Why I Wish We Supported Maternal Mental Health at Work

Why I Wish We Supported Maternal Mental Health at Work

Posted on January 30 by Amanda Munday in Non-fiction
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I didn’t tell anyone at my job that I had been committed to a psychiatric ward until two years after the fact. I’ve worked for small teams and startups for most of my career – mostly focused in tech and education, and now supporting parents at Toronto co-working space The Workaround. I didn’t want others to judge whether I was equipped to do my job based on what happened while I was away.

When my daughter was nine days old, I was involuntarily committed to inpatient psychiatric treatment at a Toronto hospital. It made me feel like a failure of a mother and also that it was the only way to get relief from the postpartum depression that came on suddenly and severely. I spent the following year of maternity leave recovering and trying to establish close connections with other parents, especially ones who also found the transition to parenthood difficult. I was surprised by how quickly I trusted and confided in strangers, all of us aligned on a common mission – raising little ones while keeping our heads on straight. I shared openly and with a full heart to women I barely knew, finding connection around foam mats during baby playtime sessions at my local library.

So when I returned to work after my year “off,” the shift from open vulnerability to professional persona was challenging. I went back to work at a tech startup that employed few other parents, instead filled with people who could rest their bodies by sleeping a full eight hours a night, something I hadn’t done in months. I didn’t tell them I had been in the psych ward – that I thought my life might end just as my daughter’s began.

At the same time, I really appreciated work and the focus on marketing growth tactics. I enjoyed bringing in cute baby photos and stories. I was happy to be “mother” and “marketer” while exploring my new dual identity. I often focused on the positive and left my struggles at home, and I felt like I was lying to my colleagues.

There is a lot going on in the headspace of a new parent returning to work. They bring excitement, trepidation, sleep deprivation and renewed efficiency to each day. This time of year can be really difficult. The cold winter has many more days ahead, making it more difficult to connect on a social level with our trusted networks. Many parents feel deep isolation, especially when trying to balance work and home life.

We need opportunities to share at work. It’s why campaigns like #BlueMonday and #BellLet’sTalkDay occur now rather than the sunny summer months when we are equipped with adequate amounts of vitamin D. Thanks to Life With Baby, this year is the first year #BellLetsTalk will include maternal mental health as part of their campaign. It’s an opportunity to encourage more organizations to support maternal mental health and give it much-needed focus. We can each look for small ways to create space for our colleagues to share what’s really going on – and know that they will be more productive employees for it.

Eventually, I started sharing my experience with PPD and how it still affects my mood in my daily business operations. Despite the ongoing struggles, last year I launched a new company and wrote a memoir about my experience (Day Nine, out March 30). Telling people I work with that I’ve suffered with maternal mental illness makes me feel lighter on the heavy days – and invites me to be a little more realistic about who and what I need in my work. I hope we can all create the space to let others do the same.