All My Worldly Joy

By Laura Richmond

A memoir of motherhood and mental health.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Locked down mothering.

Hello everyone,

After confidently asserting in my last update that I was on the mend after CoViD and picking things up again, I've had a bit of a setback. This seems to be how it goes. Snakes and ladders. Greetings from my bed.

We've had a flurry of book pledges after one of my tweets went semi-viral last weekend, so now just a smidge off 63%. Getting there! I must remember to promote the book whenever I have a popular tweet in future. It does happen occasionally. Twitter is strange: sometimes you tweet thinking "this content is gold, the people will love this" and the entire internet rolls their eyes and scrolls on by; and other times you fire off something stupid without much thought and then your phone pings constantly for three days. I've been very thankful for the prolonged CoViD peer support on Twitter recently. This is happening to a lot of people, so much for your 'mild, flu-like illness'. Anyway, thank you and welcome to all the new supporters. Lockdown parenting solidarity.

This is such a weird time to be a parent, and I'm especially thinking of those who are expectant and new parents right now: the increased isolation, reduced support, health anxiety, so much uncertainty and fear around... We've just come to the end of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, which always does a wonderful job of promoting support available to mums but has felt more needed than ever this year. I'm currently embarking on a project with Mind, rooted in the perinatal peer support principles. We'll be supporting people to get remote perinatal peer support delivery off the ground, whether that's brand new initiatives or transforming pre-existing peer support to be accessible remotely. Watch this space.

[illustration for the peer support principles by Carys Tate]

In general, though, I feel a huge amount of frustration. There is so much to do and so much need - not just parents, but people struggling with their mental health and with all sorts of impossible situations. MadCovid, for example, are doing incredible work, and I want to join in! People are approaching me all the time and asking me to contribute to this or that or the other, and I really want to help, but at the same time I'm in the throes of this endless, draining, unpredictable disease, and I'm in lockdown with a six-year-old whom I'm somehow supposed to be educating while also working full time. I'm constantly pushing myself to get the basics done with varying degrees of success, and I feel like I'm letting everyone down at once. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Not very much writing happening at the moment.

Anyway, one other thing I'm hoping to be able to share with you soon is a piece of work - Health Education England call it a 'thought piece' but it's essentially research with added reflection - about peer support in NHS perinatal mental health services. At the moment, mums using these services don't have equal access to peer support and there's enormous variation across the country in terms of how peer workers are established and supported, so we've made some recommendations based on conversations with peer workers and clinical staff. I'll share the link with you once it's up on HEE's website. 

You might also be interested in reading my blog post about evaluating MumsAid, a charity who offer counselling to new mums in Greenwich. It was such an emotional experience. It really brought home the importance of specialist perinatal support rather than generic mental health IAPT-type stuff and how peer-to-peer research is always the best research. MumsAid do fantastic work and have just celebrated their 8th birthday. We're currently working together on some research looking at improving access to support for mums across the borough.

And finally, just to reiterate - if your kids are not doing much schoolwork, watching a lot of YouTube, eating freezer tapas, and/or driving you absolutely batshit, that's OK. We are surviving a crisis. If you feel guilty right now, I bet you're actually doing brilliantly in an impossible situation.


Laura x

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