Image: Abby Grace
Today’s post is one I feel so strongly about – it’s a topic that I don’t feel we do enough to talk about openly in our country: postpartum depression. Most of the stuff you read online or the way they portray motherhood on TV/movies is a partial truth. It’s not all magical butterflies & rainbows. It’s not always this instant love affair. It’s hard. It’s life changing. It’s confusing. It’s challenging. Now fast forward this life changing event to the time when you start to attempt to run your business again, while home full time with a child – and well, things don’t get magically easier, they get harder, and more complicated.
Today’s post was not written by me, it was written by a dear friend that wished to remain anonymous. Her messages & experience is so important though and so I felt compelled to share it here, with the hopes that it could potentially help even just one other Mompreneur out there that might be struggling. So enough from me … here goes one of the most important posts I have ever shared.
Life of a Mompreneur Vol 10: Running Your Business with Postpartum Depression
Let me start out this post with a suggestion: don’t do what I did and hope you can tough your way through this. Make this a priority for yourself and your family, and get some help (whatever help means to you.) Even if you wonder if you even have depression, even if you know you don’t and you just need a way to express the craziness of how your life is different now – share your struggle so that the people who love you can support you. I’m obviously not a therapist or a medical professional, I’m just sharing my personal limited experience.
During pregnancy, you start to hear the words postpartum depression floated around. Your doctor or midwife mentions the ways they’ll use to evaluate your mental health, and how you should try and examine your own thoughts to see the difference between sheer exhaustion and a deeper problem. You’re told that everyone has their own emotional response to the deeply personal experience of having a baby, and that you should try hard not to judge your reactions as a new parent against anything you “should” be feeling or “should” have done differently. They say it’s going to be hard but you are enough, and that you should never hesitate to get seek help if you feel overwhelmed.
I have always had a mercurial temperament, which seems to be an artistic thing – big highs and lows, generally huge enthusiasm for new projects, and not a lot of patience. Before we even decided to try and have children, my husband and I looked at some of the red flags there and knew stay at home, full-time parenting wouldn’t be a good fit for me. As we had no resources to cover the cost of childcare, we knew that at least at first I’d have to muddle through being both a stay-at-home parent AND keep running my business.
So once our son was born, we started going about the business of surviving the newborn period. And it really went just fine. My son grew, my husband and I tried our best to support eachother and navigate this new normal. I reacted in a typical way to the craziness of my hormones and it made me pretty emotional, but it was nothing we weren’t told to expect and it seemed fine. We could handle it. Right?
The problems became obvious slowly, because over time we noticed that I just wasn’t feeling better. Once I relaunched and started to take new clients, the frustration of not being able to take care of business grew. I wanted to launch new products, services, and a rebrand I was excited about, and at every turn felt I was not getting anything done. I realized I was starting every single email I wrote with an apology for it taking longer to respond than I would have preferred. The mountain of work in front of every day piled higher, the mess in my office became unbearable, and I also became unbearable to my family. There were many days where I was upset or felt defeated before I’d even managed to get out of bed. Answering a simple email felt like a herculean task, and when you’re a business team of one it is very easy to fall behind.
Small business owners can be especially susceptible to depression or generally poor mental health because they often work in isolation, and they need to plan and perform a huge variety of roles within their business just to tread water. While there are many benefits to working from home, there is also the added stress of feeling like you never escape your work if you can’t mentally separate yourself. My business was like another baby, and it needed all my energy and care to grow. I felt like a bad parent on two fronts, and saw no way to move forward.
I wish I could tell you that all that past tense above meant I have found a great solution and that I feel amazing now, and that I never work on nights or weekends because I’ve found this amazing balance that works for me. In reality, things are very much the same a year later, except my son can now run and naps for less than half the time – you can imagine the positive impact this has had on my work schedule.
After some self-reflection, many meltdowns, and more sleepless nights that I would like to admit, I can see that my problem is less motherhood itself and more the enormous/impossible task of being a full-time mom running a small business. The few things that are making a difference for me:
- More communication with my husband: I’m used to being “the boss” because that role suits my personality, but what that also meant was that I was the mental workhorse in our house. I carry the mental weight of all the meal planning, scheduling the bills, coordinating schedules + our social calendar, and generally moving us forward. When I started to feel overwhelmed by my business + my son, handling all of those things felt like insult added to injury and I got very resentful. After a few unreasonable explosions on my part, I realized that my husband couldn’t understand what I was dealing with until he had more information – now he works on helping me carry those tasks.
- Setting realistic expectations: This is still a work in progress, but as Bree has written about before there’s just a cap on what is possible for my time right now. To get the most satisfaction out of my day, I need to figure out how to maximize this space without pushing myself over the edge.
- Adjusting my business policies and procedures based on reality: For now this is the real life of my business. I can’t still have policies that assume I am getting a solid 10 hour workday in 5 days a week when in reality I get 2-3 hours of piecemeal time weekdays, and 3-5 hours of chopped up time on weekend days. And yes, that means I don’t get that time to spend with my husband or my son.
- Honesty: Above all this means being realistic with my clients and other vendors when my calendar is full. It also means that when I am overwhelmed and need help, I do my best to ask for it.
If you’re feeling this way too, please know you’re not alone. I am doing my best to make small adjustments that make day-to-day feel almost like progress, and in the background I try to plan bigger moves. Seeing a therapist is on my to-do list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I find talking to people I don’t know very well exhausting, so support groups on their own seem unlikely to be helpful. I’m leaning hard on my family, and I’m trying to be patient. Some days that’s really all I can do.