The Moms Are Not OK: Why Mental Health is Keeping Mothers Up at Night

Dr Jessica Yu

Written by Jessica Yu, Ph.D.

Updated 07/13/2023

Motherly, the lifestyle brand working to redefine motherhood, recently published its annual State of Motherhood Report. The report documents findings from a survey of the challenges faced by nearly 10,000 mothers. 

I’d love to say I was surprised by the results, but sadly… I wasn’t. This generation’s mothers are not OK. And they’re telling us exactly why: they’re worried (for good reason!) about their state of mind.

Mental health is the top concern keeping mothers up at night. Nearly half (46%) of respondents are seeking therapy, with 32% of those in therapy doing so for anxiety and 12% for depression.

As a clinical psychologist and working mom of three littles under the age of 5, I spend much of my time living, talking, and thinking about motherhood and the harsh realities facing moms today.

Mothers are consumed by worries about their children. On a daily basis, we worry about the “small” things, like whether we dressed them warmly enough or remembered to put a note in their lunchbox. We also worry about the “big” stuff. Will they grow up to be kind? Will they be good humans? Will they find the love and happiness they deserve?

Indeed, a 2023 Pew Research Report on Parenting in America Today confirms how much worry mothers take on, finding that mothers in heterosexual relationships worry more than fathers about a host of issues, including their children’s mental health, bullying, and more.

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Although motherhood is a mighty club, it can also be an isolating one. The hours of the day are eaten up by work, family obligations, and household duties, leaving little time for personal endeavors or social activities. 

In fact, a survey from the Center for American Progress shows that working mothers spend about 14 hours per day on those three activities, leaving just under 10 hours for everything else, including sleep.

And despite the social advances of women and the expanded role modern-day men have in their families’ lives, women still shoulder the burden at home. According to another report by the Pew Research Center, women in heterosexual marriages spend approximately 2 hours more on caregiving and 2.5 hours more on housework per week than their husbands. 

In comparison, men spend 3.5 hours more per week on leisure activities than their wives. The imbalance of responsibilities isn’t just a matter of time; it can also create a strain on women’s relationships with their partners by bringing up feelings of anger and resentment. 

For those of us who are working moms, guilt appears to be our primary emotion despite all the data indicating that our children are doing great. 

Studies have found that maternal employment does not negatively impact the children of working moms. In fact, they’ve found that it is associated with greater achievement, fewer behavioral problems, and positive adult outcomes. 

And yet, we beat ourselves up for pursuing our professions, seeking help with childcare, and searching for an identity that is not singularly that of “mom.” 

Or, we are driven out of the workforce because it is so hard to find affordable and reliable childcare, with a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey finding that nearly 60% of parents have left the workforce due to lack of childcare.

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The above is only a snapshot of the challenges today’s mothers face, and Motherly’s report is yet another reminder that there is so much more we need to do to honor and support the mothers around us. Here are just a few ways we can help:

  • Help them take care of themselves just as they take care of their children and families—and that may very well start with encouraging them to steal a quick nap or seek mental health services. 

  • Continue working towards equitability in parenting and household responsibilities so that women feel less pressure to prioritize housework above the other things that matter to them.

  • Create workplace cultures that empower mothers with flexible schedules and access to affordable childcare, while not losing sight of the need for career advancement and professional development.

  • Champion resources similar to the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a confidential and toll-free hotline for mothers experiencing mental health challenges.

This generation’s mothers are not OK. But with our help, they can be.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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