Like most American mothers, my day begins waking up late from broken sleep to someone upset and/or sick, and some appliance not working. Once I navigate the morning at home, I head to work where things are seemingly less stressful yet there are still expectations and people to care for.
As mothers, we commonly see our role as holding it all together in all areas of our lives – home, work, school, etc. These responsibilities weigh heavy on us. As a mother, Psychotherapist, and with the many other hats I wear, I feel this weight as well.
The truth is, as human beings, we are not meant to carry this alone. We are created to live in tribes, clans, communities to feed, sleep, and raise children together. As we evolved into an industrialized society, our connection to the larger community and to each other changed. Families started working outside of the home, support systems were broken up, and our focus shifted towards what was best for the individual rather than the community (Covey, 2007).
Today, we see the side effects in many populations, but especially in women pre/post birth. Currently, “1 in 5 women experience PMADS (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders), with rates rising as high at 70% during the pandemic” (Sager & Sager, 2023). While this rate may seem high, the sad truth is that “up to 80% of cases go undiagnosed or untreated due to stigma, lack of awareness, and scarcity of specialized treatment options” (Sager & Sager, 2023). So, with this reality in mind, it begs the question, are Mothers set up for success? If not, then what can we do about it?
Seek out Community: While knowing you are not alone doesn’t change your reality, it can change your perspective. APA cites that when people feel a connection to others going through similar experiences, their ability to be resilient and coping increases greatly. Find your people, and not just other people with kids, but ones who you share similar parenting styles, hobbies, sleep approaches and backgrounds. And if you can’t find your people easily, start something new or check out my next blog on how I used social media to find other mothers with similar parenting challenges and create a supportive community.
Inform and educate your current Community: Most people want to help, just don’t know how. Which makes sense, each persons’ needs are different. Therefore, it’s on us to educate and inform our loved ones how we receive love and support. Does support look like taking your call in the middle of the night to vent about your challenging day? Or dropping off your favorite taco takeout? Holding the baby while you take a shower? If you have a partner in your parenting journey, keep your line of communication open about your needs and capacity. Although this is a stressful time for many couples, it can also be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and lean into each other for support. So get clear on your needs and understand that not everyone can provide it.
Make time for yourself: What I commonly hear is that client don’t have time for themselves - I get this, and often feel this way too. But what if we changed our expectations of what ‘me time’ looked like? Even if it’s 5 mins in the car on the way to pick up the kids, don’t hit your call list, instead, play favorite song from high school and listen with the windows down. Or if you’re like me, with little ones and struggle to use the bathroom alone, take two extra mins of deep breathing in the bathroom (with or without your child) to calm your nervous system. Additionally, get clear on your ‘happy place’. Many times, mothers spend so much time caring for others that when we get time to ourselves, we’re not sure what to do. Make your list of people, places, experiences, that bring you joy and comfort and have it readily available we you get your 5 mins of ‘Me Time’.
Screw the To Do list: How do you define yourself? Is a good day when everything gets marked off your ever-long to do list? News flash, you are not defined by your to do list! Your value is not based on what you do, but who you are. Therefore, it is vital that we review and maybe even reconsider the expectations we have of ourselves – are they fair, compassionate, or realistic? Aside from internal expectations, there are external expectations that we have little control of. Many women feel additional pressure at work, post baby, to meet or exceed expectations. Deadlines feel more overwhelming due to increased fatigue and little accommodations are provided. Because we have little control over work’s expectations, we must define and set our personal boundaries while accepting our limitations to preserve our mental health and overall wellbeing.
Seek professional help: If you are like many postpartum women you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. I am a firm believer that one’s mental health cannot be ‘solved’ by reading a blog but rather through many avenues, one being relationships. One of the most powerful relationships you can have is with a mental health practitioner. It is through this relationship and use of evidence-based approaches that real change can occur. So, I encourage you to find a therapist that you ‘click with’ and ‘gets you’. I commonly equate it to dating, so just like dating, it takes time and patience, but once you find the right one it’s well worth it.
So, are we set up for success? Probably not, but by creating community, seeking help through honest communication, and seeing our true intrinsic value, women can work your way from survive to thrive.
Sager, E., & Sager, E. (2023, January 6). What are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)? - The
Motherhood Center. The Motherhood Center -.
Covey, M. (2007). Introduction: Work and Families. Michigan Family Review, 12(1), 1.