Mother’s Day is just around the corner and what a great time it is to celebrate motherhood. Mothers are often expected to cook, clean, earn an income, raise children, and all the while provide emotional support. How many of you ran first to your mothers during times of duress? Whether by birth or adoption, the role of a mother is a universal one. Different cultures and circumstances dictate the styles and manners of mothering, but the uniting factor across all walks of life is the bond of unconditional love. So for Mother’s Day, let’s examine some of the challenges that mothers face and celebrate their strength and resiliency.
Celebrating New Moms
For all the women who became new moms in 2020, we celebrate you this Mother’s Day. Take a minute to breathe and reflect on what you went through last year. This is your victory lap because who faced more challenges last year than new mothers?
Many mothers have ideas about their ideal pregnancy, birthing experience, and first few days, weeks, and even months after their newborn arrives. Some come up with playlists, carefully select who will be in the room with them, and coordinate exactly how they want everything to go. But thanks to the pandemic, those plans were almost all off the table.
Many moms were forced to give birth alone, with masks on. They had to deal with the underlying stress of being in a hospital, which was an especially dangerous place to be during the height of the pandemic. And the prospect of things getting better once outside the hospital were slim. The usual support network of extended family that new mothers often rely on were unavailable due to COVID.
Just look at this story from Olivia Amin-Bashier and her husband, Allafi. She worked in healthcare while pregnant and due to COVID scares at work, she had to take her maternity leave early. When she went into labor, she’d hoped her sister could accompany her as her doula, but only her husband was allowed to join her. At a time when the impact of COVID on babies was unknown, this whole experience could not have been more stressful, but thankfully her baby was delivered successfully and in good health.
Now that it’s Mother’s Day 2021 and we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to vaccines, it’s time to look back a bit and acknowledge the challenges many overcame. Today is a day to celebrate the resiliency that not only pregnant and new moms have shown since Mother’s Day 2020, but that ALL moms showed. We can all hope together that it never happens again in the future.
Trouble at Birth
For many mothers, the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is often confusing and full of unexpected surprises that they were never warned about. Elaine Jacobson’s story reminds us just how challenging that period can be.
Even though she gave birth to her second child under all the circumstances she could have hoped for (she was married to the man she loved, there were no complications, and it was a relatively easy pregnancy and delivery), she felt a clawing combination of anxiety and depression. Her mind ran her into the ground with obsessive and destructive thoughts about herself, her children, and her husband. She questioned her abilities as a mother and worried that her marriage was falling apart even though her husband loved and supported her unquestionably.
Clearly, something was wrong, but many mothers are unaware of how challenging the period after giving birth can be. When complications like postpartum depression are not frequently discussed, it can lead people to believe that something is wrong with them, which leads to unnecessary stress. At the end of the day, Elaine’s issue was not her ability as a wife or mother, as she feared, but was a neurochemical deficiency that was resolved once Elaine was under the care of her obstetrician for postpartum depression.
Moms are some of the strongest, most resilient people in the world, but this doesn’t mean they can do everything on their own. Knowing when to ask for help is not something that comes easy to many people, which was the case with Elaine. Having the self-awareness to know when something is within your control versus when something is out of your control is an important lesson from Elaine’s story. This is a skill that is so necessary for a mother to have. Nobody can do everything themselves, but mothers are often expected to balance more than they can handle. Admitting you need help is neither a sign of weakness nor an admission of failure; it’s the first step towards improving yourself and your well-being.
Motherhood in 2020
2020 was a year like no other for everyone, including mothers, but unfortunately many mothers suffered immensely. Millennial and new mothers especially reported increased negative emotions in 2020 compared to previous years.
In 2020, 97 percent of millennial moms reported feeling burned out by motherhood at least some of the time; that’s dangerously close to 100 percent. 74 percent of mothers reported feeling mentally worse since the start of the pandemic and I’m sure they’re not alone in that statistic. With more people stuck at home, the normal work/life balance was disrupted in a major way.
In 2016, before the start of the pandemic that dominated 2020, about 28 percent of adults said American society places more value on the work women do at home versus in the workplace and 56 percent thought that value was equal between women’s work at home and in the workplace. With women’s work at home valued over their work in the workplace and the majority of people stuck at home, it’s no wonder how American women lost 5 million jobs in 2020 and mothers were almost 3 times more likely to lose their jobs than fathers. That’s a lot of data that suggests that 2020 was a culmination of many different issues that mothers have been facing for a very long time. But what is causing all this emotional distress?
According to Motherly’s annual survey, the cause for all this burnout is primarily the stress of balancing work and family and feeling the pressure of being the primary caregiver in the family. Regrettably, the alternative is not much better. Many women lost their jobs at disproportionate rates in 2020, leading to a lot of feelings of negative self-worth.
The solution to this is multi-faceted and too complex to get into here, but many millennial moms believe one thing would help immensely. In 2018, 74 percent of millennial moms did not believe American society sufficiently supports mothers and that number has increased to 89 percent in 2020. Many mothers believe that increased child support and childcare provided by the government would benefit not just their ability to manage a working mother lifestyle, but that it would also benefit society as a whole.
No matter what your opinion is on how and from where that help should come from and be delivered, the data is clear; mothers are not receiving enough support right now. This Mother’s Day weekend, let’s especially recognize mothers who, after all, help give our world the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and people changing society for the better. After enduring such a difficult 2020, many mothers are counting on support coming from somewhere in order to bounce back as they return to the workforce. Let’s celebrate the resiliency of mothers and offer them a helping hand going forward; after the year they’ve had, I’d say they could use it.
Mothers come in all different forms. Some of us don’t get to know our biological mothers and others get to choose whom they consider their mother. Whatever your situation is and whoever has been a motherly figure in your life, celebrate them with a gift or a phone call. Tell them about the impact they’ve had in your life and the ways they’ve helped shape the person you are today. They will feel loved and acknowledged and did you know there are even scientifically proven benefits from being kind to others? Considering what mothers have been through in the last year, it’s the least we can do for them. Give it a try and let me know in the comments how your Mother’s Day is.