Written by Noha Khalifa
Mona has been awake for several hours. She’s made breakfast, cleaned up, gotten herself, her partner, and her kids ready for their day. It’s not even 8:00 AM and she is already exhausted. She mentally goes through her daily checklist:
Lunch – packed.
Schoolwork – done.
Drop off – up next.
Don’t forget about soccer after school and the doctor appointment.
The constant checklist is overwhelming and physically draining, and the stress of keeping everything in order is unbearable. Mona finds herself thinking of all the things that can or will go wrong. What will I mess up today? she wonders.Every day blends together—an endless list of chores and a constant state of exhaustion. Mona can’t help but feel lost and helpless.
Motherhood: one word that holds so much weight and complex meaning.
Often thought of as a natural or innate role for women,motherhood requires a physical and psychological transformation. Motherhood is consuming. Becoming a mom causes an upheaval, not only in your daily life and relationships but also in your identity. Balancing being a mom, a partner, and yourself seems impossible at times.
Sleep becomes non-existent and you struggle to even recognize yourself. While you love your child, you also miss the person you were before becoming a mom. You don’t dare say this out loud to others for fear of judgement. Sometimes it’s hard to find your old self and that can be scary.
The Realities of Motherhood
With motherhood comes an incredible amount of stress. Women are often socialized to be nurturing, caring, selfless, and giving to others. In addition, society sets expectations that children are primarily the responsibility of the mother. Resources, such as affordable child care and adequate maternity leave, are scarce in the US. This results in unique challenges for moms.
In addition to limited resources, support lacks in other ways too. Most women aren’t able to identify that their role as a mother is one of the underlying causes of their hardships and struggles. Additionally, many mothers embody “Mom Guilt,” which is the constant shame felt whenever doing anything outside of the primary role of “Mom.” As a result, the very thought of taking time to address and cope with stressful daily events, such as children, is difficult.
According to Postpartum Support International, as many as 15-20 percent of new mothers experience a serious episode of a mood or anxiety disorder*.
Motherhood is beautiful. It is also challenging, both physically and emotionally. The mental energy you exert on a daily basis caring for someone dependent on you can be grueling and less innate or rewarding than many believe. Overwhelming stress can stem from women becoming the “project managers” of their households. This mental load** is illustrative of how women bear sole responsibility for everything in the household, not just the children. While women are socialized to be nurturing, caring, and extremely giving to others, they are often not taught that they ought to be on the list of people receiving care as well.
The stresses of motherhood are real and common. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.
The following tips can help you combat the daily stressors of being a mom:
1) Say ‘Bye’ to Mom Guilt
Guilt stems from the self-imposed expectation that things “should” be a certain way. You “should” always be with your children. Everything “should” be done by you. Free yourself from these unrealistic and unforgiving expectations. You are the best mom you can be. While challenging at first, you will find that being more gentle with yourself can help you feel better and enjoy your family more.
2) Share the responsibility
The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is just as relevant today as it was in previous generations. Talk to your support system. Ask your partner to share your mental load. Utilize your resources, whether it be a mothers’ support group, friends, or family. Remember, you are not alone.
3) Self-care, self-care, self-care
The hardest thing for a mom to do is to think about herself. While this is understandable, how will you continue to care for the ones you love if you are running on empty? In order to continue engaging with, caring for, and enjoying your children, you NEED to take care of yourself. Dedicate some time throughout the week as “me time.” Take a nap, go out with your friends, go to the spa, or simply go to a park and read a book. Whatever you enjoy, make time for yourself daily.
4) Live in the moment
Thinking about the future and what may or may not happen can be overwhelming. Moreover, it causes you to miss out on experiences happening at the present moment. Take things one day at a time. Focus on what is important in this moment and put the nonessential things on hold. Yes, it’s okay for your house to be a mess and for the dishes to pile up. Take a deep breath, get some fresh air, and allow yourself to enjoy and bond with your children.
You can’t pour from an empty vessel.
Society’s implication that you have to do everything and do it by yourself is not true. Give yourself the time to take care of yourself. Restorative Counseling is here to support you. Let’s get started on making you feel more like you again It is time you prioritize yourself!
If you are experiencing severe debilitating symptoms, contact your healthcare provider or the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773.
*Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health Overview (2019). Retrieved from https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-postpartum-mental-health/.
**You should’ve asked (2019). Retrieved from https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked/.