Updated: Apr 30, 2022
Depression is the leading cause of mental illness in the U.S. it affects over 40 Million people and It's really no secret that stay at home moms notoriously suffer from depression or PPD at some point in their journey of motherhood. You know, It's the feelings of sadness day after day that you just can not shake, the deep need to stay in bed in the morning, the irritation you feel deep down just by your baby's presence, and the constant nagging and negative inner self talk that says you are not good enough, and not to mention the ever dreadful thoughts of ending your own life because you just can't cope. These feeling are all so real but oddly just a fallacy. Because I know for a fact that they are not true. .. and that every mother is good enough and has it in them to thrive.
The problem is that our post partum bodies play tricks on us. We get bombarded with what should be labeled as a toxic cocktail of hormone fluctuations that make our perception of motherhood too much for one person to bare. I could say todays new moms have grown up so differently than our mothers or even grandmothers who lived the '50's housewife life' (spoiler alert, they were depressed too). Modern women are in fact different, we grew up looking forward (or at least expecting) to work, earn a paycheck and most importantly having our independence and equal opportunity... but starting a family can certainly throw a monkey wrench into those expectations. I feel Women aren't as prepared for what motherhood brings to their lives the way they once were and the major life transition that comes barreling in with hormones sets a pretty nasty tone for what's to come. The good news is though, the best is yet to come and there is opportunity to cope and possibly move past your depression.
So how can stay at home moms cope? Know the signs of depression first.
Feeling of depression stem from many things especially as a new mom, actually I didn't get PPD until about 12 months after I had my second child and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to deal with. But there is a big difference between chronic depression and other post-partum symptoms even though the can feel like one in the same.
Signs of Baby Blues, which occurs right after birth of your baby and can be triggered by major hormone fluctuations include; mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
Post Partum Depression can be more severe and long lasting than baby blue and includes; mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, concentration issues or feeling distracted, appetite issues, trouble sleeping, thoughts of suicide, feeling worthless thoughts of harming yourself or baby.. along with more. And if left untreated post-partum depression can last for months or even longer, and could aide in PTSD years later.
As a long time stay at home mom I believe your self care routine is the most important and a lot of emotional pain you experience early on can be associated with feelings of lonliness and depression years later. I thing this because of my own journey where I have found some of my own lack of self esteem still stemming from those early days of being triggered by my baby.
Stock Photo: of a stay at home mom enjoying yoga time with the littles
Here are 5 ways you can cope with depression and take back your days.
1. Find something you enjoy
Finding activities you enjoy doing like listening to motivational podcasts, music, reading a good book, walking, jogging, yoga -can help you immediately cope with negative feelings. Find something you enjoy, anything big or small that gives you joy and can be a little bright light of hope in your day or week. Statistics show that people who have hobbies have a lower risk of suffering from low mood, anxiety and depression and can give you a sense of purpose and spark the same feelings of self worth of who you were before you became a mom.
2. Get to the root of the problem
This takes a bit of time, contemplation and mindfullness - but just as in therapy, getting to the root of what's causing you pain and sadness can be a huge release of negative emotions. If you can find a minute to get away to clear your head and explore your feelings you may be able to get to the core of what is bothering you and release some of those negative thoughts and start to feel lighter. Something that's also powerful, once you start feeling a bit better, think about more positive thoughts or memories that bring you joy until your sadness has lifted.
For the new stay at home mom, its important to understand what you're dealing with - baby blues, post partum depression and/or post partum anxiety. It is not uncommon to feel like you've just handed in your identity with the new role you've taken on as a mom- that you were never trained or groomed for. Sleepless nights are probably compounding the problems you're facing as well so if you're struggling with mental health it's important to make self care a priority.
3. Stop procrastinating and start something productive
Once upon a time you were a very independent, successful, productive adult! As a stay at home mom it's easy to fall into a rut of boredom and/or feel unfulfilled. Finding something that makes you feel productive can totally change your mood around and start to make you feel like yourself again.
Is there a small project you can get started on this morning? Have you always wanted to try something out but never had the time? Well as a SAHM you can somewhat control your schedule (as long as its around those littles ;)) and maybe you can carve out small blocks of time to start a new exciting project. Thats how I found speed cleaning motivational videos - they are so fun to make and it motivates me to clean my home from to bottom!
Anther great productivity tip that I use and started very early on in my motherhood journey is to time block my calendar. I have a running schedule on my calendar that acts as my to-do list, I look at my calendar every morning and start getting things done.
Checking things off my calendar works in 2 ways 1. I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish a task, AND, I can look back every day or week and see how much I've really done even though I may feel like I'm not making progress, or I'm just washing dishes on repeat until the end of eternity, its good to see there on my calendar that I actually did a whole lot more than that! Time blocking is a great tool to help manage your family and home and I hope to share more of that here at Modern Housewife.
4. Have a routine
Having a routine is often overlooked when it comes to mental health, but routines can give you back a sense of control and something to look forward to when things start to feel like they are falling apart.
Even a routine as small as one thing you do every day when you wake up can make all the difference in generating a motivated outlook to your day.
Okay, okay I know - you have littles thrown into the mix... so maybe for a while your routine won't be set in stone, there will be concessions you need to make because you have other priorities, but, I encourage you to find one or two things you can commit to each day to make you feel like you have something in your control. It could be as simple as making the bed before noon - when you hit that goal give yourself a pat on the back!
I read a book years ago called the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris - its not a parenting book, but recently I've been reflecting on my takeaway of that book, that being, how to be the most productive and gain work life balance.
In a portion of the book Tim talks about how lonely and redundant being a work from home entrepreneur can be and recommends making a list of something to do daily, weekly and monthly to give yourself direction and not get sucked into working around the clock. Its intentional balance. guarantee it won't be long before you reminisce of the times that it felt good just to make your bed and now you are in a whole different phase of your life and your child's needs have evolved.
It's not just that though, studies show that having a day time routine can ultimately help with more quality sleep and family routines can help children moderate impulsive and oppositional behavior. Its a win win for the whole family.
5. Get Help
You don't have to do it all! Are you overwhelmed with chores? Hire someone or ask a friend for help, kids driving you absolutely crazy? Find a play date, activity or a nanny/mothers helper for part-time help so that you can have some time to yourself to get back on track.
Remember there are no achievement medals being passed around for who did the most under the most amount of stress...take some expectation off of yourself. Motherhood isn't a competition its a process, and quite frankly the struggle of depression and anxiety should not take away from all of the joys of staying home with your kids.
In closing I want to reiterate not to take depression lightly - for many of us this will pass, things evolve and change and coping with day to day ups and downs gets easier as our children grow older and more indpendent, and as we find new mom friends to share our trials and tribulations with you may get the support you need to feel less lonely and more supported. But for some this is a deeper issue and especially if you're within the first year of having a baby, know the signs of major depressive disorders and post partum depression.
Lets stop the stigma of depression. For some reason there is still so much judgement not just from others but from ourselves too. We say to ourselves and feel like we are just complete failures because we can't keep all the balls in the air all of the time 24/7 - lets stop holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations. Lets take more accountability for our self care and enjoy the short window of time we have with our babies before they are off living their own lives. This is a time to be savored and enjoyed. xoxo
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Most common symptoms of PPD:
Feeling isolated and hopeless for more than a 5 day period | having thoughts of suicide | Crying for more than 3 days straight | Irritibility | Loss of appetite | Mood Swings | Trouble sleeping
Please seek a consultation from a healthcare provider if you are suffering from any combination of these symptoms. It's as simple as making a phone call nowadays.