Surviving and growing from perinatal depression and anxiety

Welcome to The Motherhood Project!

The Motherhood Project is made up of a series of ventures to get mothers talking a little bit more honestly to each other, to make PND more acceptable to talk about, to accept that motherhood is hard work and sad and mundane as well as rewarding and fun, to make motherhood more natural, for us women to trust our bodies and our instincts.

The need to talk honestly about motherhood is strong, so women are empowered, united, and don’t feel so alone for feeling how they do. With ‘mummy wars’ raging and the media racing to pit parenting styles against another (think breast/formula!), its time to adopt a more supportive approach.

The writers at The Motherhood Project have united to create the collaborative and supportive environment we want to see more of! We parent differently, we have different beliefs and values, yet we are all great parents raising awesome families.

The Motherhood Project is about taking down the brave face we mothers seem so determined to put on. It’s about meeting the needs of our children (sometimes at the expense of our own needs) so we can raise healthy, secure children. It’s about looking after ourselves so we can be the best mother/partner/wife/daughter/sister/co-worker we can be.

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  • Life as a Mother

    How are we parenting?

    This article was first published in Mammazine: Call me Mum! – available from Amazon.    How are we parenting? By Ashlee Sturme Before you had children, did you have many preconceived ideas on how you would raise your children? Was it as simple as, “I don’t want to be like my parents” or “I really liked how my mum and dad bought me up in this way.”? Did you see other children, and think, “my children will never do that.”? Had you decided that your children would be well-mannered, never watch tv, call you by your first name, vegans, lawyers-in-training, and that you wouldn’t smack, you’d make sure they always wore a sweatshirt in the cold, and you would be a fun parent that let the kids do what they wanted? I did. I had a few ideas. I had done over 500 hours of babysitting (I knew this because I had to put this on an au pair application!). I was then a nanny for a short time. I had siblings. I thought I was well equipped to become a mother. But I never knew about parenting styles. Traditionally, you’ll find most resources refer to a set of 3 parenting styles: Authoritarian parenting – where the parents are in control (“because I said so”) and have an expectation of obedience. Authoritive parenting – where there are rules and expectations but a bit more lenience and nurturing rather than punishment. Permissive parenting – where the parents have very little rules or even control over their children, children self-regulate their behaviour, and parents are more like friends. There are several versions of these styles, with names which include jellyfish parent, sergeant, democratic, coach, and non-directive. And there is the one which attracts the most judgment, and that is attachment parenting. I think to look at how we are parenting, we need to look at the ‘why’ are we parenting? Why have we had this baby? To control a mini-me? Or to raise kind, caring, generous children, who will make a positive contribution to this word, while we unite in a mutually-benefit and rewarding relationship? And so, if we have made the decision to have a child, then won’t we bring up this child to meet their needs, wholly and explicitly? From the moment of conception, when we give up our bodies, don’t we make the sacrifices that make us a ‘mother’? After all, it is from that moment that we pass up the ham sandwiches, go to the toilet 15 times a day, and start to plan the beginning of our new lives. If you are going to be a parent, then you are giving up yourself as an individual. Not forever, that’s for sure. And not entirely, because you are YOU and you need to foster that. But certainly for pregnancy and early infanthood, you are no longer a woman, but a mother. You have become the most important role in the world. So we’ve worked out the ‘why’. We want to raise children. WANT, being the operative word. We have committed to dedicating our time, our finances, our patience and our whole beings to raising a little human or two. Most of us want to raise children who are respectful, caring, confident. We want our children to be self-sufficient, understanding of the world around therm. We want them to embrace culture and new ideas. We want them to believe they can be anything, and we want our children to be true to themselves, and to be happy. We want our children to make decisions that are best for themselves…
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  • You don’t see the reality behind my child’s autism…

    You see him spitting on the playground, but you don’t see that my child has only just learnt to talk. Aged 5. You see him screaming at me, refusing to get into the car, you don’t see his tears of frustration because he didn’t get to swim at school today. You see him chatting to me after school, you didn’t see him hiding under the desk in the classroom when it was too loud for him to cope. You see him playing on the playground, you don’t see him hurling chairs because he cannot control his anger. You see him functioning like your own son, you don’t see me wiping his bum, even though he is six. You hear his yelling, but you don’t understand how he becomes so fixated in the shop, he cannot bear to leave. You see that I can’t handle my kid. You don’t see that I can’t, that inside I am crying and wondering what the hell to do next. You don’t see that I can, that eventually I do get a degree of compliance that allows us to continue our day You see him in the same clothes as yesterday, but you don’t see how he sat by the washing machine screaming for the entire cycle before putting those wet clean clothes back on. You see him hitting his brother with little repercussion, what you don’t see is that this brother has wound my child up for hours before you arrived. You see me wasting money on playdough and sand, you don’t see how this sensory play is calming for child. You suspect I haven’t bathed the child, but you don’t see that showering him is an epic physical and loud battle so we only do it every 2 or 3 days. You have my child on a playdate and tell me how wonderful he was, but you don’t see the after effects that last for hours as he struggles to reintegrate with the family after the change in routine. You invite us to your place and feel a little offended we don’t show, you don’t see the massive anxiety meltdowns we had that morning that left us all exhausted and unable to face people. You see me buy more of the same toys we already have, you don’t see that these particular toys are his obcession, 15 hours of the day. You see he is well fed, but you don’t see the incredible effort that goes into ensuring the food is texturally acceptable, served on the correct plate and entirely made from scratch because there are food sensitivities. You see an angry child, you don’t see the hours of emotional coaching that I wont undo just to fit your idea of what discipline should look like. You assume improvement, but instead what you see are parents who have changed their lives and every aspect in it to ensure we have the greatest chance of pre-empting the anxiety. You see my child in the car, you don’t see that I must drive a certain route home otherwise my child will tense and scream. You see me carrying a naughty child, what you don’t see is that the scratch marks and biting and bruises on my skin are from protecting my boy from himself, and others from him. You see the child, but there is more than what you see. You don’t see the holes in my walls from epic three-hour meltdowns. You don’t see the fear in the siblings when the screaming starts. You don’t see the way we have structured our routine in…
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  • Picking up the pieces

    I know that things here at The Motherhood Project have been pretty quiet! Between our collaborative team, we’ve sold businesses, had sick kids, moved house, had new babies, been sick ourselves, suffered loss, death, sickness and stress in our families and close friends. In other words… life… Sometimes it feels like all the pieces have fallen apart, and then we have to pick ourselves up and put the puzzle back together. When this happens, the rest of life still goes on – school pick ups, dinners to be cooked, lunches to be packed, work to go to, washing to be done…. And it can feel so very very hard.   If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your pieces are scattered around you, here are some of our top tips to help put it all back together again: *Take a deep breath. Well, actually take a few. Slow your breathing down, calm yourself. *Prioritise. Put the biggest pieces back together first. If there is food in the house and meals can be made, life can go on! Clean clothes are another priority. Cobwebs are absolutely not! *Seek help. Ask friends or family to help you get back on your feet. Or, ask if they can help by looking after the kids so you can catch up on jobs that need doing. *Absolutely look after yourself. Eat very well, take half an hour each day to walk outside (vit d, sunshine, fresh air, exercise – its all powerfully going to recharge your batteries and give you the strength to keep going. Sleep! *Make a plan. Do it for the day or for the week. Avoid a rigid one where there is no room for fallout, instead opt for a loose plan to help keep you on track. Mine looks like: a load of washing, lunchboxes, ONE job for the day, go for a walk, pick up kids, make dinner, early night. On a good day, I could do 6 jobs. But on a bad day, I’m struggling to do one. So anything else is a bonus and I don’t end up beating myself up! *Make it fun. When the going gets tough – its important to get out there and make some fun and special moments to remind you why you’re surviving!!! Take the kids somewhere easy but enjoyable, catch up with some friends, or organise a date night.   Sometimes it can take three times as long to pick up the pieces as it did for it all to fall apart! Have faith, you’ll get there!   PS – to our awesome collaborators – keep your heads up!!! We’re gonna survive this!!!     xx The Motherhood Project  
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  • Why self-care is so important

    I spend all day saying to children: ‘washing your hands is so important, get dressed and stay warm, you need a good night’s sleep and occasionally an early night, eat well to stay healthy, take an hour of quiet time to recharge, get outside to get some sunshine, fresh air and exercise’ while weeks can go by and I do none of those things! Self-care can go right out the window when you’re a parent – at a time you really need it most! Looking after yourself and spoiling yourself will often come down to… none other than yourself – that’s right, no one else is going to do it for you! You deserve to take time out for yourself, to treat yourself. You give up your time, energy, body and entire being to raising your family, and they want you to be healthy and happy in return. If that hasn’t convinced you – they actually NEED you to look after yourself. When you run on empty, you know you cannot be the best parent. When burn-out arrives, picking yourself up takes a lot longer, it’s much harder on your family and your health. Self care looks different for everyone but you may find it more helpful to split into two categories – the essential daily must-do, and the rest. This is because it is important to do something small each day to reenergise: a few moments to deep breathe, half an hour to read a magazine, putting your hot drink in a pretty cup, sitting in sun in peace, napping while baby does. You also need to do something for yourself that is bigger – weekly craft class, exercises classes or gym time, catching up with friends, a new hobby, that haircut you’ve been promising yourself. A chance for you to pause, reflect, catch your breath, and then go back to being an awesome parent with your batteries recharged. Like we teach our kids, self-care is very important for both our physical and mental health. Show your children how to prioritise it by modelling it yourself!
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  • Kids in the Kitchen

    At the end of a busy day, the aim is to get dinner on the table as soon as possible… all while dodging pot-clattering toddlers, fighting children, and the homework battles. So the suggestion to let kids help with meal preparation might make you want to throw the grater in protest! There are many benefits to the kids helping. In addition to teaching them a basic and essential lifeskill (cooking), measuring and cutting skills, you’re also spending some time together which may be the opening to some great conversations. Kids who grow and prepare their own food are more likely to eat it, too. This isn’t going to work on your busiest nights. You need to have patience and tolerance. It might also work best to start with some easier meals/meal prep such as burgers, kebabs, nachos and salads. If I’m involving the kids in dinner prep, I try and do it in the afternoon – this buys us more time to chop vegetables and roll meatballs without everyone screaming that they’re dying of hunger. It can be quite hard to let the control of your meal rest in the flour-covered hands of your children, but they need to learn to use knives and heat! It’s our job to teach them to do it safely – just keep the aloe vera and plasters handy for those minor going-to-happen incidents! Encourage them to choose meals, read recipes, even shop. Of course, teach them to be involved in the dish washing afterwards too – it’s all part of the package! Make it easy! If the kids are cracking eggs, I get them to do it one at a time, in a small bowl. They have stools to easily access the bench. They have sharp knives (blunt knives are dangerous) but they fit into kids hands well. I’m teaching them not to eat raw ingredients, to always wash their hands before, during and after cooking, and to put food away. It can be very trying and testing teaching your children to cook! It’s another thing that is much easier and quicker to do it yourself! But think of all the breakfasts in bed, hot lunches, and cooked dinners you have ahead of you that you won’t have to prepare! Kids thrive on praise, and the smiles they’ll beam when they serve up a meal they cooked will be totally worth the messy kitchen they just walked out of!     Ashlee is a busy Mum and freelance writer, you can find more of her work at www.phraseology.co.nz
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  • Basic CMYK

    Munch: Making lunchboxes MMMMMM!

    This week we’ve been having fun with the goodies sent to us from Munch to show you! Munch is a New Zealand business, growing fast and run by mums – the type of business we love to support! It was started by Anna when she wrote and published a cookbook for young families (available here:, I really want a copy!). She is ultra passionate about good quality homemade food for families, feeding our kids well, being sustainable and eco-friendly. Munch is run around the demands of family life and yet continues to grow with a comprehensive website, online shop and blog. First up, as soon as I unpacked the parcel, the green spoon was taken!  The Spoon Straw is a spoon and straw in one so its big hit with kids – my toddler loves it! It retails for $12.95 and it is one of the most sturdy BPA-free plastic spoons/straws I have seen, so it’s gonna last awhile! My tot loves it in cereal and smoothies 🙂 Munch is now making a lot of their own products, and with that they introduced fundraising ventures. Supporting communities while being educational and fun, these have been a hit in schools and childcare centres – find out more: http://www.munchcooking.com/fundraising/ One of the popular fundraising items is Munch’s very own product – reusable lunch wraps and pouches. The baggies allow you to store food (trail mixes, cookies, muffins and whole fruit) and sandwiches and have absolutely nothing bas in them – just fabric! They’re easy to wash and reuse! At $13.99 each, you know you’re getting a great product at very good value. Suss them out here: http://www.munchcupboard.com/shop/munch-made-products/munch-baggies-tiki The last product we used for reviewing is the Squish Delish reusable pouches! Alisa reviewed them with her family so look out for a review later this week! Munch run giveaways and can let you know about sales on their Facebook page. They also have loads of fantastic recipes on their blog, including our very own recipe from The Motherhood Project! *These reviews are entirely our own opinion, we were given the products to review.
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  • The real side of motherhood (and more reflux)

    I read a blog the other day that talked about how as Mum’s we tend to share the good moments of our days with our friends and family on facebook and it made me think about the last month since Eric’s arrival and what I share… so tonight instead of just the highlight of my day I’ll share the truth of the average day in our household with 2 under 2’s with reflux. (You can see the video that goes with this:  https://www.facebook.com/shaynejansson/videos/10153240068639337/) Meet Eric. This is what reflux does to my poor unfortunate babies. They scream. In agony. A lot. The best way to comfort them is for them to feed. But this in all actuallity only makes things worse and starts the whole cycle over again. Its vicious. Think of the worst heartburn you’ve ever had, that burning sensation from your guts to your throat. Thats what my poor babies are feeling when they scream and arch their backs in pain. Today our day started at 3am and from then until around 11am he only slepr for maybe an hour. He screams like in this video sometimes for several hours at a time. I’m lucky that during the weekend my amazing husband Gary Hansen catches up on the housework and the washing that more often than not i dont get around to doing because my day consists of feeding, soothing, and trying to get my poor boy to sleep and repeat. All while keeping Connor entertained, fed, giving him a nap. It’s hard work. We are both pretty exhausted 99% of the time at the moment. But neither of us would change it for the world. Well we would change the fact that our boys have reflux in a heartbeat but we can’t. But included in the honest version of our day was a smile from our beautiful boy, even through the pain, he smiled! And then there’s Connor. He drives us both a bit crazy with his bad sleep. But he is the most adoring, loving, affectionate big brother. He’s an absolute star and has coped so well adjusting to such huge changes in his life. And will often keep himself entertained while i’m walking around jigging, swaying, shushing and soothing Eric. Another highlight (and these are the parts of the day that get any mum or dad through), is the bear hugs and sloppy kisses, the laughter at the amazing things my curly top does. Theres the heartfelt, thoughtful mothers day present that i will cherish forever and so many more little things. So here’s a challenge for my friends and family instead of just sharing the highlights of your day, share the low bits as well so that as your friends we can all support you. xxx   Shayne
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  • Post birth glow!

      The world was abuzz with the arrival of HRH Princess Charlotte this week, and with it come a flood of scrutiny on her famous mother. When she walked onto the steps post-birth, the Duchess looked amazing. She had a radiant smile, framed by her beautiful locks, she was wearing heels, and she comfortably held her newborn baby with confidence. After a couple of moments, she went back inside with her baby and husband, returning a few minutes later to get straight into their car to go home. 12 hours after being admitted, Kate had given birth and been discharged. So why was everyone aflutter with criticism in the hours following? Because how could anyone POSSIBLY look so good after giving birth? I laughed when I read a headline that proclaimed the whole birth was fake because Kate actually looked so good! The truth of it all is that Kate is a wonderful role model for women. She laboured mostly at home, where she was most comfortable, before her transfer to hospital. A normal vaginal delivery, attended by midwives, and then home to rest and recover. Thousands of women do this all the time. Birth is usually healthy, normal, empowering. Many a new mum could replicate Kate’s radiant proud smile. What isn’t normal for most of us, is the hairdresser who arrives to whip those gorgeous locks into place… a make up bag packed ready to go…. and that horrible duty to present herself to the public. Many of us feel sorry for the Duchess. The last thing you want to do is stand in front of hundreds of cameras, knowing you’re being judged and your post-birth photo is going to be plastered on every newspaper worldwide. I am sure she would far rather have snuck out the back door in her trackies to crawl into her own bed! She didn’t hide the new jelly belly, it was visible under her white and yellow dress. No make up could hide the tired dark eyes. Her feet looked swollen in her nude heels. And this is why Kate is so endearing and modern – she is keeping it real despite the pomp. Let’s remember not to swallow the media-fuelled criticism that is fed to us, and know that since we don’t have a personal stylist, our post-baby photos aren’t quite newspaper worthy. I for one am grateful for that – give me the privacy of my own birth and pomp than royalty any day!
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  • Vaccinations.

    When asked to put my thought about vaccinations into words I was intimidated. Such a hot topic and one that can cause friction.   But I loved Shayne’s post and I sighed with relief that it was a post in tune with my own thoughts. Which often isn’t the case.   My children are all a bit older (12,10,7) so we are well down the path of vaccines.   When I first became a mother I was young. I was naive and I didn’t know what I was doing (do we ever?). I learnt as I went, I read parenting magazine (I didn’t have the internet til a few year later so didn’t know about blogs etc). I read leaflets in the doctors office and chose to do what seemed to be the norm and vaccinate. I didn’t really think much of it. I hate to admit that now. But I didn’t. It seemed like the right choice.   All these years later, would I do anything different? Yes. I would read more. I would research. I might pick and choose vaccines. But I would still vaccinate. I do believe its its the right choice for my family.   My middle child was rather unlucky and caught whooping cough (aka pertussis) when she was a new born (about 4 weeks old). It was rough, it was scary. My GP then was a bit hopeless (thankfully we found the perfect GP for us soon after this). I kept taking her in and he kept telling me it was nothing. I spent months grabbing her up in the night as she struggled to breathe. Watching her go blue around the mouth until she caught her breath. She was small and didn’t make big gains in this time. She was so little and it was awful watching her struggle. She barely left my sight for months. She even sat in a bouncer or car seat in the bathroom when I showered I was so nervous to leave her alone. We got a monitor half way through from the hospital (when  pushed to be seen) and that eased my anxiety a little. I learnt how to best cope and help her when she whooped, but others were scared and I couldn’t leave her with people at that time. I would never want to go through that again. I know vaccines are not for everyone. Some people have very strong feelings about pro and con vaccine. I respect that. I respect your choice to choose. I love that we have this choice. I don’t have really strong feelings either way. But I choose to vaccinate. I choose to reduce my children’s risks to these illnesses. I know there are many arguments why they are bad. I have read articles. But I still chooe to vaccinate. I respect your choice. I expect people to respect mine.  
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  • Does School Have To Start At 5?

    My son is about to turn 5. Yay, he’s going to school, but oh no, he’s going to school! Any other parents have mixed emotions on this? You know school is not compulsory in New Zealand until the child turns 6, yet pretty much everyone sends their child at 5. But I was having a chat with the local kindy teacher and she has recommended that some children she has taught did not start on their birthday, yet waited a few more months. So I’ve started doing some thinking about whether or not my son should start on his birthday and without a doubt, yes he is. But I am coming from this point of view from two perspectives, as a Mum and as a teacher. As a Mum I am like, yes and no! Yes, start school on your birthday boy, shame it’s only for 6 hours a day, but it’s better than nothing. No, don’t go to school because I want to remain the main focus in your life and be able to watch and enjoy your every move. As a teacher I am also standing on the fence as a yes and a no. Yes, because 5 is the age I expect them to come to school to start their formal learning and if they start later, they are going to miss out on a lot of specific learning. No because I have seen 5 year olds that are not ready to start school and would have benefited physically and academically by more pre-school experiences. As a teacher though, I have seen that my son personally is ready for more challenging academic learning, but I know he will struggle with the confining classroom environment. So this leads me to think are new entrant classrooms set up and established to suit the needs of those fresh from pre-school children? Does the classroom teacher have an in-depth knowledge about the learning skills and environment of the local kindy or pre-school where the children are coming from? Is the classroom program focused on a smooth transition between free play and structured learning sessions? I think it depends on the individual teacher, but I know from experience when teaching that there is not any requirement for new entrant teachers to have understanding and knowledge of the pre-school environment. I think there should be and this be included in the daily classroom environment, but I don’t believe that the new entrant room be a replica of the kindy. It’s a hard balance, but having had experiences as both a Mum and a teacher, I now know that when I do make it back to the classroom, I will adapt my program drastically to accommodate what I know now about the learning experiences of a pre-schooler. So should school start at 5? Parents need to make that call and I will back both parents who start their child on the birthday, a few months later or even at 6. Parent’s are the most important people in their child’s life and the decision is up to them.  
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