When was the last time someone really asked?
‘I’m good thanks, how are you?’, the standard response we all give to anyone when they ask how we are. If we’re being totally honest here, the amount of time required and detail needed to give that question the attention it deserves is way over what the question bearer wanted to know and actually, we don’t particularly want to spend that much time talking about ourselves. Why is that though? I’m not talking acquaintances and colleagues, I’m talking about our family and friends. I certainly don’t want to be brushed off when I’m asking a friend how they are. We can all spend a little extra time listening, right or is it much more than that?
So is ‘How are you?’ not really a question worth saying? This months discussion was fuelled by a desire to interact but a compulsion to brush things off. How are we? As employees? As partners? As mothers? As people? Each aspect is a conversation in it’s own right and its unlikely that we are all ‘good’ in every respect.
Charlotte Naughton (2018) writes here about the ‘perfect mother’ and the pressures associated with maintaining a certain profile. Whilst 2019 sees a magnitude of mum blogs, websites, films that demonstrate a much more realistic picture, we are often quick to compare with known friends and acquaintances as real life models. If everyone around you seems to be okay, does that mean you should be too?
A friend of mine recently told a story about her mother-in-law completely ignoring her when she came to stay after flying in to ‘help-out’ after she gave birth. She arrived and promptly proceeded to remove the baby from the mothers arms without even saying hello? My friend was a little taken aback but the full gravity of her gesture only sunk in a few weeks after she’d had the baby. She wasn’t regarded as important or worth asking about. As much as she (of course) loved her daughter, her needs and wishes were ignored. She says she often thinks about that moment of being brushed aside and how confidence damaging it was for the first year of her baby’s life. The focus should be wholly on them and not on her.
Our activity this month centered around positioning ourselves on various scales with statements such as ‘I’ve been thinking clearly’, ‘I’ve been feeling good about myself’ & ‘I’ve been feeling optimistic about the future’. Most of us regarded ourselves as middle to low on the scales. Taking the time to think about our needs and happiness is often regarded as not as important as those closest to us. Mum guilt and shame seems to raise its head and some even suggested it was a defence strategy for not having to really think about how we feel.
Aside from varying degrees of health-visitor questioning and a 6 week check with your doctor, medical professionals just kind of leave you to it. Which, by most accounts, is probably fine and you are probably fine but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are okay either. The NHS says ‘Tell your doctor if you are feeling sad or anxious – looking after a baby can sometimes feel overwhelming. Don't feel you have to struggle alone or put on a brave face. It's not a sign that you are a bad mother. You need to get help, as you may have postnatal depression' (read more here). Whilst essential if you do have postnatal depression there are a plethora of other conditions that you might be suffering from; PTSD, anxiety, sleep-deprivation to name a few. Does a fifteen appointment cover the necessaries if you need it? Mind outlines a number of things to look out for in others, questions we can ask or identify in ourselves.
Doctors aside, has anyone else asked you how you are? Partners, family members, friends? As mums we are quick to dismiss the question but perhaps instead of avoiding the truth, we could be honest or suggest another time to talk, when you feel able? We all agreed that we should ask more, listen more and be more honest because saying ‘I’m fine’ doesn’t mean you are.