Motherhood is filled with emotional ups and downs. Being a stay-at-home mom comes with its own challenges that can contribute to depression.
Motherhood is a wild ride. Being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) can be very rewarding, since you get to play a more present role in helping your child grow and develop. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy or without challenges.
Some moms who stay at home might feel isolated from other adults. After all, it’s just you and the kids from morning to night.
Even when your partner comes home, you may still feel pressure to provide for your kids, take care of the house, and make sure their needs are met. And this pressure can be daunting and unrelenting, which can lead you to feel even more isolated and alone. You might even feel like no one in your family recognizes your struggle.
If you are a stay-at-home mom and think you might have depression, you’re not alone. Depression is a common condition with many treatment options. Here’s how you can take steps to start feeling better.
Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms assigned at birth. However, gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body.
Depression symptoms include more than just longer-lasting sadness or anxiety. Symptoms of depression in parents who stay home are similar to generalized symptoms of depression, including:
- feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
- changes in sleep unrelated to parenthood
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- feeling helpless or powerless
- lack of energy
- feeling foggy and having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
- changes in appetite or weight
- aches or pains, like headaches or stomachaches without a clear physical cause that don’t respond to treatment
It can be tough to pinpoint these symptoms if you are a stay-at-home mom. Some of the symptoms can be easily explained by parenthood itself.
For instance, if you have an infant at home, your sleeping habits are probably nothing like they were before bringing your baby home. Fatigue, lack of energy, and trouble thinking can go hand in hand with sleep deprivation.
Consider speaking to a doctor if you notice that you or a loved one has these symptoms, along with persistent sadness or anxiety. Get help immediately if you or someone you love expresses suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death.
If you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts, please seek professional support immediately.
Calling or texting a crisis helpline will connect you with a trained counselor 24/7, any day of the year, completely free of charge:
Like other mental health conditions, depression can affect your entire family.
You may notice that it feels harder to connect with your loved ones during an episode of depression. Pulling away from your partner, friends, and children can also be common with depression.
However, managing depression is possible, and getting help for depression symptoms can improve your relationships with your family.
Many factors can contribute to developing depression as a mom. Some factors can affect both stay-at-home parents and working parents, like:
- hormone fluctuations after birth
- sleep deprivation
Perhaps this is why as many as
However, a 2012 Gallup poll of 60,000 women indicated that depression may be more common in stay-at-home moms. Employed moms and employed women who didn’t have a child at home showed similar levels of emotional health, while stay-at-home moms were more likely to report depression, worry, and sadness than both groups of employed women.
The difference in the emotional and mental health between moms who work and moms who stay home may be due to certain factors affecting stay-at-home parents more profoundly, like social isolation.
SAHMs are more likely to spend the majority of their time with their kids. And while you are never alone if you are a parent of young children, it can be very lonely.
Loss of identity
You may also experience a greater sense of upheaval and loss of identity as a mom if you have gone from working or pursuing other interests to being a stay-at-home mom.
Losing your sense of self — as well as the feeling of financially contributing — can leave some moms questioning their self-worth, which can contribute to depression.
The same 2012 Gallup poll also suggested that finances contributed to the self-reported emotional health of moms. Stay-at-home moms in families making less than $36,000 a year reported the highest levels of depression and lowest levels of positive emotional experiences.
Coping with depression can be a challenge for anyone, but can be even harder for a stay-at-home mom. If you find yourself dealing with depression as a stay-at-home parent, there are some strategies you can try to help yourself feel better.
Acknowledge your feelings without judgment
There is so much pressure on moms from society to love every minute of motherhood. While parenthood does have its magical moments, it’s OK if you have difficult times or miss who you were before you had kids.
Feelings are simply feelings. You’re not a bad mother for experiencing a wide range of emotions in parenting. And making space for those feelings can validate yourself.
Media often depicts the stereotypical uniform of a SAHM as sweatpants and T-shirts or mismatched pajamas and unbrushed hair.
While this is an often untrue and unfair representation, taking just a couple minutes out of your morning to practice self-care in getting dressed can help you feel like a new person — especially when you live with depression.
Consider making time in the morning to:
- put on fresh clothes
- wash your face
- brush your teeth
- comb your hair
Try making ‘mom friends’
Stay-at-home moms most often interact with their children. And while you are almost never alone as a stay-at-home parent, being home with young children can be very isolating and lonely.
It might feel like no one can truly understand the monotony, challenges, and truly off-the-wall things that can happen when you are home with the kids all day, every day. But someone else who is in a similar situation can relate to you with an empathetic ear.
Having a friend to commiserate with over the thousandth diaper change or tantrum can make you feel less alone. Plus, stay-at-home mom friends with kids mean playdates for your children, as well as company for you as you dole out yet another round of snacks.
Not sure where to make mom friends? Consider these ideas for meeting other parents:
- check out your local mom groups
- ask your pediatrician or OBGYN about local meetups sponsored by your health network
- join local communities for moms and parents on social media
Oftentimes, members of these groups organize meetups at playgrounds and other kid-friendly locales.
Ask for help when you need it
The demands on parents are frequently unrealistic and unending. It is perfectly OK to not be able to do all the things, or even to just need help sometimes.
Speak up and let your partner, a friend, a family member — or even a person at the grocery store who offers to hold the door open for you — help.
You’ll often feel better sharing the heavy load of parenting and the demands that go with it.
Make yourself a priority
When you become a SAHM, you might fall into the cycle of putting everyone else’s needs above your own all the time. Remember that your needs and wants matter, too, and it is OK to take steps to meet them.
There are many treatment options available to help manage depression, and there is no shame in asking for help with mental healthcare.
If you think that you or a loved one may have depression, talking to a doctor about your symptoms is often the best starting point. Your doctor may also be able to help refer you to a therapist.
Together, your doctor and therapist can help you decide on a treatment plan. Treatment for depression often includes a combination of strategies, such as:
It may take a bit of trial and error to find the combination of treatment that works best for you, but with the right one you will start feeling better.
Psychotherapy is considered a first-line treatment for depression.
Types of therapy that can be helpful for treating depression include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- interpersonal therapy (IPT)
- behavioral activation therapy (BA)
- acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- problem-solving therapy (PST)
- short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP)
- couples or family therapy
Self-care and lifestyle
Prioritizing self-care through lifestyle changes can often make a difference in depression symptoms.
Consider these supportive changes:
- eating nutritious foods
- trying to practice healthy sleep habits as much as possible, which can be challenging with babies and young kids
- spending time in nature
- forming a strong social support system
- joining a support group for moms
- asking your partner or family for help
- trying mindfulness and meditation practices
Depression is commonly treated with medications like antidepressants. Though family doctors can prescribe antidepressants, it may be most helpful to work with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional if you are seeking medication for depression.
Depression symptoms for stay-at-home and working parents alike are similar, though they can vary from person to person.
If you think that you or a loved one may have depression as a stay-at-home mom, know that you are not alone. Depression is a manageable condition, and with the right treatment plan you can feel better.
Consider talking with a healthcare professional as a first step. They can connect you with a therapist, and together, you can work toward determining the best treatment plan for you.
Treatment for depression is often a combination of:
- self-care and lifestyle changes
It may take time to find what works, and you may have to try multiple strategies.
Taking care of yourself can be hard as a stay-at-home mom. But remember that asking for help is OK, and any steps you take toward wellness can also benefit your kids and family.
Resources for stay-at-home moms with depression
You can seek support by contacting the National Parent Helpline. Calling 855-4APARENT will connect you with a trained advocate who can listen and help you find any services you need.
Try SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 800-662-HELP (4357). It is a confidential and free 24/7 information service for anyone facing a mental health crisis.