- Stay-at-home mom depression may not be an official depressive disorder, but there’s evidence to suggest that moms who stay at home without working part- or full-time may be more likely to become depressed.
- Factors that might contribute to stay-at-home mom depression include having a controlling partner, little time to devote to hobbies or interests, limited social life, seasonal affective disorder, and more.
- Depressive disorders that are known to affect mothers during and after pregnancy include postpartum depression, peripartum depression, and major depression with peripartum depression.
- In addition to talking with a therapist or counselor who specializes in women’s issues, depression, or family counseling, stay-at-home moms should implement new coping skills.
- These skills and activities might include a highly structured daily routine, more time spent outside the home and with friends and family, and avoiding comparing themselves to others, particularly social media influencers.
For those of us who aren’t stay-at-home moms, we may marvel at how they’re able to run an entire household. And for some, especially those on the cusp of motherhood or who are contemplating life after pregnancy, being a stay-at-home mom may sound unfamiliar, or even scary.
Besides the struggles and stress of trying to keep the kids in order, the house from falling apart, and everything in between, are there any downsides to being a stay-at-home mom? And is stay-at-home mom depression real?
How Does Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Affect Mental Health?
For many, becoming a stay-at-home mom can be a big transition, especially when going from working full time or having a significant amount of time to yourself. Stay-at-home mom depression, while it’s not an official diagnosis, can occur.
Some of the reasons that being a stay-at-home mom could affect someone’s mental health include:
- Not being able to devote time to personal hobbies and interests
- The stress surrounding child-rearing and caring for children
- Having a controlling partner
Limited social life due to never leaving the home
- Excess time spent indoors, possibly aggravating or causing seasonal affective disorder
- Low self-esteem due to judgment from others who don’t approve of being a stay-at-home mom
Stay-at-home mom depression doesn’t affect everyone. For some people, particularly those with empathetic and nurturing personalities who are high in agreeableness, being a stay-at-home mom may be truly and uniquely fulfilling.
Like so many other life transitions and large choices that are made, an individual’s personal goals and perspective will influence their mental health during their daily life. Mothers who have maintained their self-identity, out-of-the-home activities, and non-familial relationships may not experience stay-at-home mom depression.
Is “Stay-at-Home Mom Depression” a Real Thing?
Stay-at-home mom depression won’t be found in the DSM-5, but:
- Postpartum depression, which occurs when a mother experiences depression during the first 4 weeks after delivery, is well-documented.
- Peripartum depression, another pregnancy-related depressive disorder, occurs when a mother’s depressive symptoms linger longer than 4 weeks after delivery.
- Major depression with peripartum depression, the most severe of the three, is diagnosed if the mother’s depressive symptoms last longer than 6 weeks following childbirth.
Depression following childbirth may feel like anger, anxiety, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, persistent low mood, sadness, tearfulness, mood swings, irritability, fear, weight gain or weight loss, and insomnia.
A factor that may cause stay-at-home mom depression and other pregnancy-related forms of depression is the hormonal changes that occur to the mother while carrying a child and following birth.
These changes can cause emotional sensitivity, emotional exhaustion, feelings of intense joy, loneliness, and fear, all at the same time for many new moms. This may feel like an emotional rollercoaster.
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Do Stay-at-Home Moms Have Higher Rates of Depression?
As stated above, not everyone will experience stay-at-home mom depression or other pregnancy-related forms of depression. However, there is research that shows stay-at-home moms can and may have higher rates of depression than those who aren’t stay-at-home moms and work part- or full-time.
This is largely due to isolation and loss of personal identity, as often stay-at-home moms can feel that their entire self-identity has become being a mom.
Are Stay-at-Home Moms Unhappy?
Some stay-at-home moms may be unhappy, but not everyone dislikes such an important role. Some moms may be very happy and satisfied with motherhood—they may not experience stay-at-home mom depression.
There are many stereotypes and stigmatizations surrounding motherhood, some of which romanticize the role and place it on a pedestal, while others paint it as constricting and confining to the point of terror.
Despite your personal views, it’s best not to assume that mothers who stay at home may be depressed. Everyone has different goals and values, and many mothers feel that motherhood is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding opportunities one can take.
There are lots of different experiences here to consider, and it’s best to ask with love and understanding if you’re curious.
Why Am I So Depressed Being a Stay-at-Home Mom?
If you’re feeling like you’re struggling with stay-at-home mom depression, it’s important to consider what the root causes of your unhappiness might be. A trap that may trigger stay-at-home mom depression is the temptation to compare oneself to other parents, social influencers, or individuals who appear to be “living the dream.”
Be kind to yourself, and remember that parenting is a journey with many winds and turns in the road. If you find yourself occasionally upset and overthinking your life choices, take some quiet time to meditate or lean into what may be causing this sadness and uncertainty.
How Can People Cope with Stay-at-Home Mom Depression?
If occasional sadness and anxiety become a chronic issue, a mother can work to reclaim their emotional strength, self-esteem, and mental clarity by working with an individual or family counselor who specializes in women’s issues. They may encourage moms struggling with stay-at-home mom depression to:
- Learn new coping skills such as journaling, mindfulness, acceptance and commitment techniques, and much more
- Engage in personal interests and hobbies once more
- Avoiding comparison with others by limiting social media usage and screen time
- Get out of the house on a daily basis for fresh air and a change of scenery to boost energy, practicing good hygiene, including a shower and getting dressed for the day, even if you may not be visiting with anyone
- Lean on their partner, family, close friends, and whoever else is available in order to find support
- Structuring and planning their day to avoid overthinking and dwelling in negative thought patterns
- Recognize patterns of manipulation, abuse, and neglect, which often affect isolated women more than other demographic groups
Working with a therapist or counselor to uncover the root causes of stay-at-home mom depression is likely to be the most efficient route toward lasting mental health improvements. But mothers who are feeling chronically depressed can also try using the methods described above on their own, as well.
Beyond working with a mental health professional and implementing new coping skills, receiving support is essential for stay-at-home moms. It’s important that mothers experiencing stay-at-home mom depression receive the same devotion and love that they give to their families.