Those days! Those days you want to disappear under the blanket just one more hour before you have to pack 2 diaper bags, nurse the baby and throw your wet tunic back into the dryer so you can make it to work by 8:30. Those days when you try to console your screaming toddler while the baby crawls under the couch and eats dust bunnies and crusty cereal. And don’t forget those nights when your toddler has 103° fever, throws up on your bedspread and your husband manages to sleep through it all. Mom stress hits you smack in the face on those days, leaving you ready to collapse, cry or both. Mom stress is not only for women with young children. Mothers with pre-teens, teens or even a college aged child still feel stress. So what can a woman do about mom stress?
A 2008 Pew Research Center study surveyed men and women to see how often they felt stressed. Working moms (86%) reported that they frequently felt stressed. At home moms (82%) reported that they frequently felt stressed. Working dads (74%) reported they frequently felt stressed.
Why Are Moms So Stressed?
The responsibilities and demands of meeting the needs of children don’t just disappear at a specific time of the day. Supper time, bath time, homework, and getting the children in bed happens every night. Add in setting rules for phone use, TV time, or social media and it’s enough to boggle a mom’s mind. Even after the kids are in bed, there is wash to do, a home to clean and or work from the office. Stressed single mothers may be raising a child in a city where they have no friends or family to call. They may have to rely on day care, after-school care or neighbors to watch their child which adds another dimension of stress to their daily lives. Mothers of ill or children with disabilities feel the burden of stress compounded as they race to appointments, head to pharmacies for prescriptions or wait in a hospital as a child has surgery. A mom is always “needed” and it can be exhausting.
Health Issues Related to Stress
- Chronic stress can lead to heart and blood vessel problems. Stress can cause an elevated blood pressure increasing the danger for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
- Your stomach can respond to repeated high levels of stress with nausea or pain.
- Stress can affect how your intestines absorb nutrients leading to bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
- Chronic stress affects the nervous system. Depression, anxiety, insomnia and headaches can all come from daily stressors.
- Stress can lead to absent or irregular menstrual cycles. Menstrual cycles may be more painful. Adverse effects of stress can be increased fluid retention, bloating and mood swings during your pre-menstrual days of the month.
What Can a Stressed Mom Do?
I want you to find balance in your life and a sense of quiet among the chaos of your daily life. Let’s look at a few ideas.
- Take Time for You. Plan time for yourself every single day. Exercise, call a good friend, watch the sunset, or take a hot bath. Practice meditation. Write in your journal. Curl up with a book.
- Ask for help. It does not make you weak or less of a woman to ask for extra help. Can you ask a friend to pop over for half an hour? Does the church have members who volunteer to help mothers? Ask your husband to do a little more. Can he make dinner 3 times a week? Don’t assume he knows you need help.
- Give the children responsibilities of their own. Choose tasks that your children can do that match their age. A teen can walk the dog while a younger child vacuums. Ask your children to lay out their clothes for school before going to bed and keep doing it until it becomes a habit for them. Get them involved in packing their own lunches.
- Choose not to overschedule. It is okay to say NO to an activity. Choose the activities that you and your children really love. Stick with those and plan one or two of the other weeknights for quiet activities at home. Your children may need that down time too.
Turn to the The MotherPod for Support and Ideas
The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation is thrilled to share our new podcast with you, The MotherPod. The MotherPod is designed by moms for moms! Our goal for The MotherPod is to open up dialogue on important health topics and provide perspectives and resources on these topics for moms in a supportive online community. WWHF will be adding two new podcasts a month and cover 12 different series each year. Each series will have two information packed episodes with different community speakers on varying health women’s health topics. It just so happens that you can find two fabulous podcasts under the topic Why Can’t Stressed Moms Relax? right this minute by visiting https://www.wwhf.org/motherpod/. Kayla Thomas, our Marketing and Communications Manager, hosts and interviews Pam Tauscher, NBC15 TV journalist in Episode 1. In Episode 2, Meg Sirchio, owner of Perennial Yoga Studio in Madison, provide insights into the complicated lives of stressed moms and share techniques for decreasing stress.
I urge you to listen to The MotherPod today and find new ways to reduce mom stress. Because it all beings with a healthy woman…