Jess’s story: parenting and fear of lost identity

Jet Setting Jess: Where it all began, journey to the East  

Have you ever had that dream where you’re falling? You awake with a start and a feeling of unease in the pit of your stomach. 

Most people just shake it off and dismiss the feeling, putting it down to eating too much cheese before bed or some other minor ailment. 

After the birth of my second child, I awoke like this every night for many months. However, I could never shake the feeling of unease. It stayed with me through every moment that society told me I should have been enjoying in those first few months with my new baby. 

Whenever he looked up at me with his slow blue eyes, I felt… afraid. Not for fear that I couldn’t take care of him but for fear that I had lost my identity and I was not worthy. I questioned how I could successfully raise my children when I had no idea who I was anymore or where I was going in life. 

With those thoughts came feelings of shame and guilt. I knew how lucky I was to have two beautiful and healthy children, but I struggled to appreciate it. 

Enter the Mental Health Foundation. I started attending the Young Parent’s Together programme the Mental Health Foundation runs for mums, dads and their children. These classes helped me immeasurably. They furthered my understanding of the difference between surviving and thriving. Most importantly, I could reach a place where I started enjoying the journey again and stopped worrying about the destination. 

Through the Young Parents Together Group on Facebook, I was offered the chance to receive two free tickets to a 'make your own baby clothes' workshop hosted by Mini Magpie at the Round Chapel. This workshop would normally have been too expensive for me to be able to attend as our budget is very tight. However, this event was free, provided refreshments, children were welcomed (toys/entertainment provided), and it taught me how to turn old jumpers into clothes for my children.  

I felt very welcomed and not judged (I've often felt judged as a young parent). I also learnt a really valuable skill that I have used to make many items of clothing for my children, saving me a lot of money! As a parent of any age, it is easy to lose your identity in the new role of 'mum'. I found that partaking in an activity focused on improving me as an adult really helped me feel more like 'me' again. Perhaps it was only a small achievement, but I am very proud of it.  

I had the opportunity to attend the Young Parents Together volunteer training sessions held in a Children's Centre in Tottenham. These sessions are a good example of how far I have come since attending my first group many years ago.  

When I first attended a YPT group, I was unsure of what to expect. I was nervous and felt out of place. Since then, attending numerous groups and sessions has improved my understanding of how mental health plays a role in effective parenting and self-care. I can honestly say that I did not feel out of place in the training sessions.  

I felt much more able to understand how and where to get help, and in turn, I felt confident in signposting this to others. What is more, I wanted to use my experience to let others in a similar situation know that they were not alone in what they might be feeling. 

Attending the group at Skyway was, without a doubt, the best group that I attended whilst involved with YPT. Tanya, the facilitator, was a real pro - especially at peer support - which is a super tricky concept to understand in its entirety. Sessions always involved crafty activities for parents, separate from the children (who were provided with toys).  

This craft helped me feel like I was an actual person worthy of taking part in an activity rather than a babysitter drafted to attend a never-ending soft play, romp and roll and music classes. This class awoke my interest in taking part in the Great Wall of China Trek.  

I had long had those feelings of inadequacy, but when I heard about the Great Wall of China trek, I thought that it could be something I could achieve. Something to make me proud of myself, and even just taking a step towards that goal was significant. Just having had the guts to take part means I'm a world away from that mum who sat at a bus stop with her two-year-old and her newborn and sobbed because I felt I was a failure, and that was all I'd ever be. 

We would like to thank Jess for taking in this incredible trek and raising money for The Mental Health Foundation.  

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