Sixty-three percent of Skimm'r parents have been concerned about their mental health in the last six months, according to our recent survey. But who's surprised by this? (Literally no one.)
As if parenting wasn’t hard before, the pandemic has left moms even more burnt out. Many need to scream. And Millennial moms have been especially impacted. That’s probably because they’re likely to have younger children and be in pivotal points in their career. In our same survey, 77% of moms reported feelings of loss related to personal space and time for themselves. And around two-thirds chose “exhaustion” and “anxiety” as emotions they’ve experienced most often from a list of ten choices. That’s a flip from what many said they felt pre-pandemic: “gratitude” and “contentment.”
For starters, try to have compassion for yourself. Women are typically quicker to feel guilt than men. And “mom guilt” is definitely a thing. But the constant pang that you’re not doing enough for your family isn’t all bad. Sometimes it’s actually your active mind encouraging you to adapt your expectations to your reality in positive ways. You probably never imagined walking your dog and carrying your kid simultaneously before you had both, or prepping for a presentation while meal prepping. Where the bad type of guilt comes in: when moms are afraid to say ‘no’ and when they strive to be nothing less than perfect and don’t feel like they ever achieve it. You’re human, after all. Give yourself freedom not to be ‘on’ 24/7. And be honest about what you can handle (more on that below). Because moms are juggling way more than most people realize.
Hats on hats on hats…Many moms also play the roles of partner, employee, and caregiver — of the young and old and relatives with special needs. That’s in spite of the fact that women have been a large part of America’s workforce since the ‘40s. As of 2018, two-thirds of moms were working full-time, according to census data. But data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the next year mothers spent almost twice as much time caring for children than fathers did. No surprise, all these extra hats can lead to extra stress.
Invisible labor…Call it what you want, but the ‘mental load’ of the household tends to fall on women in heterosexual couples. And no, that’s not the case for same-sex couples. They’ve been found to split work equally. A McKinsey study found that moms were three times as likely as dads to take on most of the domestic labor during the pandemic, and that they were 1.5 times more likely than working dads to spend an additional three hours or more on housework and child care a day. An Arizona State University survey found that nine out of 10 women felt solely responsible for organizing their family’s schedules. And a 2008 study from the University of Michigan concluded that having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week for women. What’s worse: a 2016 Canadian study hypothesized that doing so many household chores may be why women are more likely than men to die if they develop heart disease. Yes, you read that right: chores can be deadly. Our hearts hurt from processing all this.
Unequal pay…We’ve known for a while that there’s a gender pay gap. But if you focus primarily on married mothers and married fathers, the income divide is even greater. And because moms are more likely to balance both work and childcare, many more moms than dads opt for part-time work. Thing to know: the U.S. is the only affluent country that doesn’t promise parents paid leave. Less than 60% of America’s workforce has access to paid leave, covering part or all of a new parent’s salary.
Career exits…When schools and daycares closed because of the pandemic, almost half of working mothers said they took unpaid sick leave to care for kids, according to a recent poll. And more than 2.3 million women (compared to 1.8 million men) have left the workforce since the pandemic began. BIPOC women and single mothers are among the most affected. This economic downturn that’s disproportionately impacting women has a name: the shecession.
Have a tough conversation…Talking to a partner or family members about household tasks can be tough. But harboring resentment about unequal division of labor can severely damage a relationship or marriage. There are studies on this, not that you need proof. Plus, voicing your concerns can calm your brain. Some advice for getting an open dialogue going: take a breath, remember you’re in this together, and set expectations for what you can do as a team...rather than having every chore default to your own to-do list or pointing fingers. And consider having a “Freaky Friday” switch-up day so your partner can appreciate all that you handle (and vice versa).
Prioritize your sanity…Please try to get some sleep. It’s not just important for your kids. Without 7-9 hours a night, your memory could suffer and so could your patience (here are tips for getting better sleep and some products that might help). For those newborn moms, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend or family member. Or if you can swing it, hire a night nurse. Also: power naps can be your friends. And you’ve heard it before: deep breathing and meditation can work wonders for your mental health. We have more ways to manage stress in this guide.
Schedule therapy…In one survey, more than half of moms with kids younger than 18 said that the pandemic has affected their mental health. But only half of them reported having received the medical health care they needed. If you think it’s about time you talked to someone, see our guide for setting up an appointment or listen to this pod on finding the right fit.
We’ve all heard it: the pandemic has brought on an unprecedented amount of stress. But for moms, that’s nothing new. Even in the Before Times, they were stuck being everything for everyone without much recognition. That’s due to systemic inequities at home and in the workplace. But it's time for that to stop. Moms, it doesn't have to be this way. Set boundaries, ask for help, and put yourself first. Everyone else: step up.
Skimm'd by Carly Mallenbaum, Becky Murray, and Jane Ackermann
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We’re checking in with moms to find out how they’re doing. We polled more than 1,000 Skimm’r moms on how they’ve been feeling and dealing with the virus, a shecession, the balancing act of work and home life, and everything else.
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