Being a mom is already a full-time job, but add on a literal job and a global pandemic? It’s no wonder moms may be feeling overwhelmed — and even anxious and depressed — right now. With so much to do and so many health concerns to worry about, there’s a lot to keep up with.
“Working moms are balancing their work responsibilities with home responsibilities, which may have increased with children heading back to in-person school,” said Dana Cea, PhD, a clinical therapist at C&C Betterworks P.A. in North Carolina. “In addition to work and home responsibilities, the season change and shorter days can exacerbate anxiety and depression symptoms that working moms might already have been feeling.”
The pandemic has pushed many working moms to their limits
Statistics reinforce this. Women have experienced 54 percent of job losses since the start of the pandemic, in which some economic experts are calling this period a “she-cession.”
Additionally, a University of Southern California study shows more women than men are having to reduce their work hours and are sole caretakers of their children. Further, 9.8 million women are experiencing workplace burnout, which little to no paid leave exacerbates. And of course, women who are Black, Asian, and Latina have been hit the hardest by these issues.
Now more than ever, working moms paying attention to their mental health and practicing self-care is crucial. But how can they do that?
Setting boundaries as self-care
Cea has multiple suggestions for how moms can take care of themselves. “Working moms can practice self-care, set boundaries, and delegate tasks to help with maintaining their well-being,” Cea said.
For example, moms can set boundaries around how they spend their time. “Self-care does not have to be bubble baths and pedicures; it can be a morning meditation or prayer, an afternoon walk alone, or a bedtime routine,” she said.
Moms can also practice saying no — something that can be easier said than done. “Setting boundaries may look like turning off phone notifications during family time, not responding to work requests during certain times of the day, and saying ‘no’ to additional requests from others,” Cea said. “While delegating tasks both at work and home can be tough, working moms may find this to be a key way of relieving stress.”
Working moms can consider asking their partner, family, or friends to help with something. This may entail sharing carpool duties, asking for extra help with chores, or getting someone to watch their kids so they can have alone time and relax.
Handling anxious thoughts with a ‘worry worksheet’
But what about times when working moms are flooded with anxiety? When they’re overwhelmed by thoughts about keeping their kids safe and keeping their job, all while maintaining their own well-being?
Cea recommended trying the “worry worksheet” activity. “When working moms find themselves feeling anxious, creating a worry worksheet may help,” she said. “Fold a piece of paper in half, hotdog style. On the left-hand side, write the worry, and on the right-hand side, write the potential solutions.”
Don’t have a solution? That’s OK, too. “‘I cannot do anything’ is a solution,” Cea said. This activity can still be helpful. “The worry worksheet helps take worries out of our minds and puts them on paper, making stressors more manageable,” she explained.
Finding a group of working moms
Lastly, finding a group of supportive, like-minded working moms can be another helpful option. “Make consistently scheduled get-togethers, virtual or in-person, where you can talk about your anxieties, your down moments, and problem-solve together with others who ‘get it,’” Cea suggested.
These moms can be your friends, people at your church, people at “Mommy and Me” groups, or even people in mom-centered Facebook groups.
Your well-being is important
Overall, remember taking care of yourself is important. It’s not only something you deserve, but it’s something that’s necessary, too. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Reach out when you need support. Don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries and taking time alone to relax. Continue keeping your needs in mind.
Ashley Broadwater is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied Public Relations in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She’s passionate about mental health, body positivity, relationships, Halloween, and Dad jokes.