MENTAL MUTHA MEETS VICTORIA BAYNTON - WILLIAMS
MENTAL MUTHA MEETS VICTORIA BAYNTON - WILLIAMS
Are you a mental Mum or a Mum that’s mental?
The wording of this question amuses me, because “person first language” is really important in the Down’s syndrome community (my daughter Audrey has Down’s syndrome), because you are a person first and a condition/diagnosis/disability comes second. So I am definitely a mum that’s mental. Actually I should be a woman, who’s a mum, who’s mental?!
I recognise now that all the “nutty” things my own mother used to do, were an expression of how hard she was finding it to raise 4 kids. I appreciate what she went through now I have active toddlers of my own, (my dad worked away Monday-Friday, at that point she she had 2 teenagers and 2 under 8) and I’m sad that my understanding of that has come after she died.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?
Sometimes I bottle it all up, push it down and I keep it down… but really eventually I explode and that’s usually sobbing, but could be rage. I have a calm, easy-going way about me most of the time so I think it would be a surprise to some people to know I get like that, but there is nothing like the stress toddlers create to push you over the edge!
Do you discuss your mental health with your mum mates?
Yes it’s actually a natural part of small talk amongst mothers (I think? Seems to be with mine!). We talk about the darkness of the newborn days and I’ll openly admit that I think a third child would mentally break me (as having our second child really was harder than I ever could have imagined). Most people might think that having a child with Down’s syndrome would be a challenge mentally, but after the initial surprise, she’s been an absolute joy and definitely a boost for my wellbeing (she tells me she loves me every day and she makes me so proud with everything she achieves). Whereas the second experience was a more traumatic labour and a child born with no known condition other than the inability to f**king sleep for about 7 months.
How do you tackle mental health chats with your kids?
That’s going to be an interesting one to tackle. They are both under 5 at the moment so it’s not really a chat, but we spread a lot of love and talk about being gentle, calm and kind. We cuddle often. Audrey has a heightened emotional intelligence and always goes to comfort a crying baby or asks why someone is sad - I’m pretty sure she is passing some of this kindness onto her younger brother. Hopefully that outweighs our moments of utter chaos/despair because someone has lost a f*cking sock.
Who helps you in the dark? (In your pits, your mental rock bottom - who is your hero?)
Well it has to be my husband, Ted. I try not to take him for granted but he’s always been supportive and thoughtful and he rarely puts a foot wrong. He literally made me understand how someone could be a “rock” - when we had Audrey and I was in despair over this baby that was “not what I signed up for” - I’ll never forget him saying “I just love her”.
What helps you in the light? (Meditation? Procrastination? Perspiration? People?)
The same kids that drive me up the wall and make me want to scream - they are amazing and they bring the light by the bucket load. Their little voices. Their interest in the world. The cuddles. They make me remember what life is all about. Them and chocolate.
Where’s your head at?
I have a 4 and 2 year old, so my head is no longer my own. My short-term memory is shot to sh*t. But it’s not all their fault - I lost my mother last year to cancer, (having already lost my father in 2010, father-in-law in 2011 and sister in 2012 - all to cancer) and then my brother got diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas last year. Wow, that’s a lot of cancer. Ok, I’ll stop saying cancer now. So yeah, it’s been a tricky time in my head recently.
Soft play or rehab?
Neither thank you.
Jacob’s Creek or Jacob’s Cracker?
I love a cream cracker! With cheese! And wine! Cheese, crackers and wine = living the dream. Clearly both.
Nut Job or Nut Allergy?
This question has also put me in mind of my mother again! Her singing various songs like “Everyone’s a fruit and nut case” and “They’re coming to take me away hee hee ha ha, to the funny farm...” - I thought this was funny as a kid, but I now know was her way of expressing her rocky mental health situation whilst raising 4 kids. Bless her.
Self Care or Self Sabotage?
Very sorry to say both. I have been through a lot since having my kids and I have to say that I let self care fall away for a long time. I still find it incredibly hard to do things for myself, with no kids, without rushing it and/or feeling guilty. I am getting better at it and I’m very lucky to have a supportive husband and helpful mother-in-law. I work part-time, but then have 3 days on my own with two small children. I’d like to say that’s a nice balance but in truth I don’t know what a nice balance would be. They drive me up the wall and sometimes I completely lose it (I was sobbing the other day because they spilled a sticky medicine on the bathroom floor!), but I also miss them terribly when we are apart. I know I need to work on my calm breathing, but in the heat of the feral kids moment, calm breathing doesn’t come naturally unfortunately.
Journal or jog?
I’ve been a jogger and would love to get back into it, but at the moment most definitely a journal. I started writing a diary around the age of 11 (inspired by the Secret Diary of Laura Palmer) and I stopped sometime in my early 20s. Reading those now is a cringe fest let me tell you, but I’ve started again in earnest thanks to my... (spoiler alert for next question) therapist.
Ask for help or happy to hermit?
I’ve had hermit tendencies in the past, it got to the point where I felt like a very full, shaken bottle of fizz. So rather than explode, I found a therapist. I had a good cry at first and basically I thought I was there to figure out how to grieve for my mother, but once we’d started the regular sessions I started to find a whole bunch of stuff to talk about! It got very “life-coachy”! The biggest thing I got out of it was also something so obvious and simple; to achieve the things I want, to feel better mentally, I have to give myself time. I don’t mean weeks or months, I mean actual time without the kids to do things for myself, without guilt. Guilt has a huge impact on my life and I’m feeling much better now I’ve identified that.
The biggest eye-opener for me about mental health was having babies. As I said before, the sleep deprivation with my second really affected my mental state, Rex did not sleep unless he was on my body and if he slept more than an hour at a time I was winning. He was slowly breaking me night after night. I’m pretty sure I had PND of some kind but the tests said no. I was showering. I was seeing the funny side of things. I was out seeing friends. I think a lot of women are “borderline” when it comes to those tests and so we just have to get on with it. It’s that grey area that’s worrying and I’ve met a lot of women who feel they were in a similar space.You just muddle through. Mental Mutha will be a huge help and resource (to all, but) for those women in particular, I think it will be invaluable.
If you'd like to read more conversations with Mental Muthas, click HERE.
Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.