Being a stay-at-home mom can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also be overwhelming, isolating, and exhausting.
As a mom of 5 children myself, I know the rawness and reality of moms who struggle with feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness while caring for their children and managing their households.
Not to mention the mental guilt a working mother may experience when working outside the home and trying to find their family’s work-and-life balance.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why stay-at-home mom depression is real, and how women can cope with depressive symptoms.
Why Stay At Home Mom Depression Is Real & How To Cope
- Symptoms Stay-at-Home Moms Should Watch For
- The Myth of the Perfect Mom
- Isolation of Stay-at-Home Parenting
- Low-Income Stay-at-Home Moms
- Emotional Burden of Parenthood
- Importance of Self-Care
- Connect with Others With Social Interactions
- Create a Routine
- Cost of Child Care
- Asking for Help When You Need it
- Get Professional Help
- Day to Day Monotony
- Pressure & Alcohol Abuse
- Hormonal Changes In New Moms
- Embrace Imperfection
As anyone who has ever experienced motherhood and caring for children knows, it can be mentally draining — not to mention challenging.
The day-to-day tasks of raising children while keeping up with the household chores (somewhat) in order often lead moms down the path of exhaustion and depression.
While mothers cannot just quit their responsibilities and commitments at the end of the day, they are also entitled to better treatments when it comes to looking after their mental health.
So let’s talk about stay at home mom depression — yes, it’s real — and give you some ideas on how to cope with it so you can get back on your feet again!
Symptoms Stay-at-Home Moms Should Watch For
Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist in New York who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma shares signs and symptoms to watch for if you feel you might be struggling with depression:
- Struggle to get out of bed
- Daydreaming about escaping motherhood
- Thoughts on harming self or children
- Prolonged feelings of anger, sadness, or feeling on-edge
Depression might also lead to behavioral problems, such as aggression, hyperactivity, or substance abuse.
The Myth of the Perfect Mom
One of the biggest contributors to stay-at-home mom depression is the myth of the perfect mom.
Society puts a tremendous amount of pressure on moms to be perfect in every way, to do it all flawlessly without breaking a sweat.
But the reality is that none of us are perfect, and the more we compare ourselves to others, the more we feel like we’re falling short.
Instead of trying to live up to unrealistic standards, it’s important to acknowledge that moms are doing the best they can,
So focus on your families’ unique needs and circumstances, so you can be who they need you to be.
Isolation of Stay-at-Home Parenting
Another common cause of stay-at-home mom depression is the isolation that comes with parenting young children.
This is very common for new moms, especially those who are suffering from postpartum depression.
When you welcome a new baby into your home you have every reason to be thrilled, but often you’re left absolutely exhausted and feel a huge loss of identity into who you were.
Please know that there is a huge difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression.
If you are experiencing prolonged feelings of sadness or you want to cause harm to yourself or your new baby, get help now.
You are not yourself and the persistent sadness new moms experience needs to be addressed.
There’s nothing wrong with getting the mental and medical help you need, so you can care for yourself and your new, growing family.
Even if you need prescription medication, there’s no shame in getting the help you need to feel better.
And don’t forget that your self-care isn’t only for you.
When you’re happy and healthy, you’re setting a great example for your children on how to handle life’s difficulties with grace and resilience.
That’s why it’s so important to prioritize your physical and mental health.
On the flip side, as your kids grow and you’re home with your kids all day, every day, it can be hard to find time to connect with other adults and get the social interaction you need.
To combat this isolation, make a point of scheduling regular play dates or outings with other moms.
You can search for and join a local moms’ group (social media is a great place to start looking), or pursuing a hobby or interest that gets you out of the house and interacting with other people.
Low-Income Stay-at-Home Moms
I left a full-time $20/hour job for my husband to work in another state.
I packed up boxes with two kids under two years old and felt like a semi ran me over when we discovered his job was going to pay him $7/hour.
There is a stress that only low income level mothers understand.
Stay at home moms in low income families often feel like they are struggling more than those with higher incomes and this can lead to severe depression as well.
If you find yourself in financial strain, please know that there is help for you.
Household incomes can change, and this article which you’re now reading is proof of that truth.
And you can help grow your family income without working outside the home.
One of the ways I help my own symptoms of sahm depression (especially when my children were incredibly small) is by creating blog content and you can learn how to start a blog too.
Emotional Burden of Parenthood
Parenthood is an emotional rollercoaster for working and stay-at-home parents, filled with highs and lows, joys and heartaches.
As a stay-at-home mom, you’re on the front lines of all these emotions, and it can be hard to process them all without feeling the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sometimes anger.
It’s important to give yourself permission to feel and to seek support from your partner, friends, or a therapist when you need it.
Do not try to do motherhood on your own, don’t try to bottle up your emotions or downplay the challenges of parenting.
It’s perfectly normal to feel those negative feelings such as stress, anxiety, or sadness at times.
Importance of Self-Care
When you’re taking care of young children all day, it’s easy to neglect your own needs and put everyone else’s first.
But neglecting your own self-care can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and depression.
To take care of yourself, make time for self-care activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
This might look like putting your newborn in her car seat a few feet away, so you can take a warm shower.
Or spending that extra $5 at your local thrift store to buy the glass cake stand you’ve been eyeing.
As your full-time caregiver role changes, you might find yourself having time to do more in your schedule.
You can exercise, meditate, read, take a bubble bath, or work part-time.
Remember, you can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself.
Connect with Others With Social Interactions
Social isolation is a big risk factor for depression, so it’s important to make connections with other adults.
This was especially big when the pandemic hit and the direct effects of isolation are still being felt today.
You can join a mom’s group, a book club, take a class, or volunteer in your community.
Sign your children up for a homeschool co-op, join a mommy playdate group, or find other creative ways to make mom friends you can count on.
Online groups can also be helpful, but try to balance virtual interaction with real-life face-to-face connections.
Create a Routine
As a full time SAHM, it’s easy to feel like your days blend together and lack structure.
Creating a routine can help moms feel more in control and provide a sense of purpose.
The first step is understanding that a mom’s schedule doesn’t have to be rigid and every minute planned out.
But busy moms can set aside specific times for activities like playtime, chores, and self-care as they take care of the kids.
Cost of Child Care
With the ever-increasing cost of child care, it’s no wonder that many families opt for one parent to stay home.
But taking care of children 24/7 is a never-ending job that can quickly leave a mom feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated.
Non-employed women might experience depression and guilt for not contributing to their family’s finances.
But a working mom has the weight and bill of child care on her shoulders.
Her take home pay depends on how much money is left for her family after paying for a decent daycare center.
Plus there’s the added stress of having to leave her children in someone else’s care, even if it’s just for a few hours a week.
This maternal depression can leave a woman with feelings of guilt with balancing family life and needs.
Asking for Help When You Need it
One of the most important ways to cope with stay-at-home mom depression is to ask for help.
It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling, and there’s no shame in asking for support from family members, friends, or professionals.
Whether you need help with child care, housework, or simply someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Get Professional Help
If you’re feeling like you can’t cope or that your depression is severe, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about your options for treatment, which may include therapy, medication, or both.
You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Their National Helpline is free, confidential, 24/7, 365-days a year for treatment referral and information for those who need mental help.
You don’t need a major depressive disorder to call.
If any moms feel like they cannot help their children, remember that there are many organizations and organizations out there to help them (like SAMHSA).
Reach out and call them today, so you can get back to a sense of self.
Your personal information is private and the telephone interviews are confidential.
Another factor that contributes to stay at home mom depression is the feeling of isolation.
This is especially true for married stay-at-home mothers who are struggling while their partners are progressing and advancing in their chosen career.
When you’re at home with young children, it’s easy to feel cut off from the world.
And regardless of a woman’s marital status, connecting with other moms can be incredibly helpful.
Reach out to friends and family, join online groups and parenting forums, or find a local mom group in your area.
No matter what your circumstances, sharing experiences with others can help you feel less alone and more energized.
It’s also important not to forget that you don’t have to do it all on your own.
Day to Day Monotony
Doing the same thing day in and day out can be monotonous and draining.
And when you’re a stay at home mom, it’s easy to fall into a routine that feels never-ending.
The lack of variety can lead to feelings of boredom, frustration, and even depression.
To combat this, try to change your schedule or take breaks outside, like a walk in the park or doing a mommy-and-me class with your child.
Even the smallest changes can bring some excitement into your life.
Pressure & Alcohol Abuse
Being a stay at home mom is a full-time job with no breaks or holidays.
This can lead to a higher risk of alcohol abuse through the social pressure and expectation of relaxing with wine.
Women are surrounded with the theme of moms need wine to “have fun” and “relax”.
They likely feel pressure to drink to relax, which only increases their risk of depression while decreasing their social support from the women who choose not to drink.
The best way to be a great mom is to believe you’re doing a great job being your child’s mom.
And if believing this is not enough because you have doubts and questions, get yourself into support groups who can help you carry the weight of raising your kids.
And then make sure you get the medical attention you need to help you decrease your depression symptoms and increase your physical health.
Hormonal Changes In New Moms
Estrogen and progesterone decrease in a new mother after her baby is born.
The reason why this happens is to help new mothers with nursing their babies.
About 2 to 3 months postpartum, these hormones return to pre-baby levels, but some studies report that hormones might take up to six months after a baby is born to normalize.
And new moms who feel like they have to care for their newborn and keep up with their household duties should know that it’s okay to take a break from the housework or hire this out.
Your physician will also evaluate your depression risk in your postpartum follow-up visit.
Being a mom is hard, and being a SAHM is even harder.
Give yourself a break and don’t strive for perfection.
Accept that there will be good days and bad days, and that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.
It’s normal to struggle with feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation from time to time.
Being a stay at home mom can be a beautiful and life-changing experience, but it’s also okay to admit that it’s not always easy.
Stay at home mom depression is real, and it’s essential to understand why it happens and how to cope.
By acknowledging these feelings, focusing on self-care, seeking support from others, and getting the medical attention and care you need, you can overcome stay-at-home mom depression and find joy in the journey of motherhood.
Remember, you’re not alone, and there is always a way forward.
Take care of yourself, and know that you’re doing an incredible job.
Micah Klug is a wife, homeschooling mother to five children, and author. She teaches time-tested solutions to help parents remember what matters most in life, including strengthening their home, faith, and family relationships. To learn how a child who grew up in an authoritarian home is now creating an environment of peace and joy in her own home visit this page. If you want to contact Micah, send her an email here or email [email protected].