Hi, Amberlee here. I just returned from picking up my 7-year-old from school. I had a whole list of tasks I was ready to complete, and I was on my way to the coffee shop to get my afternoon dose and start plugging away. Then I got a call from the school nurse stating my daughter was experiencing flu-like symptoms and a 100.2 fever. Well, that took the wind out of my sails…
I recently talked with two Moms who have put work and tasks aside to pick up sick kiddos. I know I am not alone. What a reassuring feeling…
This feeling can be described as universality. Many moons ago, in graduate school, I learned about universality when studying Irvin Yalom’s theories of group dynamics and psychotherapy. Universality describes the realization that you are not alone in your experiences and that others may have the same or similar experiences. Through this understanding, group members support and help one another in the healing process. Another similar but different concept is sonder (fascinating and humbling…).
May is Maternal Mental Health Month: a time to discuss and bring awareness to perinatal depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other mental health symptoms. It got me thinking about my own mental health in my 11-year journey of motherhood. Like many others, I experienced my lowest parenting lows during the pandemic. The pandemic had an eerie way of making me feel alone, especially in the beginning. There was no in-person interaction to remind me that other Moms were having the same experience(s). There were times when I was working and caring for two small kids and thought: “I’m not gonna make it.” But it was often a text from another mom (e.g. “Are you also losing your mind trying to work, entertain these kids, feed them, and clean up after them?”), and hearing that she was going through the same thing kept me hanging on.
Early in the pandemic, I was lucky enough to find a small group of Moms. These Moms would drop covid tests off when we were exposed, set up birthday balloons for my daughter on our doorstep (because we couldn’t have an actual party), drink margaritas with me at the park (bars were closed), set up Facetime calls with our kiddos, etc. But most importantly, they would reflect my experiences when talking about their own. I am forever grateful to these women.
And now, we are entering the next phase of our parenting journey: PUBERTY! Glad I’m not alone on this one. It’s already a wild ride.
In a nutshell, that’s universality. And it can be an integral part of maintaining your mental health.
Universality is not the panacea for maternal mental health symptoms. It’s just one piece of the puzzle. But I encourage you to find a parent/mom crew that can make you feel it.
Here are some resources to help you connect with other parents: