When Mom Needs a Break

maternal stress

Mothers today, whether they work or stay at home, are more stressed out than ever before. Due to the rise in nuclear families most mothers, both single and married, perform more domestic duties alone. This along with society’s changing expectations regarding “ideal motherhood” compounds the daily stress mothers face today. This maternal stress, combined with stress faced by working mothers, can be detrimental to one’s health and well-being.

Stressed Mothers More Likely to View Their Children as Being Difficult

A study from the Journal of Pediatric Psychology revealed that maternal stress is more likely to cause mothers to view their children as being temperamentally difficult. The study, led by Stephen J. Sheinkopf, was conducted at Bradley Hospital, Brown Medical School and Women & Infants’ Hospital and consisted of asking a group of mothers, some of whom had indulged in cocaine use during pregnancy, how temperamental they viewed their infants to be.

The result was that extremely stressed out mothers, regardless of whether they engaged in drug use or not, were more likely to view their babies as being temperamental. It also found that low socioeconomic status exacerbated maternal stress. Past studies have revealed that high maternal stress is related to children exhibiting poor behavior. In addition to its negative impact upon children, built up stress can cause long-term health problems for mothers, ranging from ulcers to depression and anxiety.

Some Mothers Rebel Against Standards for Ideal Motherhood

Society’s changing expectations regarding ideal motherhood further aggravate maternal stress. Modern mothers today are expected daily to handle the housework, plan and prepare meals, ferry the kids to and from school/after-school activities, be actively involved in the PTA, entertain kids, help them with homework, break up the kids’ fights, maintain bedtime routines, and/or work outside the home all at the same time primarily on their own.

On top of this today’s mothers are expected to live by the latest trends in childcare and household maintenance, which include things like exclusively breastfeeding, preparing health conscious meals, sustaining an eco-friendly home life, busying kids with lots of kid-friendly outings and activities, and so on. While living by these trends is admirable, it becomes difficult to maintain when mothers are stressed by their more mundane domestic duties.

In response to modern society’s enormous expectations, some mothers have decided to openly rebel against it. French philosopher and feminist Elizabeth Badinter claims that mothers today have become slaves to their children. In her new book Le Conflit, La Femme et la Mere (The Conflict, the Woman, and the Mother), Badinter states that women should value themselves as being women first, mothers second, by ditching the latest mothering trends, engaging in some intermittent freedom away from home, and going back to work if they haven’t already.

In Australia Amanda Cox, mother of three, has formed the Bad Mothers Club, where she and her fellow “bad” mothers commiserate over having given up in the race to become perfect parents.

Some Helpful Tips for Stressed Mothers

Mothers can significantly reduce maternal stress through the following solutions. First, mothers should learn to make a schedule every day listing all the chores they intend to do. Next they should categorize these chores based on discovering which chores need to be done right away, which can be done later, and which don’t need to be done at all. Mothers should then simply perform all the necessary chores they are capable of doing, thereby significantly lowering their daily stress levels.

Secondly, mothers should learn to delegate chores and responsibilities to others. This can mean having both fathers and older children help out more around the house. It can also mean hiring someone to help out, whether around the house like a housekeeper or around the children like a nanny or teenage babysitter. Mothers can also form Mommy Co-ops within their communities and swap services with friends and neighbors facing the same predicament of having too much to do with so little time.

Thirdly, mothers should learn not to take on too many chores and activities at once. If for example the local community group asks a mother to volunteer for them on their upcoming project and she does not have the time and energy for it, politely decline the offer.

Finally mothers should take time out intermittently to relax and unwind, whether through shopping with friends, spending a romantic weekend with one’s spouse, or simply getting a makeover. Regular exercise can also help to significantly reduce one’s stress levels.

Mothers Should Not Stress Themselves Out

In living up to today’s standards for ideal motherhood, mothers face incredible amounts of stress. Such stress can lead mothers to experience long-term health problems and regard their children as being difficult. Some mothers have started defying society’s high expectations; most mothers however can benefit from applying a few simple and effective tips for reducing stress.

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