Les Petits Tigres is taking part in #HappityTogether to run a fun, interactive, live stream French language fundraising class for Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a bit about my own experiences and struggles.
It’s seven years ago when my son was born but I still can remember it well. After the first few weeks or so, it’s as though the loved-up bubble I had been living in burst. It suddenly seemed like endless days upon days of being on my own with a baby stretching in front of me for the foreseeable future. I felt so alone and isolated. My pre-baby friends couldn't seem to understand why I no longer came round. As much as I desired the company, hanging out in an environment with loud music and a big screen TV flashing images of who knows what no longer seemed like an appealing option. Even the suggestion of putting him down to sleep in an adjacent room seemed highly impractical as I doubted whether or not I would even be able to hear him, given that I could barely hear myself above all the noise. Who knows, maybe I was too uptight about it. Occasionally I’d try to propose a day out doing something, maybe going to a market or brunch, but usually it was too early for my childless friends. By the time most of my friends would be rolling out of bed at noon, I had usually been up for six hours and was already stir crazy. If I got a mid-morning text from a mate cancelling our plans for the day, I would despair at the looming stretch of time now destined to be spent solo. My (then) husband would work 8, 10 or 12 hour shifts including nights and weekends. When he was home on an odd day off, he often wanted us out of the house so he could sleep or study undisturbed. He would protest when I tried to make plans with him to spend a day off together saying that he just needed some down time.
But what about me? When did I get a break and moreover, who had I become? I experienced a deep loss of identity. I was no longer working or socialising as I used to, and had very little time to continue to pursue my interests and hobbies. I absolutely adored my child and being a mother, however, it was a completely different way of life which seemed utterly foreign to me and turned my world upside down.
After the first month or two I started throwing myself into filling my days with baby activities and mama meetups. Luckily enough, where I live there are a plethora of things to choose from and I had something to do just about every morning. I eventually found that playgroups and baby activities were a lifeline for me and a good way to occupy the time. It still was a somewhat slow process though and at first I was simply going through the motions for a while. I got so tired of having conversations with parents with whom the only thing we had in common was that we both had babies. Repeated chats about how the baby is sleeping or feeding had me feeling like I was trapped in a Groundhog day loop. Trotting out the same lines as standard was nearly just as bad as having no one at all to talk to, but at least it kept me busy and got me out of the house.
I kept coming back and little by little, I made connections. Some became regular acquaintances - they lived close by, and we could meet at the park or grab a coffee within minutes. We served a purpose for each other, simply enjoying companionship and finding common ground that extended further than our children. Others were people that I developed friendships with which outlasted the baby phase. Just as a child matures, grows and changes, so do our relationships.
That little baby of mine is now seven years old, but the one thing that has remained constant is my struggle with mental health. In this time I have been through many ups and downs and navigated major life changes: a subsequent pregnancy and miscarriage, separation and divorce, homelessness, a toxic relationship. I take things one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time.
Out of the ashes of my former life I have created a new one. I started a business to support my baby and myself not just financially but emotionally as well, and I am grateful to know that through my work I also support other parents and children by bringing joy and fun to their lives through learning French, contributing to the development of their child and helping to forge social connections.
Self care and mental health is such an important aspect of life that can easily be neglected, or one which we just might not give much thought to. It becomes even more important to take care of ourselves when a little one is depending upon us.
I prefer to keep my business and personal life separate, but it is the personal experiences and events in my life that have led me to where I am today. I am sharing this in the hopes that it helps someone. I encourage you to reach out to others; to share in safe spaces; to ask for help; to examine your own life, your needs, and desires and to take care of yourself.
In this particularly difficult and isolated time, it’s more important than ever to stay connected. Now, more than ever, mental health matters. In a recent survey, Happity found nearly 80% of parents felt lockdown had negatively affected their mental health - but that live interactive classes had a really positive benefit. Seeing other families in a live environment can help you feel more connected, help structure your daily routine and give you a reason to get dressed each day.
Over 25 different class providers with Happity are offering live interactive sessions on Zoom, from baby massage to toddler football, dancing and yoga - there’s lots going on. All of them are available for just a £1 donation to PANDAS Foundation, the UK’s leading charity supporting pre and postnatal mental health.
Each class will have a limited number of spaces so that we can really interact with you and your children - as close as possible to our normal classes!
Les Petits Tigres is running a special #HappityTogether class on Thursday 21st May at 11:30 am. Why not do something new and learn French through music with your little one while supporting a great cause at the same time - book here!
We hope you’ll take this opportunity to try a few classes and share in some fun with your little ones.