Why are new mothers today so overextended? Why are they completely overwhelmed by new motherhood?
New mothers today are facing much higher demands and responsibilities than they did in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Most new mothers contribute to a dual income household, attempt to balance workplace responsibilities and childcare, and maintain the home, pets, and a social life. Let’s not forget, they have to eat, too!
Our female predecessors worked very hard to establish equality and partnership. They entered the workforce and divided up responsibilities in the home. Women have made great strides in professional and economic advancement, only to have the stress of trying to do it all and be the perfect mother, wife, and employee. New mothers are struggling to manage everything at once; in addition to keeping up with friends and family, and trying to make it all look good on Instagram.
Mothers deal with all sorts of political issues, as well. There are always new policies in place regarding workload responsibilities and time off. They have to ask for time off or set hours at work, and find a private place to pump, or breastfeed if day care is on-site. New mothers deal with many more issues than they did back in the day; daycare, nannies, workplace prejudice, and trying to carve out vacation time to unplug. Many government and social programs have changed, and together with higher workplace demands and household and childcare responsibilities, new mothers are left completely stressed out.
How many women were passed over for promotions due to pregnancy or a new baby? How many women are disappointed that they couldn’t handle their prior job responsibilities as well as they used to because they’re now sleep deprived and overwhelmed as a new mom? How many new mothers either had to walk away from a promotion, or step down from a job role because they could not stay late at work anymore, because they wanted to go home and see their baby before he/she went to sleep for the night?
I see many of these women in my practice as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, struggling with trying to keep up with doing it “all”. More often than not, the pressure to keep up is something we put on ourselves. Here are some of the solutions many new mommies and I have worked out together:
- Try and lighten the load at work if you can, and if your job allows it, get more flexible work hours, or see if you can work from home at least one day a week
- Try and lighten the workload at home if you can afford some household help, or enlist in some family help
- Spend time on the weekends preparing for the week, limit plans and running around so you can have time to relax and enjoy your new family
- Take some time for yourself whenever and however you can
- Don’t blame yourself when things are not perfect, no one is perfect and no matter how well you try, you'll make mistakes—but you will learn from them
- Don’t be your worst critic, you are doing the very best that you can.
You may decide to put your career on hold if things get to be too much, if you can afford to. Don’t feel guilty about it. You can always go back to your career, but you won't get this time back with your baby.
And don’t let social media make you think you’re not doing as much as you should be, or that anyone else is doing it better than you are. Shift priorities, and just give some tasks the boot. Get this weight off your shoulders! Celebrate life, and enjoy being a mom!
Cheryl Zauderer, PhD, CNM, NPP, IBCLC, has been a registered nurse since 1985. She is a nurse-midwife, a lactation consultant and a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in perinatal mood disorders and other women’s health issues. Dr. Zauderer has authored her first book entitled Maternity Leave: A New Mothers Guide to the First Six Weeks Postpartum, Praeclarus Press. It is a self-help book for new mothers focusing on the first six weeks postpartum. You can follow her with her blog and on her website at: postpartumcare1.com, on twitter, and on facebook. Dr. Zauderer has also served as a board member for PSI (Postpartum Support International) and has been the Nassau/Suffolk coordinator for PSI since 2009.