Today is R U OK day. A national day dedicated to reminding people to ask those around them, “Are you ok?” and actually listening to the answers. It was created to help educate the community to try and recognise the signs of people around them who may be struggling a bit with life and encouraging them to get help.
According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 6 Australians are currently suffering from depression, anxiety or both. That’s the equivalent of around 3.2 million people. It’s a big number.
Parents these days seem to have so much societal pressure to be amazing at everything. How many ads do you see that show these amazing mums (and dads) who have fulfilling careers, a huge circle of friends, spend heaps of time with their family, volunteer at school and kids sports, and still have time to make a fabulous healthy dinner every night and go for a breezy run around the block? Having it all, and having to do it all seems to be the great thing to do. Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
As mums we always seem to be trying to balance everything and live up to this great expectation that if we were just a bit more organised, we too could have it all. But let’s face it, if a person is made up of 100% energy, then every time you give something of yourself to each aspect of your life, eventually that 100% is all taken up. If you want an area of your life to get given more energy, it must get taken from something else. And most of the time, the area that gets taken from is the time given to concentrating on yourself, which can affect your mental health.
I struggled after the birth of our second child, because I believed I needed to keep doing all this stuff, be a great mother to my kids, still be an equal partner with my husband, keep the business I had running and growing, have a house that looked like someone actually took care of it, all on no sleep because my daughter woke up every 2 hours until she was 10 months old (when she went to about 4 hours). I felt guilty when I wasn’t concentrating on the business because I’d had no sleep the night before and then when I did get some work done because the baby was sleeping I felt like I should have been worrying about cleaning the house or trying to get in a half hour nap myself so I wasn’t a complete zombie when hubby got home. My husband kept telling me not to worry about stuff like the house because it didn’t matter, but then I felt bad because he had to take up more slack after being out of the house for 12 hours. It’s ridiculous to think something in me wasn’t going to crack.
We need to start being realistic. Betty Friedan was an American writer with a quote of “You can have it all, just not all at the same time”. It’s a great thought, because using the 100% analogy from before, if we had it all then every aspect of our lives would be divided equally and happily. I don’t know anyone like that.
At certain points in our lives, some aspects become more important. Maybe it’s your career for a while, other times family takes over. And we need to recognise the fact that that’s ok, and to make sure that we’re not trying to give more than our 100% just because we feel guilty about another aspect of our lives. My house now looks covered in toys, because I no longer pick up after the kids (they’re old enough at 3 and 5 to do it themselves), the washing isn’t always folded the day it’s done (yesterdays washing is still on the line) because I decided that I wasn’t going to feel guilty about house stuff anymore. It’ll get done, but other priorities are more important most of the time. And now if it comes down to having 10 minutes to myself to rest and recharge, or fold a load of washing, then I get my time. The world won’t end if the kid’s clothes aren’t in their drawers (and chances are hubby won’t find his jeans no matter where they are).
So on this R U OK day, and every other day, I’d ask you to look around at the people in your circle, friends, family, colleagues, even the other parents at school drop off, and see if anything’s changed. Ask how they’re going, and really listen to the answer. See if their trying to juggle too many balls at once. You never know, but taking 10 minutes out of your day to check up on someone could be just what they needed to help them in their day.
If you think someone around you needs some help but aren’t sure how to start the conversation, R U OK has some great resources.