Is Intense Mothering Stressing You Out?

Well-meaning moms, trying to do too much, may be at risk for anxiety and depression. Therapist, Julie Hanks, says intense, overly involved parenting can backfire. She has tips to help moms lighten up and live happy.

There is a paradox when it comes to parenting. Parenting is considered one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in life, yet it is also linked with increased stress, unhappiness, and depression. A recent study published in The Journal of Child and Family Studies suggests that it is the level of intensity with which you parent, not simply being a parent that leads to more stress, less life satisfaction, and more depression.
In this study, 5 “intense mothering beliefs” were identified and correlated with unhappiness for moms with young children. Ironically, many of these intense beliefs are how we currently define “good mothering.” This research suggests that moderation in parenting is needed, even when it comes to being a mom.

5 Intense Mothering Beliefs:

1. Mothers are more important than fathers (essentialism)

Example: In my therapy practice I’ve often heard men complain about their partner criticizing how they parent or care for their child.

Try this: Let dad parent his way. Make suggestions in a kind, respectful way. Remember it does take a village.

2. Mothers happiness comes primarily from her children (fulfillment)

Example: Looking to a child for happiness can become a burden on your child. No one can make you happy. If they can, then they also have the power to make you miserable through poor choices and bad behavior.

Try this: Find delight in a variety of activities and fulfillment in adult relationships.

3. Good mothers provide constant stimulation (stimulation)

Example: Throughout history children have worked beside parents, and have survived without flashcards, enrichment videos, and soccer lessons.

Try this: Allow your child unstructured playtime. Play is a child’s work.

4. Parenting is the one of the most difficult jobs (challenging)

Example: Belief that parenting is difficult may make it feel more burdensome (self-fulfilling prophecy). In this study, mothers who believed that motherhood was as challenging as being a CEO were more depressed, stressed, and less satisfied with life.

Remember, labeling a job “the most difficult” doesn’t make it more valuable or important.

Try this: Acknowledge the challenges and perks of parenthood.

5. Child’s needs and always come before your own (child-centered)

Example: While sacrifice is certainly required of mothers, chronic neglect of your own needs leads many moms to feel burned out and resentful. Each woman must find a balance between her needs and her child’s needs. Historically, children have fit into adult’s lives. Has the pendulum swung too far the other direction?

Try this: Prioritize one personal activity every week.

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