Being a mother is a gift, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult. Stay-at-home mom depression is real and these tips will help.
Being a parent is difficult. It is the most rewarding job that you’ll ever have, but that doesn’t make it easy. You are suddenly not in control of so much happening around you and it can be extremely overwhelming.
When you are a mother, there is “more feeling” all the time. You are happier than you’ve ever felt, more scared than you’ve ever felt, more frustrated than ever before, more joyous than ever before, and feel all of the other emotions on a higher level. It is a new way of existing that no one really talks about. You have to get used to the “new you” and the loss of identity.
I’m not trying to imply that you are no longer yourself – that is not true. You are who you have always been regardless of having a child (try to remember that!), but trying to live within the new world of more emotion, less control, and likely lots of voices piping in with advice, it can be a challenge.
Stay At Home Mom Depression Is A Real Thing
For many generations, moms were expected to be home with the children and love it. Home mothers loved to make dinner from scratch, tended to all of the washing and shopping, kept the home pristine, and kept their young children spotless and well-behaved. It was a popular belief that was held by most people. Yet, both then and now, there is and was an elephant in the room nobody talks about.
Postpartum depression and clinical depression are both very real things. Trying to balance mental health issues while also managing diaper changes, a low (or nonexistent) sex drive, minimal sleep, a new role, and all of the societal pressures can make even the smallest things seem monumental.
You are not alone. Many, many home moms have been right where you are. It is not easy, but there are some basic things that both new moms, as well as experienced moms can do to help get through each day.
Try To Get Some Sleep
I know what you’re thinking – everyone wants to talk about sleep and they never seem to stop. Is the baby sleeping through the night? How many hours are you sleeping? Make sure to take a nap when your child naps! The line of questioning alone is enough to drive you over the edge.
That said, sleep is imperative to a healthy mental state and may be the only mental break you get for a bit. Our friends and family members may want to change their tactics a bit (we know you’re supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps), but the truth is that you actually do need sleep just as much as your child does. Allowing your body to get proper rest will help to lower your stress level and make a huge difference in your ability to manage the hard work of each day.
This is much, much easier said than done. When the children go to sleep at the end of the day, all you want is some alone time. Laying down in the living room, throwing on your favorite television show, hanging out on Facebook, and/or eating some ice cream is the dream – particularly if you’re having a hard time psychologically.
Typically during nap time, you have to do laundry or clean the bathroom. There is never time to tune into your own needs. Sometimes, you need to do exactly that. Spend as much time as you need online or watching tv, knowing you’ll pay the price tomorrow.
During the rest of the week, try to get some rest. Give yourself 10 minutes on social media and then go lay down. If you can’t actually fall asleep, try reading a book. Get your head out of real life for a few minutes and you may doze off more easily.
Praise Your Children – Often
Wait, isn’t this discussion about your mental health, not your children’s? You are absolutely correct. When you provide positive reinforcement to your children (or anyone around you), you are automatically thinking positively. You can’t help it, you’re reframing things for everyone. That doesn’t mean that Cinderella’s animal friends will come down and leave you with a clean house, but it does give your brain positive information to work with.
On a parenting level, complimenting or praising your children brings a smile to their faces and allows them to have a moment where they can feel that they are being seen. In this busy world – whether you are a single parent, stay-at-home mom, stay-at-home dad, or working mom on maternity leave – with media, chores, and other influences around, it’s always a good thing to take a moment to really see your child – and let them know that they are being seen.
Make Time For Yourself
As parents, we always put ourselves last. There is nothing more important than making sure that our kids are well taken care of, and that their needs are met. But once their needs are met, you need to meet your own.
This can be extremely hard to do as a parent, but it is vital for your sanity, so it becomes about the little things. If you are home all day with a baby, tell your partner that you need 15 minutes when they get back. Go to the bathroom with your favorite book, light a candle, close the door, and lay down to read. I would suggest doing this in your bedroom, but since there is an unwritten rule that you leave people alone in the bathroom (unless you are two years old), this might be your best option.
If you have mom friends with kids, see if you can swap for an hour here or there. This Tuesday, you take both kids so that your friend can have an hour to themselves, and next week it’s your turn.
Is the baby little and you don’t want to leave them? Call the person who has said, “If you ever need any help” and invite them over for an hour to hold the baby. This will allow you to go in the other room and watch television, work out, or go on social media, all while knowing that the baby is only a few feet away. Do what you can do, but make sure that you do it.
If you have a partner that works at home and you are missing the sense of accomplishment that comes with working, see if there is a point at which you can get a part-time job. Full-time jobs may be a little too much right off the bat, but spending a lot of the day with your child and then having a few hours where you work (even from home) can be a wonderful thing if you can manage it.
Get Out Of Your Head
Being a parent is just as much a job as any paid position. There are millions of things to remember, tons of things to do, many more concerns, plus the big world out there that you can’t control. Because of all of this, it is easy to get into a mental spin.
It’s important to find ways to get out of your head. To stop worrying about the laundry and the nap schedule and just be. Really look at your child’s face. Really hear the way they laugh. Try to help yourself make an imprint of these things in your mind. The laundry will wait, but these moments really won’t. Things change, and you don’t want to miss them because you’ve been so stuck in the psychological whirlwind.
When it comes to feelings of depression, it can feel like carrying a backpack of rocks on top of all of the overwhelming moments you are dealing with. You can be a good mom and manage depression – many people do. A mental health disorder is no different from a physical health disorder, so you can equate this type of diagnosis with having psoriasis or hypothyroidism. There should be no stigma attached.
Because there is such social isolation when you have a child, in addition to any help you may be getting from your doctor, you may want to look into support groups. Look around you and build an emotional support network. There are neighborhood moms groups, online groups, and often family members looking to spend time together with their kids. This is the time to take them up on it.
Take A Breath
I’m sure you’ve heard the old advice about counting to ten when you are frustrated or taking deep breaths. The reason this is old advice is because it is actually helpful.
When you are overwhelmed, stop where you are and take five deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth. When you change the way that you are breathing, you change the messages that are being sent to your brain. Your heart rate and muscles should relax a bit and hopefully, you will feel the negative emotions and stress get lower. You can do this multiple times throughout the day, but you won’t want to do it too many times in a row. Breathing too quickly, too deeply can actually cause hyperventilation and that is the opposite of what you’re looking to accomplish.
Try To See The Glass Half Full
I know that it is hard. When you are dealing with the stress of each and every day feeling the same, never getting a break, nobody understanding what you are going through, it is really tough.
Nobody warns you about these feelings, they just say that motherhood is the best thing ever. And it is. That doesn’t mean that it’s also not the hardest job ever – because it is.
If no one in your life has ever said this to you, please hear it from me. Parenting is hard and I hear you. I am a parent and it can be really, really tough. But we are a part of a community of people who are going through the same thing. Other people might not talk about it, but they’ve been there. Other people may make their lives appear perfect, but they are not. Being a parent can be a very lonely experience that you are having within a sea of other people.
So what do you do about it? My best suggestion is to try to see the glass half full. See the sun when it comes out or the flowers starting to bloom. Try to appreciate the birds outside or even the mountains of snow while you are in a heated building. There are always good things, even if you have to hunt a little harder to find them.
Is your child healthy? Do they respond to your voice or your smell? Those are beautiful things. Even with the lack of sleep, little time for yourself, and piles of laundry, there are so many things to be grateful for. Try to find them, they will help. And seek mental health treatment if you need to. There is nothing to be ashamed of – your goal is to be the best mom and the best human that you are capable of. We all need a little help sometimes.
If you are looking to get a little further out of your head, try reading through my Mindfulness Meditation series. There are some excellent exercises designed to help improve your mood.