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Moms and Mental Health Series
Here at MSB, we specialize in talking about Mental Health issues from the unique perspectives of those who experience them.
That’s why we’re dedicating this series specifically to Moms who struggle with their Mental Health.
Why? Because Moms don’t get the choice to step back and work on their Mental Health as easily as the rest of us do. Their time is rarely their own. They need strategies on Mental Health to fit that busy lifestyle.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Mama Shark Blog to bring you this unique series. We’re here to bring you advice tailored to your experience, Mama! We hope it helps <3
Raise your hand if you are FED UP with the unrealistic expectations that seem to come along with motherhood?
I know, me too! I’m not even a mom yet and those expectations already make me tired.
Why? Because, I can see you out there, Mama. Working your tail off to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, and business woman at the same time. But everywhere you turn, there’s no support.
Instead, there’s Mom Shaming that makes you feel awful for posting pictures of your kids online. Or vice versa: family being upset you’re not posting more pictures of the new baby on Facebook.
There’s eternally conflicting advice on everything from breastfeeding to parenting styles. And all the strong opinions that go with those topics. There’s pressure from work to be the same employee you were before baby.
People are constantly scrutinizing your every move now. They seem to have full license to give you unsolicited advice and gossip about you at the water cooler. All because you decided to create life.
How Unrealistic Expectations Effect Mothers’ Mental Health
Unrealistically high expectations can be really, really bad for your mental health. I know that from personal experience. Flawed expectations of myself and others contributed heavily to my perfectionism based OCD. My core beliefs were way out of whack and led me to break down.
For moms, though, it can be much worse. Everywhere mothers turn, there’s an element of criticism and shame. Everyone has their opinions and it seems no decision is the right one when it comes to parenthood.
And these high expectations are often met with low payoffs because, let’s face it, keeping a tiny human alive can often feel pretty thankless. According to Dr. Alex Lickerman, when high expectations are paired with low rewards they become a recipe for emotional dysfunction.
It’s all enough to produce severe anxiety, depression, and stress related physical disorders in many moms. When you type in “Problems Mothers Have” in Google, the first article clearly states that guilt and blame are among the biggest issues for mothers. Many of them have the nagging feeling they aren’t doing “good enough.”
What Can Mothers Do to Defend Against Unrealistic Expectations?
Okay, so we know ridiculously high expectations = bad and exhausting. But defending against them can also be a full time job. Definitely not something an already overwhelmed mom needs.
So we’re here with Mama Shark to get you some easy advice on how to build a shield agains those nasty expectations (inside and out)!
1. Remember You’re Already Doing a Great Job
First and foremost, remember that you’re already doing a great job, mama!
You don’t have to throw your one year old a Pinterest worthy birthday party. You’re not required to make themed bento boxes for your kids’ lunch. And there is no law stating that you must buy them that expensive costume for dance in order to be a good mom.
You really only have to do three things:
- Make sure your child feels safe and loved
- Keep them alive, fed, and clothed
- And help them grow up into functional adults
Everything else is just icing on top.
If you want to create awesome bento boxes and you have the emotional bandwidth, hell yeah go for it! But you don’t have to, especially if it’s at the expense of your own mental wellbeing.
2. Take Care of Yourself First By Tweaking Daily Habits
As Mama Shark says in the Ultimate Survival Guide for Long Days with Kids, “ultimately a healthy, happy mom makes for healthy, happy kids.“
It may not always seem like it, but you are everything to your children. They need you. But you can’t show up for them if your mental health is poor. So here’s some unpopular advice: put yourself first, mama.
I know, it seems really hard but it doesn’t have to be. Take a look at your habits. Often, we can make a huge change just by tweaking our everyday routine.
Make sure you eat something nourishing in the morning instead of something sugary because you’re in a hurry. Even if it’s something quick (like hardboiled eggs or a protein smoothie) it’s still way better than a bowl of cereal or a piece of pizza.
Ensure you take at least 15 minutes to yourself each morning instead of getting directly to work and/or mom duties. A little bit of journaling, walking, running, or even a quiet cup of coffee can be just the boost you need for the day ahead.
And, most importantly, don’t do extra emotional labor if you have no energy to do it. That goes for doing extra things for kids, partners, and work. Sometimes that means the laundry doesn’t get folded. It could also look like skipping sports or social activities in lieu of staying home as a family for the evening. You might have to ask for an extension on that deadline.
Whatever you have to do to stay mentally healthy, do it. And, remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can set reasonable expectations clearly from the start and use the great art of compromise to keep your schedule flexible so everyone wins.
3. Remember That Outside Expectations Aren’t About You
And finally, it’s time to challenge those unrealistic expectations themselves. Everyone you meet is going to have expectations for you.
But the thing is, those expectations are just projections. People put them on you (often without realizing it) so that they feel comfortable. It’s all about them and not about you at all.
That being said, we’ll never exist in a world devoid of expectations from others. So another critical tool is learning how to determine what’s a reasonable expectation and what is not.
An expectation is reasonable when it is:
- Considerate of a person’s time and/or energy levels
- Proportionate to a person’s ability and/or life experience
- Well defined
- Clearly communicated
An expectation is unreasonable when it is:
- Inconsiderate of a person’s time and/or energy levels
- Disproportionate to a person’s ability and/or life experience
- Vague, undefined, or poorly understood by the person doing the expecting
- Poorly communicated (i.e. passive aggressive expectations)
- Extremely difficult to reasonably achieve
So there you go mama! A primer on how expectations can effect your mental health and what you can do about them!
I know how easy it is to let expectations of others clog up your mental health. It often happens without us even realizing but becomes very apparent as depression and anxiety creep in.
Fortunately, now you know how to identify some of these unrealistic expectations and avoid them. Use these tools wisely and remember, you’re already doing a great job just by showing up for your kids everyday. Everything else is just gravy, baby!
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A Word from our Partner Mama Shark
“Hi! My name is Stephanie- aka Mama Shark! I’m an Jesus-loving, introverted, somewhat crunchy, and highly practical mom of 2 precious, sleep-hating kiddos and I’ve been married for almost a decade to my wonderful husband. Creating order out of chaos is my jam and I am passionate about reducing the mental load of motherhood!
As I worked out how to handle all these responsibilities (who knew tiny humans could require so much!), I wanted to do better. Better in a “surely this can be made easier” kind of a way. I am wired to create order out of chaos- and let me tell you, I have plenty of chaos to work with!
At MamaShark.blog, I am bringing my experience as an entrepreneur and my passion to make things easier for Mamas together into a practical how-to guide with the goal of reducing the mental load of Mamas and helping them live healthier, happier, and easier lives!“
Oh and remember to check out Stephanie’s awesome 5 Day Declutter Your Mom Brain Challenge
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