Being a mom is undoubtedly rewarding, but Google’s Autocomplete search feature sheds light on the behind-the-scenes struggles many moms also face.
Ideally a Google Search of “moms + feel” would generate results centered around love and joy, yet the most popular web activity regarding motherhood suggests prevalent distress . Why? Modern society sends mixed messages to women about the roles they should fulfill. Our culture encourages (and often financially demands) women to enter the workforce but simultaneously holds them to traditional homemaker and maternal ideals. Therefore, women who work feel pressure to also care for the kids, the house, her spouse, and elderly parents while women that stay-at-home are burdened with the guilt of not contributing financially or saying no to requests when others assume she has “all the time in the world.”
In addition to juggling dozens of tasks at a time, moms also have to navigate a tangled web of new, and often conflicting, information released almost daily about the best BPA-free bottles, healthiest diets and most effective discipline tactics for their kids. And, to top it off, “supermom” down the street keeps posting “picture perfect” motherhood moments on her blog and Facebook that can make other moms question what they’re doing wrong (although chances are that many of supermom’s experiences aren’t so Kodak worthy either).
Motherhood has been deemed the “world’s toughest job,” yet a survey reveals that 94% of mom’s still feel guilt or shame about not being able to do it all- or do it all correctly. Sources of guilt can range from uncertainty about how long to breastfeed to hours spent at work, but the top sources seem to be yelling and a messy house. This ever-present guilt, combined with stress and general exhaustion can wreak havoc on mothers’ emotional health which can in turn impact the entire family. Distressed mothers may be less likely share joyful experiences with their families and are more likely to engage in guilt sources rather than guilt relievers (i.e. yelling or not spending enough fully engaged time with your children).
Over the next month Dr. Susan Orenstein will address the growing epidemic of “Mommy Guilt,” discussing why we feel it and how to overcome it at the upcoming Happy Mama Retreat July 25-27 in Durham, NC. At the retreat, a “respite for Mama’s of children with ‘invisible’ special needs,” Dr. Orenstein hopes to empower mothers with the tools they need to self-nuture and advocate for their own emotional health so that the entire family can thrive. Dr. Orenstein also tackled the topic in Cary Living Magazine’s latest July issue. Pick up a copy today, or view the online version, for her tips on how to kick the guilt and strike a better balance. Finally, WRAL’s “Go Ask Mom,” will feature Dr. Orenstein’s parenting tips and advice in a blog series.