I spend a lot of time listening to other moms. Whether in between meetings at work, scurrying through the playgrounds, chatting while the water bottle fills at the gym…the conversation is remarkably similar.
We’re tired. No… wait, we’re exhausted!
The Survey Says…
“More than 64% of mothers were primary, sole, or co-breadwinners for their families” According to a study by the Center for American Progress in 2015.
That is nearly two-thirds of mothers in the US!
Of the 153 moms surveyed for the Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs Stress Study, the overwhelming majority provide the bulk of the childcare (70%), management of kids’ activities (67%) and household infrastructure (72%) while working full (70%) or part (18%) time.
Is it surprising to anyone that moms feel strained?
The Mental Energy Drain Is Often Neglected
We love our children and our families.
However, let’s do the math:
The mental energy to [plan everything from doctors visits to play dates, soothe flared tempers, ascend the career ladder, grow as a person, nurture important relationships]
+ the physical energy of [cleaning multitudes of dishes, laundry, shopping, commuting, pick up/drop off]
= Cranky, tired mommy.
Making it all (mostly) ‘work’ requires artful planning in advance. This forward planning means, wherever moms are, the quietly insistent ‘mental to-do list’ intrudes our thoughts and threatens peace and presence.
A few months ago a senior executive at my company, mother of two (now college aged) girls confessed how daunting the juggle was while her kids were younger. “When I flew out to meet the President of (a major media company) I was pretty sure he wasn’t worried about planning a kids birthday party that weekend.”
‘Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs’
Styled after Maslow’s hierarchy, the pyramid shows (at the bottom) the children and family’s needs are typically given the highest priority by moms. Important activities that help mom ‘self-actualize’, like self-care, hobbies and fun, inevitably receive less attention. We don’t give ourselves permission to ascend to the upper levels until the ‘basic needs’ of our family members and households are met.
“I am constantly wanting to be the best mom I can, but sometimes I feel defeated. I can’t possibly get everything done, and I have little time for myself.”
“For better or worse, work is a higher priority. Without my job, we have no way to pay bills and we’d all be screwed. So work is probably second after child. And really I have very little time for anything but the bottom 4 (children’s wellbeing & activities, household & professional roles)…”
Some Families Get It
Many moms recognize self-care as a vital component of caregiving and actively prioritize it.
“…I have been learning that self-care is so, so important. I use the analogy of in an airplane, put on your mask first (and) then help others. So mom’s health & sleep should really be at the very base of the pyramid, because without that, nothing else can happen successfully.”
“… I would make a healthy relationship a higher priority than professional role…having a good relationship with my husband (making time for date nights, strive for quality one-on-one time each day, and helping each other out with household/childcare) makes both of us happy. …I want to show our children what a happy and healthy relationship looks like. Plus I believe happy parents help nurture happy children.”
What Do Mom’s Need For Mother’s Day? Help Moms Prioritize Self-Care!
When surveyed about ‘what would make it easier to take care of yourself’ Moms responded with both the need for big structural changes (i.e. affordable child care) and practical modifications that most families can make.
“Having a supportive husband that realizes the importance of self-care and interests not only for my own emotional well-being but for the well-being of our children (being a better role model) and being a better wife (less stress, with happier mental state).”
“…Ability to get a sitter every now and then, however I would have a hard time justifying the expense”
“More local family or friends to help with childcare or more financial resources to outsource housework.”
“I keep telling myself when the kids are older and don’t want to hang out with me and are more comfortable being independent, then I won’t feel guilty for making time for myself.”
Where to Start
Spouses and partners, give the moms in your life the gift of discretionary time – help out with the household, with the kids—not just on Mother’s Day but as part of everyday.
Friends of moms, even when scheduling feels like trying to arrange the G8 summit, set up that night out, lunch catch up, quick call or movie! Even though moms are busy, we value connecting with the incredible people in our lives.
Moms, don’t be shy, start the conversation about changes at home – if you can make room in the family budget, even if it means shifting other spending, explore outsourcing some household tasks! Let’s also accept (deep breaths here) that self-care is another important way to take care of our families.
Wishing moms everywhere, a wonderful Mother’s Day and the ability to carve out more time for self-care.
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