Overcoming Mental Health Stigmas for Moms
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. Some examples of stay-at-home-mom depression symptoms 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 or call 1-800-944-4773.6
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Navigating Anxiety & Depression: What are the Causes?
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 a recent survey, 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 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 interferes with your circadian rhythm and prevents 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 clinically-proven 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.
Challenging Mental Health Stigmas: Empowering Stay-at-Home Moms
It can be difficult to overcome stress and anxiety associated with being a stay-at-home mom if you have been conditioned to view your role (or the challenges you face in this role) as unimportant. To help change your perspective on your role, consider these empowering facts about being a stay-at-home mom:
- Your children may have higher grades: Some research shows that children who had a parent stay at home when they were young achieved higher grades in school than those who had out-of-home working parents during early childhood.8
- Your children are less likely to have behavioral issues: Research has found a correlation between children in childcare facilities and an increased risk of stress and aggression compared to those who are cared for in their home.9
- Your expenses are lower: Being a stay-at-home parent doesn’t come with a paycheck, but there are extraordinary savings associated with this choice. Costs do vary according to location, but in 2022, the average price of childcare ranged from $5,357 for school-age home-based care in small counties to $17,171 for infant center-based care in large counties.10
- You have more control of the household: From mealtimes to homework time, it can be easier for a stay at home mom to stick to a routine as CEO of the household. This helps to reduce the chaos and stress that comes with an unstructured day and disorganized household.
Steps you can take to feel more empowered as a stay-at-home mom include:
- Connect with other stay-at-home moms, especially if you think loneliness and isolation may be contributing to anxiety and/or depression.
- If you miss working for a paycheck, consider remote jobs and side hustles like being a virtual assistant, an online reseller, a tutor, a freelance writer, or even offer your car for rent. There are so many possibilities now for stay-at-home moms to earn income while still staying home with their children. You can also peruse websites that help you restart your career after being out of the workforce for a while, such as A Path Forward, Reachire, and The Mom Project.11, 12, 13
- Talk to a therapist or counselor to devise strategies to support your mental health.
- Make time for yourself outside of the house and away from your children and view it as sacred and necessary.
Building Support Networks & Embracing Mental Wellness
We said it above and we’ll say it again–connect with other stay-at-home parents to gradually build your “village” and have a network to call on for support. Whether that involves making small talk with another mom at the park or making plans after a mommy and me class, there are so many opportunities to expand your world, especially if you can’t remember the last time you had an adult conversation. Some other possibilities for building a support network to promote your mental wellness:
- Join a local meetup group, which you can filter by “sahm” (stay-at-home mom)14
- Use social media to actually get social; there are Facebook groups for moms in most major cities sharing community events and meetups
- Don’t undervalue virtual relationships; if all you manage at the moment is meme-sharing or texting with your friends, keep it up to keep feeling connected
If you find anxiety and depression impacting your life, seeking help is a courageous and important step. Remember that mental health is a priority, and there are various strategies to make life more manageable and fulfilling. Find more tips and resources at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
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