Being a new mom is hard enough — being one in the public eye and under scrutiny is even harder. Teen Mom OG star Catelynn Lowell — whose daughter, Novalee, was born last year — announced this week that she is entering rehab. Lowell is not entering rehab for addiction or an eating disorder, but for postpartum depression, which she admitted in January that she’s been struggling with since the birth of her daughter.
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And while many people may criticize Lowell for her decision to leave her young daughter to enter treatment, we think she should be applauded for her decision. According to the American Psychological Association, up to 1 in 7 women suffers from postpartum depression. Lowell has spoken in the past about the panic attacks and suicidal ideation that have plagued her since Novalee’s birth.
As any mother in our society knows all too well, motherhood often comes with the expectation that our children come before everything else — including our well-being. But by taking care of her mental health, Lowell is sending a message to both her family and to society at large that we need to hear more often: To take care of someone else, she must first take care of herself.
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This societal expectation — that our well-being comes last, after that of our children and family — is damaging mothers. We’re putting too much on our plates and ignoring health and mental health issues, which will only exacerbate them. In fact, research shows that pushing our own feelings aside to focus on someone else’s is linked to increased stress. When we parents are willing to sacrifice our own health for our children’s sake, when we forgo things like sleep, exercise and other self-care activities that could mitigate the stress of caring for another human, we’re hurting not only ourselves but our children too.
And this is exactly what we’re usually hoping to avoid. But being a good parent means demonstrating what it means to take care of ourselves. What message does it send our kids if we tell them they have to go to the doctor when they’re sick, but we refuse to go when we are? We need to stop thinking of it as selfish to take care of our own needs and instead look at it as beneficial for our entire family. Not only that, but we need to start believing that we are worth taking care of, that even if it is selfish to put our needs first, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all have wants, desires and identities outside of being a mother, and it’s OK to foster those things.
More: How swearing like a sailor made it a lot easier to give birth
We’d love to see a world where we not only approve of but encourage women to put their needs first. Kids are resilient, and setting an example of self-care is a great teaching moment for our children. Teaching them to listen to their bodies and prioritize their needs is something we should want to teach our kids, and we can start by leading by example.
Hopefully Lowell’s decision to put her well-being first so she can be the kind of mother she wants to be for her daughter will inspire other women to not sacrifice their own mental health. A healthy, present mother is worth waiting for.
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