Have you ever joined a mommy group, whether it be in person or online, and felt extreme pressure to live up to the group's standards? Like you join a breastfeeding group and then feel ashamed because you have to supplement. Or you join a fitness group and feel bad because you have to modify the exercises.
The pressure to be the perfect mom can be overwhelming.
Mothering in this day and age comes with a lot of pressure; both from society and ourselves. We all want to be the best mom which means different thing to different people and the stress can come from a variety of places.
It can come unintentionally from our friends. The working mom sees her stay at home mom friend taking the kids to the zoo on a random week day since the weather is nice and is jealous because they lack that flexibility. A stay at home mom sees a working mom posting about conversations with a coworker and becomes jealous of the opportunity for adult conversation.
One mom may vent about her struggles with getting her baby to sleep through the night and then get bombarded with anecdotes from moms who got their kids sleeping in just a few months. While well intentioned, this just causes more stress by making the first mom to feel like a failure.
Some moms are blessed with mild mannered kids, while other have kids who are fireballs of energy. Some moms have children with behavioral or physical disabilities which require extra attention. This can be super exhausting and yet there is still the expectation that we have to do it all.
We are bombarded by images of celebrity moms who can bounce back after babies. The celebs who don't bounce back are ridiculed. This in turn makes us feel bad about our post baby bodies.
We are expected to schedule play dates and parties and sleepovers and involve our kids in sports and other activities. We compare ourselves to our own moms and generally feel like we are falling short.
We moms can be stuck in our circumstances whether they fit our personalities our not. We might wish to stay at home but can't afford it. We might wish to work but don't have access to child care. We might be introverted but unable to find enough alone time to recharge.
We get stressed and then feel guilty about snapping at the kids or our spouse. We are told that motherhood should be joyful and when we don't feel that way, we feel like failures.
Even when we do see moms venting about their rough day with the kids, its often seen as humor. Like ha ha, we all have those days, but tomorrow you better have your crap together. Instead of acknowledging the stress and burnout that this can really cause in moms.
We joke about our need for wine at the end of the day, but this self medication doesn't really solve the problem. I'm not trying to take away your wine, lol, but we shouldn't have to need it. We joke about being hot mess moms, but is that really how we want to live.
How to Cope
If you are feeling stressed and burnt out from motherhood, there are several steps you can take. As always, the first step is to acknowledge that there is something wrong. Admit it to yourself and those close to you.
There are so many moms who are struggling. We are only human. Lower your standards. Be realistic in your expectations of yourself and your children.
Take some time out to assess your schedule, routine, and lifestyle. Next think about what your dream life would look like. Is there anything you can do to make your life look more like that right now?
Take a look at your relationship with your spouse and the division of child related and household tasks. Speak with your spouse and see if some of these tasks can be re-negotiated.
Don't blame them for not stepping up, we have often allowed the division of labor to become one sided. Instead, let them know that you are feeling overwhelmed and you want to be a better, happier mom. Tell them you would like their help in making this happen.
Write up the new division of labor. In addition, schedule in some self-care hours where your spouse can take over the child care duties for a bit.
Research has shown again and again the power of movement in bringing about a positive mindset. Walking, running, swimming, yoga, and other forms of exercise benefit mental and physical well-being and boost dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with motivation, focus, and enjoyment.
Talking also helps ease the effects of stress. Talk to a friend on the phone or chat with your spouse. Open up to like-minded people who can relate to your motherhood struggles.
If you feel like you can't talk to your friends about this, find a no-judgement support group. This is something I am thinking of creating myself, so if you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to your General Practitioner and explain that you are feeling overwhelmed and need help. If possible, meet with a therapist or counsellor. Give yourself permission to take time out.
We all have heard the advice of getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet to reduce stress and tension. For many moms this can be easier said than done when kids aren't sleeping through the night and we're rushing around from errand to errand.
However, sleep is so so important. I mean sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture so we should really be making every effort not to torture ourselves. Try to work in naps or going to bed earlier in order to get adequate sleep.
Finally, if being a mom hasn’t come easy for you, know that you are not alone. Accept who you are and remember that there is more than one way to be a good mom. Focus on your positive traits as a mom. What are you really good at?
There is no such thing as perfection, so all we can do is continually try to be our best. Be open with your kids; discuss any mess ups and talk about what you all need.
Be kind to yourself.