Have you ever wondered what it’s really like for other parents? What is happening behind the scenes of those cute little Instagram photos or the matching outfits? (Super adorable, but seriously, how do they have time for that?)
Over the past couple of years, I have found myself wondering what it would’ve been like to parent without postnatal depression and anxiety clouding my vision of motherhood.
I have often wished that I had some of that time over again and wondered whether it would’ve been different. Regardless, I am thankful that through the darkest stages of my depression, I was able to find my voice and use music as a method to connect with my newborn.
I hope that sharing my experiences helps others find their voice also.
Postnatal depression doesn’t discriminate
Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of their gender, age, experience, ethnicity, education or socio-economic status. One in seven mothers experience postnatal depression or anxiety.
If you are one of those seven, I hope you can feel solidarity from what I share. I hope that sharing my own experience can help reduce the stigma that is often attached to mental health concerns.
Music can help
Despite not remembering much from the early stages of parenting without the prompting of photographs, I can clearly remember my mother imploring me to sing.
While I knew that music is an excellent tool for childhood development and bonding between mother and child, this was not at the forefront of my mind as my anxiety had clouded my mind.
It was this reminder that helped me make it through some challenging moments by forming an unbreakable bond with my baby.
Here’s a combination of the advice my wise mother gave me as well as some of my own in hindsight.
1. Sing to your child, they don’t care what your voice sounds like
It’s the fact that it is your voice. For as long as he could hear he has heard your voice. It is his safe space.
2. Singing will help calm your child
Singing will not only calm my baby, but it can help keep you calm too.
If the baby crying is making you feel on edge, singing can help you keep calm so you can focus on his needs.
3. If you can say it, you can sing it!
Tell him what you are doing as you are doing it in song. Make up your own lyrics to pre-existing songs about what you are doing or improvise your own songs about the daily activities or your feelings.
4. Don’t be afraid to look silly
There’s nothing wrong with singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight at the top of your lungs with your toddler in Woolworths.
There’s nothing wrong with singing to your baby in the middle of a busy shopping centre.
5. Play recorded music
When you need a break, don’t be afraid to play recorded music to help settle the baby for sleep or so you can have a few minutes to use the bathroom alone!
It constantly surprises me how many times my child will happily listen to the same song over and over again enabling me to have some down time.
6. Sing anything
Sometimes it doesn’t actually matter what you sing. It is the fact that you are singing and connecting with your child.
Your child is craving connection and music helps facilitate this.
Music helps you bond and connect
Music is such a big part of my toddler’s life now, which is no surprise as I am a music teacher and musician. However, I feel as though music was the third wheel in our relationship that made bonding and connection possible.
Music was the glue that held my family together when I was at my most vulnerable. While I did not feel comfortable expressing myself to mental health professionals, I felt comfortable participating in music groups with other mothers.
I was vulnerable, but I hid behind my mask by dressing up in cute matching outfits.
You are not alone
I leave you with this, if you are one of the seven and cannot find your voice, that’s ok. Take it one step at a time, find your courage to come to our groups and participate in music with the guidance of the group leaders.
Listen to the Friday Jams on the Kids Music Beat Facebook page and sing along with your child.
Regardless of how you are travelling mental health wise, use music to connect with your children and form strong bonds that last a lifetime.