Even in households with two working parents up to 78% of women report that they carry out the vast majority of invisible labor of raising children, the stress and burden of this is only intensified for single mothers. Research also suggests that women, including women who work full time, take on much more housework on average than their male counterparts.
This adds up to moms having more stress, and less time to engage in stress reduction activities.
Mother’s Day is a special occasion to celebrate the amazing moms in our lives, but it’s also a reminder of the challenges that come with motherhood. Moms often struggle with their mental health, with depression, anxiety, and stress being common issues. As a community, we can all do our part to support moms’ mental health, not just on Mother’s Day but every day.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical ways to support moms’ mental health, from normalizing mental health struggles to offering practical support, educating ourselves about mental health, and showing our appreciation for all that moms do.
The first step in supporting moms’ mental health is to create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable talking about their struggles. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues, and many moms feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they’re struggling. By normalizing mental health struggles and creating a non-judgmental space, we can help moms feel more comfortable seeking help.
Meghan Murchison, a therapist in Austin who works at Heading feels that the medical and behavioral health communities can be doing more, and sooner, to make moms mental health a priority. She shares, “Physicians could be more proactive and do better in making sure that they partner with psychiatrists and partnering with therapists. Establish good relationships with behavioral health providers, and be ready to refer. Women should be getting help immediately, and preferably long before their 6 week postpartum checkup because finding a therapist after you’ve had a baby is probably the very last thing on your mind.”
Many moms feel overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a therapist, especially if they’ve never been to therapy before. Maybe you know a friend who is struggling, or a woman in your own family. Proactively offering to help find someone, sharing the name of your own therapist, or even just talk through the search process can help minimize the stigma around seeking support.
A poll of what moms really want for mother’s day reporting that 58% of moms simply want time for themselves – a small stat that speaks volumes. Many moms put their own needs last, but it’s essential to prioritize self-care for mental health and well-being. As friends and family, we can offer practical support to help moms make time for themselves and take care of their mental health.
You can help create a safe and supportive environment where mental health is prioritize when you lead by example, especially in the workplace or in your social circle. Share your own experiences with mental health struggles, if you feel comfortable doing so. If you go to therapy and feel comfortable sharing that with a friend or colleague, perhaps mention that you see a therapist and that it’s been helpful. By being open and honest, you can encourage others to do the same.
One way to offer practical support is to take care of the kids for a few hours, so mom can have some time for self-care. Whether it’s a fitness class, a walk with friends, a massage, or just a few hours to read a book or take a nap, time for self-care is essential for mental health and well-being.
A recent survey found that when women became parent’s their ability to care for themselves declined, while the opposite was true for men. When men became fathers they began to take better care of themselves.
A practical way to create more equity is to take a look at the language and expectations around parenthood – for example Parental Leave. Even the concept of Paternity leave or Parental Leave is relatively new in our culture. But the benefits of parity between parents when it comes to leave, right from the start, can have significant benefits on the welfare of children, mothers, and families. Reducing burnout for moms and primary caregivers, means that dads and co-caregivers need to have the ability to step up at home. Paternity and parental leave policies are benefits that make this more possible, as long as those benefits are taken. One New York Times article in 2020 noted that many many take only 10 days off when they welcome a new child to their family. The reasons vary from fear of job loss, or their parental leave not being fully paid or not paid at all. Shifting expectations around this is not in everyone’s control as most of us cannot dictate our employer’s leave policies. But those that do receive paternity leave and parental leave benefits taking them, and being open about taking them, can help shift the conversations around moms ‘leaving work’ to people prioritizing families.
A survey of working moms found that nearly half, especially during the pandemic, were diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
Mental health is a complex issue, and understanding how it impacts moms specifically can be helpful in providing support. Many moms experience postpartum depression or anxiety, and these issues can continue long after the baby is born. By educating ourselves about these issues, we can better support the moms in our lives and help them access the resources they need.
One way to educate ourselves is to read up on mental health issues that impact moms specifically. Postpartum Support International is an excellent resource for information about postpartum depression and anxiety, and they have resources for friends and family members as well as moms.
Another way to educate ourselves is to ask questions and listen to moms’ experiences – this is especially true for those who are not mothers, and for men. Every mom’s experience with mental health is unique, and listening to their stories can help us understand what they’re going through and how we can support them better and appreciate them for all that they do for us.