If I have learned one thing as a working mother – and even as a stay at home mom – it is this: Sit a group of mothers down together for an hour over coffee and you will find that we all have the same fears, problems, issues, and concerns.
It doesn’t matter if we are working or remaining at home, if we started a company or have a manager or haven’t worked since we had children.
Why is this important?
I think as we look at the stress we feel as working mothers we need to understand that most mothers feel the same way we do – they just may not be talking about it, or you may not be reaching out and listening.
How often have you read a book or seen an interview with a mother who said she was quite depressed because she felt so isolated?
How often have you seen mothers retreat after having a baby? They are tired and down, not getting enough sleep but afraid to ask for help.
As mothers, we all know what many other mothers are going through. We fear the same things: whether the food they are getting is enough or good; whether our children will grow up to be decent human beings; whether we are making the right choices when it comes to discipline or working/not working.
This weekend I went to a birthday party. A range of women sat around the circle, some that work out of the home, some that work from home, some that work part time, some that work full time.
You would think with that many people and personalities, with that many varied responsibilities, we would each have unique concerns.
Yet honestly, our concerns were quite similar.
As I’ve spoken to doctors and authors and psychologists about mothers and stress, one theme keeps repeating: surround yourself with others. Rather than isolate yourself, reach out to mothers who are facing similar situations. It’s then you understand that you are not alone.
You are not the only tired mom out there! You are not the only one who has to force her kids to eat green beans! You are not the only one concerned about what your children are watching on tv/wearing/eating/hearing/seeing/doing when they are with/without you!
What are some ways to connect with other moms?
Play dates. These aren’t just for young children, either! And while it is nice to drop your kids off and use that time to run errands or clean the house, sometimes it is just as nice (or nicer!) to stick around while the kids play and meet with the moms. I recently did this with a friend of mine, and a third friend of hers arrived. We spent an hour or so drinking coffee and talking, and when I left I felt way more refreshed than I would have felt had I run errands during their play date.
Laughter. Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of the upcoming book The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in our 24/7 World suggests getting together with girlfriends to eat popcorn and watch a movie, while letting dad take over. Or you might rather go out to dinner, somewhere quiet where you can talk. We always say we are going to do this – mom’s night out – and many times it doesn’t happen. It gets pushed aside because we feel it ‘isn’t important enough.’ But it is! One great way to reduce stress is to share time with others in your same situation, so make this a monthly (or weekly, if you can swing it!) point.
Don’t Keep Score. Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, creator of www.highachievingwomen.com, says that not only should we keep in touch, but we should stop keeping score of who has made the most phone calls. We are all busy. You may have to call your friend most of the time, but continue to do so. It’s important to take the time to reach out to other mothers – so even if you feel like you are always doing the reaching, keep it up. You never know – that friend may find it difficult to reach out to others, but she may desperately want to hear your voice when you call!
Keep it in Perspective. Finally, and most importantly, if you are starting to feel isolated and frustrated, keep things in perspective. Understand that you are busy, and that you need to reach out to someone. This is the time you really need to find someone with whom to talk, even though at this point, when you are the most fed up, you may really feel more like crawling under the covers and remaining alone! Make it a point that when you begin to feel stressed, depressed, and totally run down, you identify this and then reach out to those around you who always bring you back up.