Do you ever get to the end of a day and feel like motherhood is a race? I must admit that I do. And it’s not a quick 100 meter sprint – over before you realise. It’s one of those long marathons… that can be both something we always dream of doing and something that’s totally overwhelming and beyond us.
I’m not a runner, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve watched as friends have trained for a half-marathon. And I’ve noticed something that all of them have done – TRAIN.
Unlike a 5km fun run – which even I managed to do (once – see proof in the picture above!) with minimal training – you can’t front up and just run a marathon.
You need to have a plan for how you’re going to mentally and physically tackle the race. You need to put in weeks and weeks of training. And you need a support crew around you – not only cheering you on but also being there with snacks and water.
Watching a close friend prepare for an upcoming half-marathon got me thinking. If more of us approached motherhood like a marathon, we’d probably enter into it a lot more prepared.
For those of us with a mental illness, fronting up to motherhood without having put in the necessary preparation is as unwise as expecting to run 25 or 50km without conditioning your body.
So here it is, my three tips for training for the “marathon” of motherhood:
Have a plan
Your pregnancy, birth and first few months of your baby’s life may not be a trigger for a relapse of your Bipolar Disorder. But research shows that this is an incredibly vulnerable time for women like us. Make sure you tell your obstetrician and hospital about your condition – and make time to write Bipolar Disorder Action Plan with your psychologist or psychiatrist. This will help you and your family to know what steps to take if you become unwell – and what the plans are to ensure your wishes for the care of you, your baby (and any other children) and home are, where possible, respected.
Get in some training
Haven’t had much to do with babies or children? Now is the time to get as much hands-on experience as possible. Offer to babysit your nieces and nephews, or hang out with a friend who has had a baby. Talk to friends and family about the day-to-day reality of being a mum – ask for the “warts and all” version, not the “Hollywood” show reel.
You want to feel as confident as possible when embarking on the marathon of motherhood. Already a mum and feel unsure about your parenting skills? Enrol in a parenting course – or ask your GP or local council if they can recommend a support group. Don’t leave it until you’re at crisis point to ask for help. You wouldn’t expect yourself to run a marathon with no training, so don’t expect yourself to throw yourself into motherhood without giving yourself the same courtesy.
Gather a support crew
Motherhood is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever do. But it’s also one of the most draining, frustrating and – at times – tiring things too. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is so true. It’s important to have people you can rely on to help if needed. Whether this is a supportive partner, family, friends or a church, you need to know that someone is there for you as a mum. It’s important that there’s a handful of people in your support crew know what your key triggers are, what symptoms to look out for and what action to take if you become unwell. They also need to know what’s in your Bipolar Action Plan – and how they can support you if you become unwell.
Motherhood isn’t a short sprint – it’s a marathon. Whether you have Bipolar Disorder or not, it makes sense to get yourself as prepared as possible. That way, you can embark on your motherhood journey feeling confident in yourself and your ability to juggle both motherhood and your own health and well-being.
PS. Do you have any tips to share with women with Bipolar Disorder who are preparing for motherhood?