Depleted: Understanding Motherhood as Part of the Heroine’s Journey

Two women talking to Photo: Rachel Mandel

I recently came across this article on my Facebook news feed about postnatal depletion.

The brief post on “Goop” caught my attention right away – “Consider this: If you’ve had a child within the last decade, you might still be suffering some consequences—lethargy, memory disturbances, and poor energy levels, among other symptoms. “  Those other symptoms include “frustration, overwhelm and a sense of not coping.”  I thought – oh my goodness – yes!  This is me!

Okay – Truth:  I may be going through somewhat of an identity crisis as I continue to try and figure out how to be a wife, a mom, an employee and myself all at the same time.  To complicate matters, I still am trying to figure out this concept of “myself” – because, quite frankly, I don’t recognize myself.

For example –

A couple of weeks ago at work…  I went to run an errand and then take some documents to my supervisor down the street.    Shortly after I had driven away, I realized I had left the documents in my office.

While I will concede that this one infraction is a minor blip – the part that concerns me is that this happens all.of.the.time.

I had the frightening thought later that day that I’m not completing any of my responsibilities well or to the best of my ability.  And that is simply not the me that I know.  I feel that all of the parts that make up my whole are scattered and bent.

The article later suggests that one of the contributing factors to post-natal depletion has to do with “a perceived notion that the mother has to be “everything” and as result many mothers suffer in silence and are not receiving education, information, or support. Multi-generational support groups for mothers have been part of indigenous cultures for millennium though they are sadly absent in our post-industrial culture.”

This makes sense to me.  When it comes to support, there are few avenues that offer unbiased, non-judgmental support for working mothers in either the casual or professional sense.

When discussing some of the lovely aspects of being a parent – coming to work with poop on my dress (this has happened); sleep deprivation due to ear infections – with friends and colleagues who are childless, sometimes I feel as though the response is a smirk-ish “This is what you get for getting knocked up.”

Conversely, when communicating with other mothers there is a push to compare, one-up or “mom-shame” that seems to take precedent over camaraderie.

While my negative (and albeit self-pitying) musings leave little room for hope, the author does end the article with a multi-step recovery program that includes proper nutrition, healthy sleep and realization described as  “understanding motherhood as part of the heroine’s journey and discovering self-actualization through this process.”

And with that, moving forward, all I can do is try to be cognizant and find my inner heroine.

…That is, if I remember.

Lily Gieryn | Lily is a social worker, a mom, a wife who likes to eat apples and bananas, play peekaboo and will occasionally make it to work on time