This post is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Orange County but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Being a stay-at-home-mom can be such a rewarding experience but there’s also a lot of stress that can come with it. Now, if you’re not a mom or if you work outside of the home, you might wonder what kinds of things a stay-at-home-mom could possibly get stressed out about. They seem to have the life- not having to work and staying home. How much stress could they possibly experience? I used to think the same thing- that they had it made until I become a mom and made the choice to stay home with A. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with those that work or those that choose to not have kids. I’m not minimizing their level of stress but the kinds of stress a stay-at-home-mom experiences is quite different than someone who works outside the home.
Stress can be a good thing at times because it motivates us to work towards something but if it’s too much stress, it can work against us. Stress is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” Yikes, that doesn’t sound good! So how does stress affect a stay-at-home-mom and is it different than someone who works? What can a stay-at-home-mom do to manage her stress? When should she seek professional help and what’s considered normal levels of stress?
I had the opportunity to chat with Lidia Tovar from Kaiser Permantente. She is a licensed Clinical Social Worker who is an expert at Stress Management and leads various workshops at Kaiser Permanente. We got to chat about stress management for the stay-at-home-mom and I learned so much!
What’s there to be stressed about?
First of all, for a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), what causes the stress? I’m not trying to be facetious. If you look at a typical day in the life of a SAHM, there could be a number of things that cause stress but for the purposes of this post, I won’t go into it because a typical day is different for every SAHM. Stress might come from the fact that the role and work of a SAHM isn’t really measurable or tangible compared to someone who has a job outside the home.
Stress isn’t always caused by something negative. To say that my kids are stressing me out or being a SAHM is stressing me out might come off as ungrateful and like a first world problem. But staying home, caring for kids, and managing a home demands so much of you that it can put a lot of pressure and stress. The pressure and stress can build up and lead to health problems, “blowing up” at your kids or spouse unnecessarily, or just an overall unhappiness in your life even though on the outside you seem to have it all.
Tips to Manage Stress
Ms. Tovar talked about how one of the most important ways to mange stress was by managing the expectations we have for ourselves as a mom. Are our expectations of ourselves realistic? Are they attainable? Do we have a perfectionistic expectation? We can’t all be Pinterest moms and that’s ok. A lot of times, a stay-at-home mom might feel guilt over their role and wonder if they are contributing enough financially, being significant, or enhancing the lives of their family members. But those are difficult to measure or see on a daily basis.
Some other tips she suggested were:
- Self care and taking care of yourself. It’ll look different for each individual mom. I know that on the list of things to do, taking care of myself is often last. I’m just happy when I get to eat my own meal and take a shower. I have to remember to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. Not just physically but also emotionally and mentally.
- Physical activity. Get out there and take a walk or get exercise. I remember before getting married and having A, I used to run and take group classes. I can’t remember the last time I went to a pilates class. Does walking around Disneyland pushing a stroller count as physical activity?
- Having a good support system. This is probably one of the most important things for a SAHM. If you have a supportive family, partner and community of other moms what “get it” and come from a nonjudgmental stance, they can validate and reaffirm your feelings. They can also be an outlet for you in your time of need.
- Staying present and practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness practice is the practice of staying present in the moment with a level of awareness. It involves meditation and focusing on your breath so that you reconnect with yourself. We go throughout our day thinking about the future or the past which are things we can not control or change. This can cause stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness helps manage stress and anxiety because you are focusing on the now- something you can control. As adults, we live inside our heads a lot and some times our thoughts are not kind. We can be our own worst critics. Practicing mindfulness brings us back to the here and now and helps us to focus and enjoy the moment.
There are two kinds of mindfulness practice- formal and informal. In formal mindfulness, you follow along with guided imagery. There are classes you can take. For example in a yoga class, the beginning and end of the class where you focus on your breath is considered practicing mindfulness. There are also apps that Ms. Tovar suggested such as Calm or Headspace which lead you through guided imagery exercises.
In informal mindfulness practice, you just go throughout your day and practice being present. For example when you are brushing your teeth or going for a walk, you engage your 5 senses and don’t let your mind drift to the future or the past. Ms. Tovar noted how our young kids are a master of mindfulness. They experience life through their 5 senses and quickly become distracted by what’s around them. Obviously, they don’t have to worry about much but we can learn a lot from our kids about staying present and enjoying the moment.
When to Seek Help
Stress that is not managed can lead to all sorts of health problems. If you see physical manifestations of stress such as anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, disruptions in sleep, loss of appetite, headaches and muscle tension, you might want to evaluate ways to relieve the stress. Medication or individual therapy is an option for those whose level of stress is significantly impairs their ability to function.
Stress is in everyone’s lives. For a SAHM, the demands of being a mom can be so high that if you don’t have the support built into your life to manage the stress, it can be overwhelming. Ultimately, you have to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself so harshly. I have to remember to extend the same grace and compassion to myself as I do to others.
How do you manage stress?