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How To Cope With Stay-At-Home Mom Depression

According to Pew Research Center, 27 percent of mothers choose to stay at home full-time. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you would say, “Yes, I’m blessed to be able to be at home with my children. Yes, I chose this. Yes, I’d do it all over again. But it’s hard.” Gallup polled 60,000 mothers and found that mothers who are not employed and stay at home with their kids are more likely to report anger and sadness. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with depression than employed women. Covid-19 made it worse. Before the pandemic, 15 percent of mothers reported depression symptoms; after the pandemic, nearly 41 percent reported depression symptoms. If you are a stay-at-home mom and are suffering depression symptoms, know that you are not alone. It is a common problem.

What Is Stay-At-Home (SAHM) Depression?

Stay-at-home moms love their kids and are thankful that they can be at home to raise them, but feelings of loneliness, isolation, helplessness, sadness, exhaustion, and loss of purpose come with it. This phenomenon is called “stay-at-home mom (SAHM) depression. It affects over a fourth of non-employed mothers. Notice that I didn’t say “non-working” mothers because it’s a 9-5 job like any other job, except there is no 9 or 5. The day starts when the first child wakes up and continues until the last one goes to sleep, then there are often night-shifts. It’s a demanding, non-stop, high-stress responsibility that doesn’t stop until the kids leave the nest.

What Are the Symptoms Of SAHM Depression?

SAHM depression is more than just feeling low for a day or two. It is a chronic depression that lasts at least two weeks or more. SAHM depression is similar to generalized depression. It includes…

  • Feelings of emptiness/hopelessness

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

  • Feelings of helplessness/powerlessness

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed

  • Feeling numb

  • Irritability

  • Trouble concentrating/remembering/making decisions

  • Loss of energy and motivation

  • Fatigue

  • Changes in sleep or appetite/weight

  • Sense of loss of meaning and purpose

  • Aches and pains

  • Regret having children

  • Thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harm to the children

What Causes SAHM Depression?

Many things can contribute to SAHM depression. If you were already dealing with depression before children, it may get worse with parenting responsibilities. Or it may arise from the new parenting responsibilities as they become overwhelming. Some of the possible contributing factors include…

  • Demands of the job. It’s a non-stop job that the employed partner often doesn’t understand when the house is still dirty and dishes are piled up. After a busy and exhausting day with the kids, the last thing you want to hear is, "But you were home all day.”

  • Repetition. It’s the same chores with no break from the routine. Every day is Groundhog Day.

  • Isolation. You are surrounded by children, but no other adults. You don’t have friends of family around to help you or support you. Plus, there is a loss of social interaction with peers as you do your work day in and day out all alone.

  • Feeling trapped. If you had a career before children, or you want to work outside the home but cannot because of family, cultural pressures, guilt, or the high cost of childcare, you might tend to be more depressed than women who choose to stay at home.

  • Feeling unfulfilled. If, before marriage and children, you had a vision of what your life would be like, and that life seems to be lost, you may feel grief and sadness at the loss. You may feel a lack of meaning and purpose, or feel like you are a failure in some way.

  • Criticism. Friends or family members might say something critical about the state of the house or you may criticize yourself because your home isn’t perfect and your children aren’t perfect. The illusion on TV shows and movies is that people with children still have beautiful, neat houses and perfect children. The reality is that there are no perfect children or perfect parents and houses with children in residence usually look like Toys-R-Us exploded.

  • Postpartum depression. After pregnancy and childbirth, hormones fluctuate and mood shifts occur in 1 out of 7 mothers. This can play into SAHM depression. Symptoms of postpartum depression can continue for up to a year after birth.

  • Sleep deprivation. The phrase “sleep like a baby” is a myth. Babies who sleep peacefully through the night are not the norm. Often, babies get colicky or sleep in spurts, keeping you awake and sleep deprived.

  • History of depression. If you have a personal or family history of depression, you are more vulnerable to SAHM depression.

Ways To Cope With SAHM Depression

There are some things you can do for yourself to ease your depression. Most stay-at-home moms don’t have any break from the kids, which adds to their depression. Having a break to look forward to, even something as small as having coffee with a friend, can battle your depression. Playdates where the kids can go play and you can have some adult conversation is great therapy. Join a mom’s group. Get a sitter and have a weekly date night with your spouse. Let your spouse watch the kids while you get your nails done, get a facial, or shop. Also, give yourself permission to be human. It’s okay to not be a perfect parent with perfect kids, and it’s okay to have a messy house. Do what you can, but be realistic. One day when your kids have left the nest and your house is pristine, you’ll miss those days of noisy kids and toys everywhere.

If your depression persists, schedule counseling with one of our trained professional counselors. Talk therapy is the most effective treatment for depression where we help you change your unhelpful thoughts and behavior patterns. We will work together to find coping skills and new patterns to break you out of depression and cope successfully with the challenges you’re in. Don’t ignore your depression. I urge you to read more about depression treatment and then reach out to me at Christian Counseling Associates to schedule an appointment to get you started on the road to a better life.

Janet Marfisi is Licensed Professional Counselor with Christian Counseling Associates. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Family Relations with a minor in Child Development from Texas Tech University and a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from Amberton University. She is certified in Emotional Transformation Therapy (ETT).

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