Stressed Out Moms in the U.S.A
Are you a stressed out mom? You’re not alone. It’s an American epidemic. A recent article in Psychology Today reports that Mothers Are Drowning in Stress. The article reports the findings of sociologist Caitlyn Collins who studied parenting for five years in four western countries. In her book, Making Motherhood Work she outlines her findings of the four countries she studied that included Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States. What she found was that mothers in the United States were suffering from the greatest amount of stress.
Why are American mothers suffering from more stress?
Mothers in the U.S. have the least amount of support with unpaid maternity leave, the largest gender wage gap, a lack of standardization for sick leave and vacation, and the highest maternal and child poverty rates.
Mothers are struggling to meet unrealistic expectations that according to Collins are largely related to cultural and social beliefs around motherhood. The difference between American mothers compared to their European counterparts, is that we feel caught in the middle of the working world and the obligations of home and to our children. We feel the pressure to “do it all.” As a result American mothers are stressed, anxious, and ridden with guilt.
Trying to Achieve an Unrealistic and Conflicting Ideal of Motherhood
Many mothers have to work to help support their families. Other mothers want to work and have a career outside of the home. Either way, working mothers are not only pursuing full time work but they also feel the pressure and expectation to be at every school function, volunteer for the PTO, prepare meals for their families, carpool the kids to their evening activities, organize and take care of the home, and so much more.
How do American mothers compare to European mothers?
Mothers in Sweden expect to have the support of their spouse, employer, and the government, so that they can pursue their career while also being a mother. Mothers in Western Germany and Italy are encouraged to stay at home when they have children. As Dr. Escalente explains in the Psychology Today article, “The combination of impossible and incompatible ideals of work and home, with a lack of policy and social support for working families, has put mothers in a no-win situation.”
The result is mommy burnout!
What is Mommy Burnout?
It’s the kind of stress that is chronic, and chronic stress has a deeply profound impact on our bodies and our minds. All of the challenges that you are experiencing from weight gain, food cravings, lack of energy, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and gut imbalance, can all be caused by the chronic stress of trying to be the “perfect” mother.
As modern mothers we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, and feeling like we’re always falling short. Pinterest reminds us that we have to have the perfectly adorably themed birthday party with homemade treats, decorations, and a professional photographer to capture our picture perfect family.
The Social Media Effect
Social media is a daily reminder that every other mother’s children behave themselves, have strong and loving relationships with their husbands, and manage to cook healthy meals and have fit and healthy bodies. We compare ourselves to an altered reality and as a result constantly feel like we’re falling short. Why can’t we get it right? Why are we overwhelmed? What’s her secret?
You’re Not Alone, We’ve All Been There
All too often we’re ashamed to admit that we sometimes get angry and yell at our kids when we’ve told them to get their shoes on for the tenth time and we’re late for soccer practice. Or we’re too tired at the end of the day, so we turn on a movie, or give our kids the ipad so we can have a moment of peace and quiet, as we pull out the takeout menu.
You’re Body is Effected by Stress
The daily stress of trying to do it all, and do it perfectly, puts your body into a constant state of fight-or-flight mode. While this is meant to protect you from threats, when the stress is ongoing it wreaks havoc on your body. In the form of anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, sleep problems, heart disease, weight gain, memory, and concentration impairment.
That’s why it’s so important as mothers to recognize the signs of Mommy Burnout, and take the necessary steps to cope with stress effectively. You’ll not only improve your mental health, but your physical and emotional health and have the tools to be a more effective and loving mother for your children.
Sleep Disturbances and Lack of Energy
You have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or wake up feeling exhausted even if you got enough sleep. You lack energy throughout the day. You’re tired all the time.
You’re Constantly In a Bad Mood
You beat yourself up for parenting decisions you make, thinking you could have done it better or you didn’t get it right. You feel like you yell or snap at your kids too much.
You Suffer From Food Cravings
When you feel under stress you look to food for comfort, usually sugary and salty snacks. Some days you go without eating a real meal, just grabbing something on the go because you’re too busy to stop and sit down to eat. You might look forward to your nightly glass of wine a little too much.
You Regularly Get Tension Headaches
You find yourself taking pain medications on the regular for pounding tension headaches, achy shoulders, back, and stiff neck.
You Get Sick More Often
You get sick when your kids are sick, only it feels worse for you, and takes longer for you to recover.
You’ve Distanced Yourself from Your Relationships
You feel disconnected from your husband. You have no interest in sex. You avoid getting together with friends, or answering their calls because you’re too tired. You rely on text messages and social media to stay connected rather than meet with people face to face.
You Have No Down Time
You can’t remember the last time you did anything for yourself. You overschedule, overbook, and forget appointments for yourself and your kids. You feel like you’re constantly in overdrive with no time to stop and breathe.
How to Set Yourself Free From Mommy Burnout?
Start a Self-Care Practice
Sometimes when we think of self-care we think of pampering ourselves. Obviously, it would be costly to make a daily trip to the spa for some self-care, but self-care is less complicated than that. Allow yourself to read a book for enjoyment, take a walk outside, practice a 10 minute breathing exercise, take a bath with some essential oils. Do something that you enjoy that helps you slow down. My article 48 Self-Care Ideas for Busy Moms will help get you started on some ways to easily integrate self-care into your day.
Reconnect with Your Husband or Partner
Start with repairing the relationship with your husband. Reconnect with him. It’s all too familiar to push some of the blame for the way you are feeling on your husband. Thinking things like, “He doesn’t help me!” or “He’s not doing enough!” This can leave us feeling resentful, and when you’re resentful, the last thing you want to do is be intimate. Start by taking the time to talk with your husband. Make it a point to have a date night. Rather than pushing him away, try to draw him closer, and ask and use his help. We often feel like we have to be super mom and take everything on ourselves, but there are people you can reach out to for help.
Reconnect with Your Friends
Next, reach out to your friends. Not just a text, but a phone call, or even set up a time to meet an old friend for coffee and catch-up. When you reach out to other moms in similar situations it will help you feel less isolated. I can promise you that your friends are going through the same challenging moments that you are and laughing your way through it or asking for help is an excellent way to feel more connected.
Limit Social Media
Social media is toxic when you feel like you’re falling short and trying to be a perfect mother. Take a break from it and see how your mood shifts. Use that time for self-care.
Say No! Prioritize Down Time
Say no to things you don’t want to do. I know it seems overly simplistic but we often say yes to things we don’t want to do out of guilt or because we think we have no choice. You do have a choice! Your time and energy is precious. Don’t waste it on tasks and people that do not bring you joy. Cut back on obligations and commitments that leave you drained. Do this when it comes to your kids too! You don’t have to go to every birthday party, or sign your kid up for every after school activity. Your time is precious. Only commit to those things that bring you and/or your children the greatest joy. Allow yourself and your family unscheduled time to relax and do nothing.
Nourish Your Body
You have to make your physical health a priority to get yourself back on track, and feel like yourself again. That means getting eight hours of sleep, fueling your body with nutrient rich foods, decreasing your consumption of sugar and processed foods, and making time to exercise.
Putting It All Together
You are not alone! So many of us are trying to navigate this unrealistic ideal, thinking if we can only figure out a new organizational trick, a new meal plan app, or maybe a beautiful new planner to keep all our tasks at hand we’ll figure this motherhood thing out.
Caitlin Collins research shows that it’s not YOU! You’re a great mom! You’re providing for your family, your kids adore you. You’re doing the best you can and that’s enough. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t need to live up to an unrealistic ideal.