Mothers Really Needed to Hear that the Stress Is Not Their Fault.
When I saw the publisher’s summary of Dr. Caitlyn Collin’s book, Making Motherhood Work, I knew this was the research I was looking for. I couldn’t put it down; I read her book in 4 days. Here at last was documentation of what I claimed in my TEDx talk, The Parenting “ShouldStorm”. Dr. Collins’ research shows how mothers all over the world feel the pressure. But American mothers are the ones drowning in stress they didn’t create and can’t fix on their own. In a world that still believes in intensive mothering, American women get the least support.
I couldn’t wait to talk to Dr. Collins, so we set up an interview. In person she was even better than her book. I wish you all could have been there for our video call, because we had a powerful conversation. At first, I was the interviewer and the pediatrician with expertise, talking to the Sociology Professor. But by the end of our talk, I was tearing up as she talked. Suddenly I was a vulnerable mother being told it wasn’t my fault after all.
Caught between the impossible ideals of the perfect devoted mother and the perfectly devoted worker, U.S. Moms can’t win. Here’s what Dr. Collins told me, “I want American moms to stop blaming themselves. I want American mothers to stop thinking that somehow their conflict is their own fault, and that if they tried a little harder, got a new schedule, woke up a little earlier every morning, using the right planner or the right app, that they could somehow figure out the key to managing their stress. That’s just not the case.”
It was so hard to see the evidence of how much better other Western countries are doing supporting mothers and families. To realize how far behind we are in the U.S., how much harder this is than it needs to be, and how it does not have to stay like this.
Next, I wrote an article for Psychology Today about her book and our conversation. I called it “Mothers Are Drowning in Stress: New research suggests saving U.S. mothers should be a national priority.” I knew moms needed to hear this, but as the number of reads has gone up I realized just how much this is resonating. Day after day, I see my article listed as the most popular read on the Psychology Today website.
First a post about post about my article appeared on Scary Mommy, then another appeared on The Bump. The next day yet a third article about my article was published, this time on Motherly. That title nailed it: “Why American moms are the most stressed out moms in the Western world.”
Here’s why I think my article is going viral: it’s about darn time that U.S. Women stopped feeling so guilty for the impossible situation we are in. It really is a ShouldStorm: a constant and unbearable swirl of all we should and should not be doing, and all ourselves.
It’s not moms’ fault.
This is what Dr. Collins said that made me cry when we talked: “I want to tell mothers that this is not your fault. When I tell mothers this they laugh and say, ‘Yeah, yeah’ but I ask them to look me in the eyes. Then I say, ‘This is not your fault.’ And then women start crying. That’s powerful. It is powerful how much women have internalized the idea that if they just tried harder, it wouldn’t be this way.
“And I say, ‘No, this is not on you. You deserve better and that is brand new information for a lot of women to really hear that,” Collins shared. “My hope in the book is: Look what it is like elsewhere, it can be different and better here, too, but it’s going to require finding a way around this very individualized way of understanding our lives in the US, we have to think of ourselves more collectively that we do right now.”
For now, we are still stuck in the ShouldStorm, drowning in stress, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Now we have new information we can use to advocate for public change. But we all know that change will take time, and while we are waiting we can use the method I’ve developed to find calm and connection with our kids.
What Moms Said Online
When mothers read the article, they spoke up. Their comments have been incredibly moving and show just how much we need to hear this.
“I teared up just reading this.”
When I read about the parent tearing up hearing the words I teared up too! It’s a shouldstorm every day 🤷♀️
Hitting a little close to home here. This has been a constant struggle, trying to balance it all and feeling like I am failing. Having a kid home sick for example… If I stay home with the sick child, I am not fulfilling obligations at work, but if I got work while someone else (probably dad) stays home I am a bad mom. 😦
Love this! Moms these days have WAY too much on their plates, and it’s just not right. We are overworked, and were not designed to bear such a heavy load. Corporate America has turned women into robots, causing us to feel like we have to choose between our family and work… It has begun a vicious cycle of stress and has broken down the family unit… I’m a bit passionate about this topic!! 😳
Wow. This is so good. Resonated with me to the point of tears.
It sucks! It’s a double edged…sword. So this is what you do…. look in the mirror and tell yourself you are… awesome. Then tell yourself that it IS OK TO ASK FOR HELP. It took me YEARS to figure it out. Believe me, I’m so bummed (anxiety, depression) lately that I can’t move. I don’t have a smile. I lost myself. And all of my best friends…don’t have kids. So they NEVER understand how hard it is. If you need a break…message me and you can come over for coffee, wine… what ever. Remember, POWER IN NUMBERS!
“This is a great read and very relevant. I’m not based in the US but I feel the pressure as well. It’s good to affirm ourselves as women that we are doing the best we can.”
©Alison Escalante MD
Disclaimer: This article represents general education and does not constitute medical advice. My ideas are mine alone.