New Delhi: Motherhood and its inherent primary role of caregiving, putting welfare and well-being of children and family first involves not only love, care and compassion but also sacrifice. More often than not moms don’t have the time or energy to indulge in self-care. According to a recent survey, mothers put their health and well-being at the end of the list because they juggle many roles such as caregiver, spouse, homemaker, employee, and daughter-in-law among several others. Each of these roles requires the utmost mental presence and that is bound to take a heavy toll on their mental health.
Dr Amit Sen, Psychiatrist, Director and Founder of Children First, a mental health institute, tells NDTV that in our society mental health is not taken as a priority, particularly for women. He explains,
Women have to handle and manage so many different things it doesn’t come to their conscious minds to address their mental health in a deliberate way. Increasingly with time, the role of women and mothers in society, especially in urban areas, is changing. From being a housewife living in a joint family to getting lots of support from the community and the family, most families today are nuclear. So they have to wear different hats, many of them are working, they have to look after their children, they have to look after their households, all of this is on their shoulders. This balancing act can be quite tricky.
Dr Sen further highlights that the biggest problem is when things go wrong, responsibility comes to the mother.
If you notice, when children succeed, they do well in studies or sports, everybody congratulates the whole family – father, mother, grandparents. However, when something doesn’t go well or goes wrong, it’s the mother who gets blamed.
Dr Sen also says that society has raised the standards of parenting and childhood in such a way that the burden ultimately falls on mothers’ shoulders. This aspect too, he says, negatively impacts their mental health.
Some people say that for mothers, guilt is often their middle name. They often live with guilt because something or the other is not working quite right. I think the parenting industry has set all these standards about whether it is child development or it is quality of parenting or what kind of parenting, with numerous workshops and books. If you go to a kid’s store and look at the kind of equipment and gadgets you get now to look after your kids. In many ways, that’s consumerism. However, it builds the pressure because every parent has to have perfect kids, who look wonderful in photos and we can share on social media. We want kids from whom teachers always have good things to talk about or those who are doing well in some sport or art or game or studies. That pressure of helping children perform comes on the mother. That can be really overwhelming and result in an immense amount of stress that can lead to serious mental health issues, Dr Sen added.
No mother is perfect and I think we should see it as such, Dr Sen concluded.
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Dr Tina Gupta, a Delhi-based Psychiatrist, and Psychotherapist working specifically with women, children, and adolescents, says that a child’s healthy development depends on their parents as children are extremely impressionable. She added,
Especially mothers because they serve as their first source of support. Therefore, it is imperative for mothers to turn to various coping tools to maintain their mental health, and self care is the primary tool that can help. Taking ‘me’ time, engaging in hobbies, exercising, meditation, and therapy are all some of the ways to practice self care. It is important for mothers to remember that they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves and should make self-care and mental health a priority.
Lastly, Dr Gupta says that it is completely okay to feel overwhelmed as mothers juggle multiple aspects of motherhood and womanhood, each and every woman goes through societal and patriarchal pressures and bias. However, it is important to prioritise yourself as well as your mental and physical health in order to be able to raise children who excel in life, she said.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.