Stay-at-Home Mom Anxiety & Depression: Overcoming the Mental Health Stigma

Despite there still being a stigma when it comes to being a stay-at-home mom (and the depression that sometimes comes with the choice), one in five U.S. parents makes child-rearing their full-time job.1 And it’s rarely easy. In one Gallup poll of 60,000 U.S. women, stay-at-home moms of young children were more likely to report feelings of anger and sadness, and they were also more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than working moms.2 Despite the prevalence of depression amongst stay-at-home moms, silence abounds. Explore why there is a lingering mental health stigma for mothers and discover some coping strategies that can help.

Motherhood and the Lingering Mental Health Stigma

Stay-at-home moms are often bombarded with unwelcome and presumptive comments about their decision, from “You’re so lucky you don’t have to work!” to “It must be so relaxing to stay home all day.” However well-meaning the bearer of these comments may be, they probably don’t understand the negative impact these words can have on the stay-at-home mom who feels lonely, misunderstood or stressed out. These comments assume that housework and childcare do not qualify as “real work” despite the physical and emotional labor they require. And when a stay-at-home mom feels everything but “lucky” or “relaxed,” she is likely not to share her true feelings because she fears what others may think. If she speaks honestly about her loneliness or stress, will others think she isn’t grateful for her family? 

According to Kate Rope, a health journalist, advisory board member of the Seleni Institute, and author of Strong as a Mother, many new mothers are afraid to reach out for help for anxiety or depression because they’re worried people will think they are a “threat to their baby.”3 This stigma and fear only further contributes to the secrecy and isolation of mental illness during parenthood, preventing mothers from getting the help they need.

What Is Stay-at-Home Mom Depression? 

As one stay-at-home mom from New York told Parents, stay-at-home mom depression feels like a loss of identity. “I struggle every day trying to figure out where I fit into this world now,” she said.4 “My dreams and goals still run through my mind daily and I keep trying to think of ways I can make them work while simultaneously raising children.” Add exhaustion and little societal help or understanding to the mix, and it’s not hard to see how depression and anxiety build. For mothers who already struggled with depression before having children, they may find their symptoms are worse because they no longer have the time or energy to take care of themselves the way they did in the past. According to the CDC, some common signs and symptoms of depression in women include:5

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt or helplessness.

  • Constant irritability

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities

  • Problems with focus, memory and making decisions

  • Difficulty falling asleep or oversleeping

  • Overeating or loss of appetite

  • Suicidal ideation

  • Aches or pains that do not get better with treatment

If any of these feelings sound familiar and if you are thinking of harming yourself or others, explore resources at the CDC to get immediate help.6

Causes of Depression and Anxiety for Stay-at-Home Moms

In the same way that postpartum depression may be triggered by shifting hormones and major life changes, stay-at-home mom depression can be a result of several triggers, from a loss of identity and persistent isolation to a major external factor like the pandemic. Beyond feeling underappreciated, stay-at-home moms also don’t have the luxury of clocking out at the end of the day. When a child goes to sleep, a stay-at-home mom might attempt to tackle her to-do list or clean up, leaving little time for self-care or quality time with her partner. In the 2020 State of Motherhood survey by Motherly, 30 percent of stay-at-home moms expressed wanting more together time with her family and 24 percent wanted to become more financially stable.7 Other worries that tend to plague stay-at-home moms include body image issues or feeling like a failure when comparing herself to other moms, especially those she sees on social media.   

How to Cope with Stay-at-Home Mom Anxiety and Depression

If anxiety and depression are interfering with your life, do not be afraid to ask for help. From talking with your partner about sharing household duties to enlisting the help of friends, family and mental health practitioners, there are a variety of ways to get the help you need to make life more manageable and fulfilling. The following coping methods may also help:

  • Make time to rest and practice self-care, which are crucial for mental health, and do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself so you can better take care of others

  • Reject the notion that domestic work is not real work and that there is such thing as “perfect” motherhood (and unfollow social media accounts that make you feel like you’re not doing it right)

  • Be clever with time management, such as getting up an hour earlier before your kids to plan for the day or to simply relax and spend time doing something enjoyable

  • Follow a healthy diet full of whole foods, fruits and vegetables to give you lasting energy and resist skipping meals

  • Ensure you’re getting enough sleep and avoid screen time before bed, which may interfere with your circadian rhythm and prevent you from falling asleep

  • Practice relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi or walks 

  • Build a supportive community you can call on to share your true feelings and vent because silence only exacerbates feelings of anxiety and stress   

Some moms also turn to prescription medication to help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and there shouldn’t be any stigma around getting the help you need. Brillia for Adults is another option that may help and is available without a prescription or official diagnosis of anxiety or depression. A homeopathic remedy that helps to reduce feelings of irritability and anxiety while enhancing mental focus, Brillia has no contraindications and can be taken alongside other medications without worry or taken alone. Keep in mind that Brillia works best when combined with healthier lifestyle choices like proper nutrition and adequate sleep and takes 2-3 weeks to build in the system. Find out more about how Brillia works

Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.


References: 1https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/24/stay-at-home-moms-and-dads-account-for-about-one-in-five-u-s-parents/, 2https://www.psycom.net/stay-home-moms-depressed, 3https://www.shondaland.com/live/body/a27495197/postpartum-depression-teresa-wong-graphic-memoir/, 4https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/stay-at-home-mom-depression-is-real/, 5https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm, 6https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/resources.htm, 7https://www.mother.ly/news/state-of-motherhood-survey

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