The transition to motherhood can be filled with profound joy, purpose and personal growth. But it also commonly brings serious struggles with mental health that often go unacknowledged. A stark example is postpartum depression, which affects up to 1 in 5 new mothers. However, the lesser-known phenomenon of stay-at-home mom depression can set in years later, as the daily stresses of solo parenting take their toll. Despite the idyllic scenes of domestic bliss portrayed in media, the reality inside many homes is far more complicated. SAHM depression is very real, and women need more support.
Causes and Contributing Factors
Full-time mothers can face a perfect storm of physical, emotional and social dynamics that brew discontent and loneliness.
- Sleep deprivation caring for infants and young kids hinders cognitive function.
- Hormonal fluctuations influence mood regulation.
- Loss of professional purpose and adult interaction is felt deeply.
- Social isolation leaves moms craving connection.
- Endless monotonous tasks like breastfeeding, driving to activities, cooking and cleaning sap motivation.
- Physical touch and affection from a partner often decrease after having kids.
- Finances may strain if living on a single income.
- Resentment builds from unequal parenting duties.
- Self-care like exercise, hobbies and friendships gets pushed aside.
- Anxiety around losing career skills and re-entering workforce brews.
The cumulative weight of these forces can gradually drag a once vibrant woman into the depths of depression.
Emotional and Physical Symptoms
The manifestations of stay-at-home mom depression closely mirror clinical depression.
- Persistent sad, empty or irritable mood
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite and sleep habits
- Physical and mental fatigue, lack of energy
- Feeling worthless, guilty or like a failure as a mom
- Trouble concentrating, indecisiveness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
These symptoms impair daily function and the ability to properly care for kids and maintain the household. The risks of self-medication with alcohol, overeating and other destructive coping mechanisms also increase.
SAHM depression both stems from and creates problems in marriages and family life. It can manifest as emotional numbness, frustration, anger, resentment and isolation in the relationship. The overwhelmed mother’s withdrawal and difficulty bonding with her kids can have lifelong effects on their self-esteem and psychological health. Spouses who don’t recognize their partner’s suffering inadvertently enable the descent into darkness. Unfortunately, society’s gender roles and the stigma around maternal mental health prevents many women from vocalizing their pain and seeking help. Too often, women blame themselves as the cause of their despair.
Hope and Healing
If you see yourself in this struggle, know that you are not alone. The first step is naming the problem and asking for support. Prioritizing self-care is essential, even in small ways at first like taking a walk, calling a friend or seeing a therapist. Cultivate compassion for yourself. You are more than the caregiver and house manager – you are a human being with needs. Secure childcare if possible so you can take time for yourself. Seek treatment from a doctor or psychiatrist if needed. Confide in loved ones who can listen without judgment. Connect with other moms dealing with depression. Read books by women who have walked this path. With daily intention, you can reclaim parts of yourself you fear are lost – your passions, confidence, purpose and vision for your life. Healing and joy await. You simply have to make space for them, in whatever form that takes right now. With time and help, you will feel like yourself again.