Why Modern Moms are Depressed

Image by Tom Clare.

The other day I was reading through some of the more popular Mom blogs to get ideas for ALittleLife and I was taken aback by how many mothers wrote extensively about their depression. And then how many of the readers commented, commiserating and sharing anti-depressant recommendations.  My goodness…are we all taking something just to get through the day?

Some interesting statistics:

15% of the population of high-income countries suffer from depression compared to 11% in low and middle-income countries.

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women in the United States takes medication for depression or anxiety.

I actually think that’s a low estimate.  I know a lot of women on these prescriptions. Maybe it’s just my industry.

Medication is no longer for the seriously depressed. As a young co-worker once told me, “really, it’s just good grooming.”

I just wrote about running being my Prozac but if I were unable to run, I might consider relief in pill form. Especially with Charlie. I don’t need him to see me moping around the house for no reason.

But what’s going on here? Are moms becoming more depressed due to drastic cultural shifts or are they simply becoming less tolerant of “down” moods?

So why are mothers so down?

Isolation. It takes a village to raise a child. Sounds nice, but where are the villages these days? The grandparents are on one side of the country, aunts and uncles on another. Friends come and go with career changes. Raising a child in a vacuum can suck the energy out of the most ambitious mother.The onus is on the mother to seek out her own support group and when you feel snowed under with household chores, baby maintenance and maybe a business you’re trying to start up, the last thing you feel like doing is begging strangers to be your friends.

Lack of exercise. Compared to fifty, even twenty years ago, life is more sedentary, simply because there are more things to occupy your time while sitting. Facebook for example. Things that used to require going someplace are now done at the computer. Again, it’s up to the mom to get herself moving with a yoga video or something.

Looks like a single parent. The cost of living today means if a mother stays home, the husband will likely have to work long hours, getting home after baby’s in bed and leaving before he’s up. Sad, sad, sad.

So many rules. With all the rules they give you when you leave the hospital, you’d think your precious bundle is going to shatter under the merest breath. Some of the rules set the mother up for failure (Back to Sleep). The rules protect the baby, it’s true, but leave little room for developing parental instincts and this can be debilitating for a new mother.

Back to work too soon.  Maternity leave is a blip in the US. I’m lucky enough to stay home (financially it’s tight!), but I can imagine the angst of going back to work and having to pump to keep up my milk supply. I’ve never heard anyone say they love pumping. I think there must be a huge psychological disconnect when your body is flooded with all the bonding hormones and you’re hooked up to a machine.I totally understand why working mothers stop trying to breastfeed and I think that must contribute somewhat to depression since studies show weening prematurely contributes to so many physical ailments for the mother.

And then there’s daycare which is such a sensitive topic I really don’t want to touch it.  But I’ve heard from mothers who have to do it that it’s far from easy and takes a huge psychological toll on them ( the mothers, babies seem to be relatively tolerant.)

So really, I think we’re swimming in a culture that counters every natural maternal instinct. The instinct to breastfeed for a year or more, to bond with other mothers and family, and the instinct to share the joy with a husband and to spend plenty of unpressured time learning this new being you just launched into the world.

Seems to me mothers must work hard at maintaining emotional stability and good mental health. I’d love to hear what you all think? Are you experiencing similar difficulties? Does it seem like an uphill battle or do you have it figured out?

Check out Seven Tips For Maintaining Sanity for ways to avoid the depressive slump of modern motherhood.

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  1. I’ve been thinking about the first point, the “village.” One of my big goals in the next year is to cultivate community, for me and my little girl (and hubby, depending on how much he wants to join in). My in-laws — a very close, large family — live 9 hours away, and my family is on each coast while we are not. Plus we are transplants to the area where we live. So it is a challenge, but we’ll see how it goes. Any ideas/things that have worked for you?

  2. I know, it’s difficult. My family and I survive with video call (Skype). Charlie seems to get it. He breaks into a grin every time his Grandma gets online. We’re even trying to introduce Charlie to his baby cousin over Skype. As far as making friends, it’s been stop and go for me. I just put a post up with some links to Mom groups and some other tips. But right now I’m only consistently in touch with mothers through the blogs and the WTE forum.

  3. I can relate – blogs and WTE sometimes become an obsession. So here’s a thought: Is online “community” a help or part of the problem? Maybe it fills just enough of our need to connect that we don’t have as much motivation to do it in the real world?? Just an idea, not sure if correct.

    We love Skype, too! Great way to see the grandparents.

  4. Yes. That’s a very good point! It’s so easy to point at our facebook page and say look at how many friends I have, but few of these online encounters fulfill the deep emotional need we have for real connection.I’m sure there are some people who are wholly satisfied with online relationships, but I’m not one of them.

  5. Hey love..

    I am reading your list.. and I think if I’m feeling down.. mine is for financials reasons.. It just sucks when you know everything in your bank account is going towards bills, and you can’t even spend a penny.

    Thank goodness this month had 3 paychecks in it.

    I really like your blog.. Sorry I’ve been missing your posts!


  6. Thanks for reading. Believe me, we’re in the same boat with the financial business.I’m trying to cut our lifestyle down to the bare minimum, not just for financial reasons. I really think that living simply will yield a more meaningful, focused life. But it’s hard to get out of the consumer mindset.

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