The Art of Kindness

The Art of Kindness

As a parent, there’s everything that came before children, and everything after. When there’s a baby in the house depending on you for food, diaper changes, bathtime and bedtime — and the inevitable 3am wake-up for it to start all over again — obligations that came before feel like child’s play.

Our kids give us life, a fresh outlook, a new reason to make the bed in the morning. But while raising children is the ultimate exercise in learning on the job, it’s okay to long for a day off.

To feel overwhelmed is to be a parent.

That’s why we want to shine a light on the mental health challenges that often affect new mums, and rally the TouchNote community to send words of support letting anyone struggling know they’re not alone, that it will get easier!

To do that, we’ve launched a new series of card designs created by both TouchNote members and designers, to make it easy for you to send some much needed love to those running on empty.

100% of the profits will go towards the Mental Health Foundation (UK) and Mental Health America (US), so your help won’t just reach the people you know, it’ll travel much further.

Here are the stories behind the designs…

 

I have three children and ended up breastfeeding for a total of something like ten years. After a long labour with my first baby, I vividly remember being up at 3am in the morning, in floods of silent tears from breastfeeding being so painful, trying not to wake up my husband. What kept me going was the knowledge that there was a local breastfeeding group, just down the road, where I knew that I would be welcomed.

I was very lucky to have this support nearby, and made some good friends at this group. Fast forward a few years, and having completed breastfeeding training with UNICEF, I set up a breastfeeding project together with a good friend, another local mum. Since we started, the project has gone from strength to strength.

There are so many expectations from society on women, particularly on new mums. When people can connect together, and share experiences honestly, kindly and with care, a lot of healing can take place.

I am the executive headteacher of two residential special schools and most of the young people I care for live in care. I know how hard it is for the families being away from their children so I had this in mind when I was designing the card.

Making the decision to put your child into care and accepting that someone else can more effectively provide the care that they need is one of the hardest and bravest things a parent can do. I know how much my parents love their children and it is this I somehow wanted to capture.

So much of being a Mum is finding your own way. There is no training. Following your own heart and asking for help when you need it is part of the journey. We are all just trying our best. Whatever that looks like!

Recently, my Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Despite the devastating feelings this brings, we have some very special and happy moments together. She loves flowers and has always liked to give and receive them. Flowers are all different and beautiful in their own way. They are symbols of hope, joy, love and also, sadness, which is a feeling that we need to express, just as much as any other. When words are difficult to express, flowers can say so much. They can keep us in touch with each other when we have to be apart.

I was always a ‘coper’. I portrayed an external façade that said everything was fine. I never asked for help, it just felt easier to do things by myself.I had no idea I was struggling at the time, I genuinely thought I was coping and this was my new normal.

It was at some point during this time that I turned to my love of art. I used it to diarise my day to day life by using colour to represent my mood changes throughout a given day. It became an outlet to just be still and it allowed me to remove myself from everything else going on. It was like a form of mindfulness, it gave me some sort of release.

My message to anyone who is struggling after childbirth is simply don’t be embarrassed to seek help, don’t give up trying to get help if it is not offered, do make sure you find people who will listen, as it might not be your partner or your family you can turn to you may have to reach out further. I wish there was more help offered more openly and freely when I was going through this at the beginning, there wasn’t. Things have improved hugely over the years and mental health now is not considered such a stigma.

I’m the creator of the Instagram page Journey to Wellness. It’s a platform all about mental health advocacy, smashing stigma, and boosting wellbeing. I am a qualified counsellor and have spent almost 10 years working with people to help kick their anxiety, depression and stress in the butt!

I’ve personally faced my own anxiety challenges, battling through panic attacks and rough times. As a new mother, this anxiety surfaced again, alongside a major battle with my mood. So I know first hand how tough it can be and how alone you can feel as you face these struggles. I want people to know that they are not alone. That you can get through this. Be gentle and kind with yourself — Self-compassion has been my biggest learning — every day I try to remind myself and others that we are worthy, exactly as we are.

We create routines in our life that nourish us. For me, that has always been my daily studio routine and my relationships. Creating my artworks, expressing myself with friends, dancing with them and cooking with my family are my greatest joys. During Covid-19 our regular habits of happiness have been halted with a huge impact on our mental health. I have started a daily meditation practice to re-connect to the calmer parts of my thinking. Focusing on breathing really lets me connect with my body and slows my overthinking brain. This ‘Take a deep breath’ design was made to inspire us to take a step back and simply breathe and relax.

I suffered with PND after the birth of my daughter nearly 11 years ago. We have spent a few blissful hours designing these cards together — she’s so good at calligraphy and it seemed really fitting to create these as a joint effort. I feel very lucky to have such a fantastic daughter and my relationship with her blossoms year after year. I’m glad and grateful to be able to look back on those dark days (weeks and months) knowing that there was an end to the despair.

I wanted to use the weather as a focus as I found it had a bearing on how I managed to get through the days, and a rainbow is a natural symbol of hope, which is what I needed to cling to when experiencing dark days. Only this week my son, who suffers with anxiety, came home from school declaring, “Mum, I’ve had a great day, the sun’s shining!” That morning before school he couldn’t have felt more different!

I hope that your new range of cards helps lots of mums and their families. Just knowing that someone is rooting for you is a great comfort, and sending a card is a small way families and friends can show their support.

I’m Helene, an illustrator and knackered mum living in Cornwall.

I mostly draw my experiences of raising a small human whilst feeling completely overwhelmed and out of my depth. I always try to be as honest as possible, admittedly sometimes probably a bit too honest.

I just hope my illustrations make other mums and dads realise that they’re not alone on this crazy parenting rollercoaster, that parenting is hard and that it’s OK to admit that.

The advice I’m currently giving to myself (that may or may not help you) is as follows:

• Try not to battle against things that you have no control over.

• Try not to put so much pressure on yourself, just focus on surviving one day at a time.

• Know that this WILL get better.

• Be nice to yourself… paint your toenails. That goes for dads too, why not?

*100% of profits from UK sales of card designs in the Art of Kindness range between 1st May and 31st July 2020 will be donated to the Mental Health Foundation (charity number 801130 (England and Wales) SC 039714 (Scotland)

Advertisement