Author: Ashley Witkins
My parenting journey started in 2010, but it wasn’t until my second child, born in 2014, when my mental health started to decline. Shortly after my second son’s first birthday, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Since 2015 I have been on this journey of recovery and motherhood cohabitation and what a time it’s been! As nurturers by nature, we mothers often find ourselves being torn in several different directions, especially when it comes to our styles of parenting. As hard as that is on its own, now add your moods into the mix. I have often wondered if I have been projecting my anxieties and moods onto my children, and I’m sure I am not the only one who worries about this. I often question, “Do they witness the difference in my moods?” It’s a constantly rotating question that cycles in and out of my unconscious overthinking.
Just like there’s no guide to raising children, there is no manual to help navigate motherhood and mental illness. My biggest fear has always been that my motherhood journey would be altered by my mental illness. That it would take away from me being the best mom I can be for my kids. But I was graciously humbled and learned that it gave me a different outlook on my parenting.
My mental health challenges have taught me to allow my children to resonate with their own emotions. I have knowledge and can help them navigate these feelings in a safe environment, and this security fills my heart with joy. I give them the opportunity to ask questions as to why they may be feeling the way they are feeling and how to engage in a healthier resolution has been a journey – but a gratifying journey nonetheless.
Now back to the question – “Do they witness the differences in my moods?” I’m almost certain they do, but as we all know, we can not shield our children from everything. Allowing them to see that I’m perfectly imperfect is something I think they need to witness, understand, and process, so they grow in the light that mental health is health. Allowing them to be a part of my recovery shows them that we are strong. Their wellbeing indeed makes me fight harder when trying to push myself out of an episode, whether it be manic or depressive.
I will not allow this societal narrative of shame and stigma around mental health penetrate my parenting. It’s my choice to decide how I engage in the conversation of mental wellbeing with my children. And if you are not ready to take that step within your parenting journey or never want to take that step, that’s the beauty of A JOURNEY. You have the ability to make it what you want.
We are all in this together, both figuratively and physically. There is no one size fits all option when it comes to mental health or mothering, but that’s ok! It takes time to know and understand how you want to parent and what parenting style fits your family. We, as mothers, know what’s best for our families, so we act on that accordingly. Just be patient with yourself, we’ve got this. Motherhood is a forever ride, so learning from your mistakes and making strides to better the journey is an important step towards motherhood and a gracious step towards your recovery.