I’m a mother of two girls, currently aged 5 and 9. My struggles with mental illness have been going on longer than they’ve been around. They’ve always had a mum who has mental health problems.
When I’m well, raising them is pretty easy. They’re amazing kids, most of the time they’re very well-behaved, self-sufficient, and generally ‘easy’. Even their rougher patches are fairly easy to deal with – more often than not, problems are resolved with a quiet chat and a hug, or a wee bit of time out.
When I’m not so well, things are harder. Sometimes I’m so on edge that I snap at the smallest of things. Sometimes I can’t cope with anything, and the only way to deal with life is to withdraw for a while. Sometimes I just can’t get myself up off the couch to do anything. None of these things is any good when you’ve got two little girls to care for.
There are two things that make it manageable. The first is good support and help with their needs – these days this is from my partner, but before we were together this came from my mum or my friends. The second is talking to the girls. Much as I don’t want their lives to be marred by my mental illness the way mine was by my stepmother’s, I can’t change who I am. But if I talk to them, tell them what is going on (in an age-appropriate way), and apologise for the things I do wrong (snapping at them, or collapsing in tears for no reason), then maybe they won’t be scarred by it the way I was.
Parenting through mental illness is a unique challenge, but I have two lovely girls that I can be very proud of, despite my own illness. We’re making it work.