As a little girl, motherhood sounded so easy, so natural, and so appealing. I heard about how Grandma raised 13 kids and ran the household like a well-oiled machine. Like many other women, I expected to juggle my responsibilities as a woman, mother, wife, and worker.
Now, as a mother of four, I can see that perhaps I wasn't told the whole truth; or perhaps I only chose to focus on the elements of motherhood that were consistent with the fairy tale. Or perhaps I failed to take into account that while women’s rights had propelled me into the workforce, my responsibilities as a mother didn't scale back.
Consider some of these dire stats:
- Over 12 million women are diagnosed with depression each year.
- Nearly 13 million women are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder each year.
- Women experience anxiety and depression about twice as often as men.
- Married women with children have higher rates of depression and anxiety than married women without children. These rates increase as the number of children in the home increases.
- A single, childless woman with a cat can expect to live longer than a married woman with children.
- Over 70% of antidepressant medication is given to women.
Most mothers agree on the many joys of motherhood: the scent of a newborn baby; the elation of witnessing their first step, first day of school, first crush, etc. Infinite books, songs, and movies have been written about the time-honored role of being a mother. Yet very few dare to discuss motherhood’s ugly-little-secret inherent in the statistics mentioned above.
We have a nation of mothers brooding in secrecy about their dissatisfaction, frustrations and self-deprivation. Yet they won’t discuss this due to fears of being outcast and labeled a deviant. Some may cringe at the idea of a clinical psychologist who happens to be a mother of four discussing the perils of motherhood. Let’s be honest: there's nothing politically correct about this discussion.
Unfortunately, political correctness in regards to motherhood has led us to where we are today, with staggering statistics showing a correlation between motherhood, depression and anxiety disorders.
Opening up this dialogue acknowledges the frustrations that inherently exist along the journey of motherhood. Amazingly, as I have discovered with my patients, once women are given permission to express their feelings, they are more open to implementing strategies that will allow them to thrive as mothers.
3 Steps to Thrive in Motherhood
1. Rediscover you. Engage in hobbies & indulge your interests.
Don’t lose your individual identity in the name of motherhood. You were an individual prior to becoming and mother and it's imperative to remain connected to your authentic self. It is not uncommon as the mother finds herself more and more ingrained in the role of mother that her connection to self diminishes until she's barely recognizable outside of her role as mother. Women who continue to engage in hobbies and interests are measurably happier.
2. Slow down.
Interestingly, many of the characteristics of a person in an active state of mania are the same characteristics that our society values in mothers.
Remind yourself that you'll never get it all done, there will always be laundry, the house will never remain clean. Give yourself permission to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy life with your children.
Mothers in a constant state of motion miss out on many of the joys of motherhood.
3. Release the “whentality.”
Many of my clients have adopted an "I'll-be-happy-when" mentality which I like to call a "whentality."
- I’ll be happy when the kids become more independent.
- I’ll be able to relax when the house is clean.
- I’ll be able to breathe when the grocery shopping is complete.
This whentality is problematic in many ways. First, “when” never seems to come. This future-focused existence robs us of the magic of the day. We have conditioned ourselves to believe that we must wait until some opportune event to finally relax and be happy. Our serenity and calmness is not to be found in some deemed event or passage of time, it can only be found in the present moment
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