It’s the only job in the world where you don’t need to apply or sit through an interview.
There’s no-one to convince that you’re the right person for the role, but when it comes to parenthood, it’s all-consuming.
Nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights, swirling hormones, sick-covered clothes and the constant worry that you’re doing the right thing.
So, what can you do to help yourself when the going gets tough?
Make Sure Someone’s On Your Side
Ask someone close to you to be your advocate, whether that’s your partner, your mum or your best friend, make sure someone you trust is on your side.
I struggled with my mental health when I was pregnant with Grace and postnatal depression almost broke me after she arrived. So, I knew I was at risk of it returning if I ever had another baby.
That’s why I sat down and spoke to my husband about my fears before we even tried for another baby.
Sometimes, when you’re in a dark place, it can be impossible to see just how low you are, so we agreed he would tell me if he was worried about me and I would listen and get help if needed.
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
I only thought I knew what exhausted was before I became a mum.
Until Grace arrived, I had no idea that it was possible to fall asleep standing up (I’m not exaggerating) – sleep deprivation is a recognised method of torture and now I know why.
It can be almost impossible to get proper rest, especially in the early days, but it’s absolutely crucial to get as much down time as you can.
My mental well-being and ability to cope with the normal day-to-day ups and downs definitely takes a hit when I’m tired.
So, my advice to you is to recruit friends to look after the little one for an hour or two, try to turn a blind eye to the dust in the house, stockpile food in the freezer, do whatever it takes to get through.
Call The Midwife
It might not come naturally, but it’s absolutely essential that you speak to your doctors and midwives if you’re finding things hard or if you have a history of mental ill health.
They may not always react like you expect and that’s why number one on this list is so important – your chosen advocate can be your voice and make sure you get the help you need if you can’t fight for it yourself.
And don’t forget, if you do find yourself in a position where you need medication to cope, that’s all right – there are antidepressants that are safe to take during pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
The Power of Social Media
More often than not, the dark times happen in the middle of the night when there’s no-one around to pick you up and that’s when social media comes into its own.
There are countless groups on Facebook for a range of issues like postnatal depression, how to wean your allergy baby and even where to find the best outfits when you’re breastfeeding.
They can be an invaluable source of information and support, and the best part, they’re never closed.
So, if you find yourself at 3am, wondering why your baby won’t stop screaming or how you’re going to get through the night, there will be someone out there ready to offer a listening ear.
Self-Care is Key
I was at the hairdresser recently for my bi-annual hair cut (I wish I was being facetious), and I was asked whether I use hair masks.
I laughed – clearly the young and trendy stylist in front of me was not a mum.
“I’m lucky if I get a shower,” was my response.
Again, I wasn’t being flippant, but as a self-employed mum of two with a limited support network and a husband who works long and irregular hours, finding time for me is more than a little bit challenging, if not impossible at times.
And yet, it is so, so important for your mental health that every now and again you stop, take a breath and try to remember who you were before you became a mum.
I know how hard it is, but let me coin a phrase my husband says to me frequently when I’m resisting the chance to do something just for me – ‘fit your own mask first’.
Love reading trashy novels? Take half an hour with your favourite book while your husband nurses the little one.
Been a long day at home alone with a screaming baby? Take the dog for walk when your other half comes home from work – the fresh air will do your head the world of good.
Feeling frazzled and worn out? Make an appointment to get your hair done.
Of course you love your little one (more than you ever thought possible) but it’s okay to put yourself first every once in a while.
Mum and Tots
There is now a whole industry out there offering any number of activities for your little people.
Baby sensory, rhythm and rhyme, baby massage, swimming classes, the list is endless.
Each one is created to help your baby’s development, whether that’s hand eye co-ordination or building social skills, but they can also be an invaluable source of support for mums too.
After all, no-one knows what it’s like to get by on two hours of broken sleep better than another tired mama going through exactly the same thing.
Look at these classes as an opportunity to get out of the house and spend time with other adults who won’t roll their eyes and tut when your baby screams non-stop for 15 minutes.
If you have a question to which you don’t know the answer, like how to clear up that particularly nasty nappy rash or what’s the best remedy for teething, there’s bound to be someone who can help.
Think of the virtual advice I mentioned earlier but instead of talking to someone through a screen, they are real, live actual people who might even become life-long friends.
You Are Enough
Despite everything I have said above, there will be times when it all becomes too much.
I think any mama who claims she has never once stopped and wondered whether she is cut out for this job is telling a lie.
When this happens, it’s crucial to remember that you are enough.
We’re all just trying to muddle through without messing up these wonderful little human beings we’ve brought into the world.
And remember – nothing lasts forever, whatever phase your baby is going through, it will come to an end.
I remember when my daughter was just a few weeks old and suffering terribly from reflux, sobbing and saying I couldn’t do this for 18 years – I actually felt like I had been stupid to believe that I could cope with being a mum.
Of course, she was never going to scream for 18 years but when I was in the middle of it, I felt like it would never stop.
But we did get through it and I know that whatever being a mum throws at you, you will too.