Know the symptoms and 8 ways on how to cope with stay-at-home-mom depression.
I remember washing the baby bottles for the nth time and just suddenly crying out of nowhere. My life then felt so lonely, repetitive, boring, and stressful.
I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep, from the neverending chores, from my husband not helping out with household chores, and the “Groundhog Day” reality I was living in.
I didn’t know then that I had stay-at-home mom depression.
We made a decision for me to stay at home and take care of our baby, as it was cheaper and safer that way. Then I remembered, this was the dream of some of my friends before – becoming a stay-at-home mom.
The one who always looks so fresh, does yoga in the morning, has time to play with and teach the kids, cook a great meal and wait for the husband to come home to a clean house.
My life as a stay-at-home mom was so far from that.
What Causes Stay-at-Home Mom Depression?
It’s a long list and I can imagine it’s even longer and more complicated these days, because of the pandemic but here are the most common reasons why stay-at-home moms feel depressed:
Being a mom is not just a 9 to 5 job. It’s a 24/7 job. It basically starts from the moment we wake up and ends when we close our eyes to sleep. Unless we have some chores or work to do and we’re on the go all over again, having little to no time for breaks at all.
Repetitive tasks and lack of sense of accomplishment
If it’s the newborn phase, you’re a new mom, you have no idea what you’re doing and you don’t have any help, you basically fall into this rut of taking care of your newborn and doing the chores on repeat. Every damn day.
This was me before, with my newborn.
The to-do list seems never ending and unfulfilling. It might seem like small, minute tasks like cleaning the baby bottles, throwing the trash, washing the dishes, folding the laundry, etc., but they all pile up.
And no matter how many times you do it and finish a task, there’s always a new one waiting to be done. It doesn’t seem like you’ve accomplished anything at the end of the day because your house is still a mess. And this is on top of taking care of little kids.
It’s one of, if not, the most demanding job in the world. Remember, we’re trying to keep a little human being alive while dealing with our own shit.
Then when our babies get older, we have to teach them how to be kind, how to deal with anger, how to eat healthily, how to be independent, and a million other different things. The list just goes on and on.
Lack of appreciation
Nannies and maids get a salary. They get day offs, they get mandatory breaks and they get a bonus sometimes. If we really like them and we want them to stay, we talk to them and tell them how we appreciate their service. We don’t overwork them.
For moms, our appreciation day is basically our birthday and Mother’s Day. That’s it. And we still have to wash the dishes after everyone has eaten the cake, celebrating our damn day.
BIG change in life
Having a baby can be the best gift anyone can ever have. But it can also be the most painful way of parting from your old life and the most challenging phase of trying to find yourself again. It’s a huge life changing experience!
You might have to resign from a job you love because you have to take care of your baby, you might lose longtime friends because they can’t seem to relate to your baby stories.
If you’re still working, you will have to work and care for your newborn at the same time.
If you don’t have any help, you won’t have the freedom to just go anywhere you want, anytime and, I can go on and on but your life will never be the same again.
I felt then that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I wasn’t interested in the hobbies that I used to have, I didn’t know what I liked after and I was just so lost in this new identity of being a new mom.
I didn’t settle in the mom role, for almost 2 years. That’s how lost I felt.
Lack of sleep
This is probably what attributes the most to a mom’s unhappiness – the lack of proper rest and sleep.
Imagine going to work with only 3 hours of sleep everyday. Literally everyday.
How do you think you’ll do in your job and how can you deal with people with only 3 hours of sleep?
Imagine that with moms who are trying to keep a baby alive and stay on top of their chores.
Lack of personal interaction
Especially during these tough times. If you live far away from your family, friends and you’re forced to stay home at all times, of course loneliness will start to set in.
If your spouse isn’t helping at all with any chores and even complains about how dirty the house is, your cooking, etc., that also makes it worse.
Lack of choice
This is probably the most frustrating state to be in – the lack of choice in becoming a stay-at-home mom.
If you wanted to work but you’re forced to stay at home and take care of the kids because of certain circumstances, that is already enough to make anyone unhappy.
Other people seem to think it’s so easy to become a stay-at-home mom and you don’t have the right to complain about it.
I remember when I posted something about lacking sleep in my Instagram and one “friend” messaged me and said, I shouldn’t be doing that. She made me feel guilty for posting something like that, and said I should feel lucky that I get to stay home and take care of my daughter.
With that said..
Comparing yourself to others
Other moms seem to have it so easy on social media. I felt bad before looking at other mom’s Instagram accounts and comparing myself to them.
I used to think that these moms are so lucky to have it all figured out.
They seemed to just do everything so effortlessly – cooking, cleaning the house, laundry, taking care of their kids and pets. Just looking at their social media accounts before would make me feel so bad about my life and how I used to wish that I was just like them.
Symptoms of Stay-at-Home Mom Depression
Here are some possible signs that you might have stay-at-home mom depression:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or emptiness
- Frequent feelings of frustration, irritability, anger and frustration
- Feels lonely and isolated at all times
- Experiences loss of identity and purpose
- Difficulty thinking clearly, remembering, concentrating, or making decisions
- Appetite or weight changes
- Headaches, stomachaches, or back pain
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be enjoyable
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of energy
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Difference of Stay-at-Home Mom Depression from Postpartum Depression
It’s kinda hard to differentiate those two but this article from Psychology Today probably best describes the difference between PPD and regular depression.
Basically, PPD involves your baby – how to care for them, your feelings of inadequacy as a mother, your feelings of wanting to leave your baby, etc. Stay at home depression involves everything about your life – how you view it, your feelings, how you think of the future, etc.
How to Cope With Stay-At-Home Mom Depression
Get some “me time”
This is probably one, if not the, the most important coping method you can do to be a happier stay-at-home mom. You need to take a break. Everyone does. Being a parent is a full-time, literally 24/7 job, so you need that “me time” for yourself.
Even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Especially if you’ve been cooped up in the house, staring at all the things you need to do and trying to calm down a raging baby.
You might probably be thinking, there’s so many things to do, you don’t have time to take a break. Then make time for it. That 20 things on your to-do list for today? Erase one and put in there “me time.” Schedule it in. Let other things slide. Fold the laundry tomorrow. Wash the dishes later. Anything that is not urgent, let it go for a moment and do your “me time” first.
You’ll feel refreshed and recharged and you’ll be a little bit rested enough, to take on more tasks for the day, mentally and physically.
Think of what to do during your “me time”
I remember playing SIMS during my break when I had my newborn. If you don’t know, SIMS is a life simulation game where you can make virtual people, place them in houses, make them go to work and make your characters do anything that you want. And embarrassingly, I was trying to escape my real life, through SIMS. It was a colossal waste of time and it made me more unhappy in real life, knowing that it would be close to impossible to do the things that I’ve done in the SIMS game, in my real life.
If you’re into online games as a hobby, then that’s cool. Just don’t do it like me, where I’m trying to escape my reality by living in a virtual world.
Try to find a practical and useful hobby. Blogging can be overwhelming but it’s certainly a good writing exercise, not to mention you have the potential to earn money from it.
You can try starting a project – DIY toys, renovate your kitchen on your own, learn how to bake, declutter your house, etc.
Try exercising. Get fit, lose a couple pounds, aim for a flatter stomach by next year.
You can also try to do the things that you were passionate about, before you had a baby. Or find a new passion or hobby! I discovered podcasting just last year and I’ve been hooked ever since. In fact, that’s what started me to blog and it still helps me as I learn all sorts of things from different podcast shows.
You can also just catch up on your sleep. You can do that for your “me-time.”
Just take a break.
Ask help, properly.
I remember getting triggered easily and lashing out at my husband during the newborn phase. And it was all because I wanted to ask for help but I didn’t know how to do it without feeling frustrated and resentful. I felt like I shouldn’t be asking, he should know already how I’m feeling and what I want him to do without me telling him!
Men are not mind readers. Just ask for help directly. If you know your spouse has already taken some rest after coming from the office, tell them straight up if they can just look after the baby for this amount of time, while you take a nap, because your arms are hurting and you need a break. Or something like that. Tell it without drama. No scowling, no sarcastic tone, no nagging.
Set up expectations. Let them know how much time you need for yourself, what you’re going to do with that time and why you need help, so they’ll know exactly what to do. They’ll know not to bother you for a certain amount of time and they won’t wonder how long will you be back to get the baby from them.
Create a schedule
We are all creatures of habit and routine. If babies and toddlers need it to feel safe and secure in their environment, stay-at-home moms also need it to give structure to our days. So we can do our “me-time” and still have enough time to get chores or work done for the day.
Create a schedule for yourself. You could simply make Mondays as grocery day, Fridays as netflix and chill day with your spouse, Saturdays as wash-the-dishes tomorrow day. It will make you feel like you have accomplished goals, instead of having a seemingly endless circle of chores and wondering where your day went.
You can check out some sample routines of real moms here. Some of them have multiple kids with varying ages. You can get some idea on how to create your schedule from checking our their routines.
You can also try to change up your routine, every now and then, just to keep things from going stale and to recharge you. Make a surprise zoom call to friends and loved ones. Have a dance party at home with your family. Order pizza instead of cooking again on Wednesday night. Whatever it is, make a plan to do something different for the day or week.
Find new mom friends
Join online forums or local facebook groups and start up conversations with like-minded moms. You can also try engaging with other moms in blog comments or in Pinterest.
Go back to work
If you have the time and opportunity, go for it. Find one online, reach out to your network, ask around. Remember to have a proper talk with your spouse about going back to work.
Stop comparing yourself to others
There’s always another person who will always be better than you. So stop the comparison game. Instead of focusing on bettering yourself, you’re focusing on other people. There is no end to it. Comparing ourselves to other people won’t bring us any value, joy or fulfillment. It’s a big waste of time.
If you can’t help comparing yourself, try unfollowing some of the people on social media that you keep comparing yourself too. Practice self-awareness. If you’re starting to compare yourself again to others, stop yourself, pause and do something else, keep yourself distracted.
Keep things in perspective
It took a pandemic for me to really understand what this means. And for me, this simply means looking at the big picture and letting go of the details. During the semi-lockdown here in Singapore, I finally learned the lesson of being grateful. We are still alright, we still have the basic necessities and no one in my family or friends are sick. And that’s all I need right now to be happy.
My Takeaway on Stay-at-Home Mom Depression:
Not everyone is up for the full-time-stay-at-home mom gig.
Some women are built for it and it’s probably their lifelong calling to be a stay-at-home mom. Others like me, are happier pursuing other things while still caring for our kids and doing the household chores. Some would prefer hiring help to avoid taking a big pause in their careers.
No judgement here. We all are different so we do things differently.
There’s a popular saying, “happy wife, happy life.” That basically applies to mothers.
If stay at home mothers are happier in their lives, that happiness would spill over their families and their kids, and everyone will just have a brighter day, every day.
If you know someone who might be going through stay-at-home mom depression, talk to them. Call them up, text them, email them, zoom with them and tell them how awesome they are. It might be the only thing they need to keep going for another day.
If you think you’re experiencing stay-at-home mom depression, talk to someone about it.
Just acknowledging it will make you feel that a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Write it out in a journal, cry it out and if you feel like you’re on the verge of a breakdown and you feel like harming yourself or the baby, please contact your local hotline asap.
Take care of yourself mommas, take a break, talk to a friend or cry it out. Just remember to be kind to yourself, your family needs you.