Motherhood comes with joys as well as challenges. Many parents who choose to stay at home with their children may experience feelings of isolation, loneliness, loss of identity, and feelings of sadness that may feel like depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Research from 2016 indicates around 27% of mothers in the U.S. chose to stay at home. While staying at home means a person can feel more involved in their children’s lives, particularly while they develop and grow, it may make them feel more isolated from other adults if they spend all day and night with only their children.
They may also take on other duties at home, including upkeep of the house or making sure everyone in the house has their needs tended to. It may make a person feel burnt out or that their own needs are not met. These feelings are common among some stay-at-home moms and it is important to talk openly and not hurt in silence.
This article explains what stay-at-home mom depression is, why mothers may have it, and what the symptoms are. It will also explore treatment options, as well as tips for life as a stay-at-home mom. Just to note, this is a term people use that is helpful, but it is not a DSM-recognized diagnosis.
Stay-at-home mom depression is depression present in parents who stay at home, taking care of their children rather than being employed outside of the home.
Being a full-time caregiver can be a challenge, with some negative feelings arising, such as:
- feeling isolated from other adults, only spending time with the children
- feeling burnt out from taking care of every aspect of the household, including all the child care
- feeling a loss of purpose or identity, only existing to take care of others
- the pressure of tending to everyone and everything, often forsaking personal needs
Some mothers may have conflicting feelings of guilt and depression, such as guilt for thinking they are not doing enough or even guilt for feeling depressed when they are around their children. Such feelings are common among those who stay home to take care of children, and there are many treatment options and ways of finding support.
Symptoms of stay-at-home mom depression are similar to feelings of general depression. They can
- a feeling of sadness or being “low” that does not go away
- feeling hopeless or “empty”
- feeling irritable or frustrated often
- lack of interest in hobbies previously enjoyed
- difficulty focusing on certain tasks
- unplanned changes in weight or appetite
- changes in sleeping, such as sleeping too much or insomnia
- lack of energy or feeling tired all the time
- feeling guilty or “worthless”
- thoughts of suicide or not wanting to exist
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
It is important to talk with a doctor or mental health professional, as depression can affect a person as well as their family.
Some symptoms may be standard symptoms of parenting, such as feeling more tired. However, talking with someone can ensure a person does not feel alone and can get on the path toward treatment.
- changes in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain
- trauma or environmental changes, such as lack of support or stress
- hormone levels, particularly after having a baby
An older poll from 2012 indicated over 60,000 stay-at-home moms in the U.S. experience more feelings of sadness, stress, depression, and worry than those who are in employment and working out of the house. They also smile and laugh a lot less.
Aspects of being a stay-at-home mom may contribute to depression. These include:
- being socially isolated from other adults, only speaking and spending time with the children
- feeling a loss of identity, particularly if they worked or had a career previously
- feeling dependent on someone else’s salary, particularly if a person had their own financial dependence beforehand
- no time to pursue their own hobbies or activities that bring them joy and purpose
Motherhood and parenting can be challenging just as much as it is joyful. There is no shame in experiencing symptoms of depression whilst being a stay-at-home mom and talking with a doctor or mental health professional can ensure a person gets the help they need.
Treatment for depression
- medications such as:
- psychotherapy or talk therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help a person identify negative thoughts and feelings and, over time, change them
- natural remedies such as exercise, eating a nutritious diet, and getting enough sleep
Sometimes, a stay-at-home mom may need connection and support from others, even in small forms, such as helping with chores in the house or giving them time away from child care duties. Having a supportive network of people can ensure a person does not feel alone and has time to give themselves love, care, and attention also.
Some management tips for those feeling stay-at-home mom depression include the below:
- Surround yourself with as many loved ones as possible, and do not feel afraid to ask for help.
- Similarly, surround yourself with resources that can help, including support groups for new moms, stay-at-home moms, or other moms who want “mom” friends.
- Do not put pressure on yourself to feel happy about motherhood at all times — it is one of the hardest jobs a person can do.
- Acknowledge all feelings and emotions, but try not to dwell on them and remember, they will pass.
- Practice self-care, such as getting dressed in the morning in clothes you like or that may make you feel good.
- Practice healthy habits such as sleeping when the baby or children sleep.
Some resources for those with stay-at-home mom depression include:
Stay-at-home mom depression occurs with many parents who choose to stay at home while their spouse or other parent goes to work. Feelings of isolation and lack of independence may contribute to depression, but there are many treatments for depression as well as ways of managing life as a stay-at-home mom.
Having a network of support, including loved ones and parent support groups, can ensure a person does not feel they have to manage it by themselves while experiencing depression. Treatments can also include medication and psychotherapy.