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

Most of us know the rest of the story. Eve ate the apple from the forbidden tree, before giving it to her husband.

God was angry and cursed both of them saying that there would always be enmity between them. Childbirth and labour would be painful for the woman, the earth would not yield good crops and that all men and women would die.

I often reflect on the women that I have cared for over the years, both as a midwife and now as a counsellor offering therapy for depression and anxiety during the childbirth process. One thing that is very obvious to me, is that women undergo an enormous change to become mothers and this involves physical as well as emotional and psychological changes.

So, what is motherhood?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as:
“The State of being a mother”

Perhaps a fuller definition would be to describe…
A Mother is a very much revered status that can bring much joy, fulfilment and laughter.

A Mother can also bring a great deal of pain, sadness, frustration and exhaustion.

A Mother’s role is multi-factoral and she is perceived as the nurturer, the teacher, the nurse, a source of comfort and a friend.

A Mother should be supportive, patient and consistent. Along with all these qualities, a Mother should love her child unconditionally.

Obviously, a Mother’s job is no easy task. There’s more…

There are no days off.

A Mother must be able to remain calm under any circumstances. Especially with smaller children. Patience is a trait that every mother must have.

A  Mother has many other perceived roles to fulfil.

Cleaner, bread winner, laundry specialist, chef, lover, friend, daughter, sister and so on.

No wonder it is a hard job and why so many women feel sad following a birth.

Not only do they have to adapt to a new and demanding role, they often have to lose some of their old lives and selves. In short, it is possible to lose sight of who they once were.

The other phenonomen that I have observed not only in myself but other women and mothers I have cared for, is how raw their feelings can be following birth and how much emotional pain can be felt for other people. I want to quote Annie Lennox who sums Motherhood up beautifully and succinctly.

annie lennox

“Motherhood was the great equaliser for me; I started to identify with everybody….as a mother, you have that impulse to wish that no child should ever be hurt, or abused, or go hungry, or not have opportunities in life”.

Perhaps this is also the kind of pain that ‘God’ refers to in Genesis in the bible, who knows.

I think that it is OK to feel different after giving birth and it’s OK to feel sad for a while.

It’s only when that sadness goes on and on and there is no joy, that maybe counselling and therapy or just talking to someone is necessary.

J.D. Salinger in the book Catcher in the Rye suggests that “Mothers are all slightly insane”. I agree that some women and mothers are possibly aat risk of losing their minds, but at the same time are finding them.

I end with the words of Margaret Sanger who said…

“No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”

*”Eve” means life or living