This week, I received a e-mail from one of my readers. I absolutely love receiving e-mails from you guys, it brightens up my whole day! She had a question though, and I honestly felt sad after reading this one.
“Why do so many sahms seem like they’ve got it together? I’m struggling to keep up, I feel like I’m drowning, and I am sad all the time. how can I change this? whats your advice, how do you do it?”
Gina, I will try my best to answer this one. It hits pretty close to home, so I hope I can be of some help.
How I Became A SAHM
I became a SAHM halfway through my second pregnancy. My little peanut needed his mama to take it easy, and my doctor agreed. I was incredibly nervous about the drastic and sudden change from working full-time to staying at home, but I knew it needed to be done to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery. I was really looking forward to staying at home – I would get to spend time with my children! I would have time to clean my house, plan out our nursery, defrost the chicken for dinner, and pick my son up from school. Easy peasy lemon squeezy…right?
What I didn’t realize, and what does not get talked about often enough, is how lonely staying at home can be. Did you know that 28% of SAHM’s reported they experience depression? Twenty-eight.
Depression & the SAHM
According to Metroparent.com’s 2012 article (updated in Feb 2017), “Stay-at-home moms might struggle more than working moms, according to a Gallup analysis of more than 60,000 U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 64 (before retirement age) interviewed in 2012.
The study found that 28 percent of stay-at-home moms reported depression a lot of the day when asked how they were feeling the day before, but only 17 percent of employed moms did. Of the group, 26 percent of SAHMs said they experienced depression, vs. just 16 percent of working moms. And 41 percent of the at-homers reported worry, compared to only 34 percent of their counterparts.”
So, SAHM’s experience a considerable amount of depression and anxiety. Not enough women talk about it, and in my opinion, doing so seems to be holding a lot of women back. So, everyone is holding in all these crazy, depressing, awful feelings that are considered embarrassing and debilitating to the rest of society – and not realizing how NORMAL it is to feel that way!
How Depression/Anxiety Has Affected Me
I’m not proud to admit that I have mild depression and anxiety. Truth be told, I didn’t even realize I had anything abnormal going on.
But, before doing research on the matter, or even thinking some other moms might have these awful feelings they’re keeping locked up inside too, I thought I was just alone. I saw all these other moms that seemed like they had it all together. I mean, have you ever been on Instagram? Looking at all the picture perfect moms with their clean living rooms and pristine houses bragging about having ample time for a new makeup routine and trips to Rome makes me want to brush my teeth, buy $15,000.00 in brand new furniture, and scrub my kitchen floor with a toothbrush.
Deep down, I think we all know that no one truly has it all together. That little known fact gets blurred when we are constantly streaming in images from our social media accounts like a slide show on repeat of our friends, neighbors, and complete strangers seemingly enjoying their roles as mothers. They all seem to be handling staying at home with such ease.
When I was lonely, and sad, and barely had the energy to keep it together in front of my kids, I tried really hard to research different things to try. I read articles on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram (stupid social media), and through search engines. I tried getting out of the house, and meeting other moms, etc. But, no matter how much sunshine I got, or new people I met, there was still a little emptiness there.
When I became a SAHM, I lost a little bit of myself. I lost the hardworking career woman, with an education, coworkers, and adult conversations. I lost daily interactions with people who cared about my interests, feelings, and performance. Now, I had a demanding boss, no paycheck, no vacation, and no break. Now, I work harder than I ever have to keep the house running all day long. My husband is a great help, but I was getting burnt out by 3:00p.m. each day.
So then comes the ringer…’What’s wrong with me?” Nothing is wrong with you. And I hope you are finding this in good mental health, but if you aren’t, please know that you are not alone. If you need to, take a deep breath, and say to yourself, “Twenty-eight percent, twenty-eight percent…”
I am especially proud of my generation. We are really starting to break down that wall that has been built around mental illness. We are sharing parts of our lives and worlds that used to stay completely private. It’s incredibly important to spread awareness about mental illness. Our earlier generations have, in a way, shut everything unpleasant and negative down and deemed it as something to be ashamed of. Truth be told, I am totally ashamed of feeling depressed as. SAHM. Those feeling were almost automatic. Weak, ashamed, and embarrassed.
We are making waves now, my friends. Even by reading this, you are helping to educate yourself and possibly other SAHM’s around you to better understand a crippling mental illness.
What’s Helped Me
If you’ve followed me on Instagram, you’ve seen my tomato plants. I’m incredibly proud of them! I now have a bunch of little guys growing right now! They are still green, but I’m really amazed that I’ve grown my very own fruit! Or vegetable. Depends on what you consider a tomato to be ;). It’s totally a hybrid of the two categories. At least, that’s my take on the tomato!
So, I mentioned previously that I read one article that stated how powerful getting outdoors and breathing in the fresh air can be to your mental health. Stepping outside for one hour, walking around, and breathing didn’t seem to help me. Everyone is different. And I have a feeling that if you are reading this, you might need something different too.
Why It Was Effective
I got the idea to grow tomatoes one day as I was torturing myself on Pinterest, looking for a new project to start. I didn’t actually think my plants would take. I was really happy to try growing seeds with my oldest son, Max, though, and thought it would be a great science experiment for us to do together. The seeds grew, and with the help of my husband and friends, we decided to keep them going in our very own vegetable garden. They are so tall, and strong, and have bees pollinating the flowers right now that will turn into tomato buds within days.
This year, I started a garden, and a blog. I didn’t just go outside, I stuck my hands into the earth, I planted seeds, and I carefully and lovingly nursed seedlings up to beautiful specimens. I created, designed, and expressed myself through writing a blog that has reached thousands of people, already. I didn’t just meet other moms, I truly connected with them on a personal level (like Gina!). For me, picking a hobby (vegetable gardening) helped me channel whatever was crippling me into something positive.
Gaining A Hobby
I know – you’ve got a million things on your plate. I barely had time for myself. I mean, forget showering. Six months ago, I couldn’t have told you the last time I showered. It was all a blur. Writing that is kind of embarrassing, and awful, but that kind of happens when you have depression. You sink into this hole that you want so desperately to climb out of, but you can’t. That was exactly the point of gaining a hobby for me. With learning something new, I was finally making time for myself. I gained a hobby, and I shed so much of the dark cloak of depression that was cast over me.
Hobbies can give you drive, motivation, and some responsibilty-free time for something YOU are interested. When I am gardening, I am feeding that little part of myself that got lost when I gave up my career. I may not have as many adult conversations, but I do get some time to download my frustrations. Gardening is just an example of something that I do for me.
The dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking, budgeting, grocery shopping, school pick up/drop off, vacuuming, feeding the animals, and all the other little things we do are for our family. As a SAHM, it’s my advice to make sure you do one thing, every day, that’s just for you.
The truth is that none of us have it together. Some of us have depression, and some of us are really thriving in our new roles. Don’t worry how you are doing in comparison to any other mom. Out of 100 SAHM’s in one room, 28 of the feel the way that you do. So, you aren’t alone. And what works for someone else might not work for you. Gardening might not be your passion – but something else is. Find it, explore, and do something for you. Remind yourself that you are more than the things you do for others. You still have interests, wants, and needs. That part gets clouded because we are so busy providing for everyone around us – but it can’t be ignored for too long.
Sometimes, medication is required, should your doctor deem it necessary.
Sometimes, extra hobbies, fresh air, and friends don’t quite fill that void you’re experiencing.
I am not condoning or condemning medications, and remain quite neutral on the subject.
But please know that if you are feeling depressed and cannot find your way out, that you should absolutely talk to your doctor about it. And of course, keep reaching out to family and friends. Should you have any questions, like my friend Gina, feel free to write in to me.
What have you done to help combat depression? I’d love hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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