Depression hits working moms hard

Note: I wrote this nearly a week ago for BlogHer, where it is cross-posted.

The holiday season is in full force – a time that, at least in theory, should be filled with joy and happiness. But what if you find yourself having feelings that are far from those of joy and happiness? Feelings of hopelessness, agitation, guilt and even lifelessness? According to an online survey conducted by Working Mother magazine, you aren’t alone. The survey, which included responses from 500 moms, concluded that "an overwhelming 91 percent" of working moms suffered some symptoms of depression.

Suzanne Riss, editor-in-chief of Working Mother called the trend "an epidemic."

While many people are familiar with postpartum depression in the months after giving birth, Riss said, "people don’t really think about the fact that a couple of years later a lot of women are experiencing depression." And some even experience it a decade into their children’s lives.

The survey was part of an article on Working Mother about working moms and depression and includes personal stories from some moms who have experienced depression, as well as life-altering solutions.

Heather from A Mama’s Blog, who works part-time outside the home, recently wrote about her feelings of guilt when she had to miss her son’s preschool winter concert.

I have been at my job for fifteen months, and I haven’t missed anything that I felt guilty about in my boys’ lives. But that is going to change this week. Ryan’s preschool is having a winter concert later this week. The kids have been practicing their songs for a few weeks now. I hear Ryan practicing his song, and humming the tune. He sounds so cute singing it, and he is so excited. The school is having the concert at a local church, so it is a very big deal.

Except I can’t go…

I know I shouldn’t be sad- I should be thankful I have a job, and I am, but how do you balance out the grown-up responsibilities that you must fulfill with knowing you will miss your little boy singing about seven little penguins who are cold?

Laurel from Parenting Diva has dealt with depression and shares something I think most moms – working outside the home or not – can relate to, not having enough time for everything:

"I suffered from depression beginning with my pregnancy and I continued to experience it up until my oldest was about a year old. Of course I, like many others, did not go to the doctor concerning it. Perhaps this is why depression isn’t seen as the epidemic that it is.

There was the time factor. Who can take off work and has a babysitter to go to the doctor because you aren’t feeling like yourself and are feeling “down”? Then there is the “stigma” with depression. If you aren’t loving life (especially while & after having this “bundle of joy”) then something definitely must be wrong with you. And lastly, like everything else in life, you figure…eventually it will go away."

Laurel goes on to add:

I figure there are all types of depression & some probably need to be medically diagnosed and treated. But a lot of things we can take care of ourselves if we just stop, listen to our lives and create a plan. Unfortunately, like with myself, it often takes many years of living & learning as women before we wake up and ask ourselves what’s important and what we really should be doing with our lives.

A woman who goes by "Neuromom" made some good points about the results of the survey in her comment on Mommy Trackd:

I agree that depression is a big problem – especially for women and especially for mothers. However, reports like this one should be interpreted in context. First, it is critical to know the percentage of NON-working mothers who are depressed. Otherwise there is no way to assess the effect of working of depression. Second, an online survey isn’t a great way to gauge depression rates because the survey responders do not constitute a random sample. The actual percentage of working mothers suffering from depression could be higher or lower- we have no way of knowing.

I think it’s safe to say that many mothers – whether they work outside the home, at home, or are stay-at-home moms – are dealing with depression. Hopefully surveys and articles such as the one Working Mother had, combined with more women writing and talking about it, will contribute towards fighting the stigma that often accompanies depression and more women will feel OK talking about it and reaching out for help.

Additional resources:
Postpartum progress by Katherine Stone
Depression Help Center from WebMD
FAQ – Depression During and After Pregnancy from womensHeath.gov

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10 thoughts on “Depression hits working moms hard

  1. Sad but true. I don’t feel depressed over working but I feel depressed when I don’t work and stimulate my mind. Guilt is my big issue. Guilty for doing something that makes me happy. When I’m working everyone has to be more independent (my husband) and that annoys him. I can’t do everything for everyone if I am going to work and that is hard.

  2. aha! Just one more reason not to work! Joking. Sort of. I think women in general need to do what makes them happy and not feel guilty about it. I really doubt Dads feel guilty in the same way moms do. I choose to stay at home, it is what makes me happy. I would be depressed if I had to work, but that is ME. I know a lot of women that cannot deal with staying at home and would be drinking martinis by noon.

  3. I’ve been dealing with depression on and off since my oldest (now 8) was born. I finally found a treatment that works when I became severely depressed during my third pregnancy. It was hard to admit that I was feeling so bad while I was supposed to be experiencing one of the happiest times of my life. I’m glad that women are speaking out about depression.

  4. Not only does the Mama need to admit to depression, but those around her really need to say something and help her to get help. My last pregnancy, I had really bad PPD – probably from the traumatic birth resulting in a preemie at 31 weeks – but did not seek help. Somehow I found a focus and got myself out of it. But now with my second pregnancy – which is going well physically (yay!) – I am experiencing depression again. It is especially hard to deal with yourself feeling that way when having to keep an eye on a 3 yr old as well. I am feeling guilty for not being there for my DD, who is full of energy, because I am so out of it being very pregnant.

  5. I can identify with this article completely. Even working for a fairly family friendly company, I have to make choices all of the time that make me feel guilty for missing out with the boys or guilty for missing out at work. This is only compounded by the fact that my team mostly has older children or have chosen not to have kids.
    After suffering from PPD with my second, I am especially sensitive to my dark moods and notice that the balance between work and home can feel much less managable when I am in a downswing. Unfortunately, there is no real support to help me get through it. If you add to that, the fact that I get very little personal time, I sometimes feel at the breaking point.

  6. I really missed the water cooler when I was a work at home mom. I’m a team player and need others to cheer me on and I need to cheer others on too. Celebrating others is what works best for me.

    Work at home/stay at home moms often suffer from depression because of the lack of social interaction.

    So, often – connecting with other work at home moms in your area can do wonders.

  7. I would be most depressed if I wasn’t able to focus on something besides parenthood. That said, I think balance is important for all parents and hope that greater flexibility can be made available so that families can make the decisions that work best for them. I hope the downtown in the economy doesn’t reduce those choices too much.

  8. I like your site! Anyway good post. I often find myself feeling very alone when it comes to bouts of depression as a working mother. It is really hard at times juggling a full time job, a toddler, husband, and everything else that has to be done each day. It is comforting to know that other moms struggle with these issues and feelings. I really wish that there was more of a balance here in this country when it came to parenting and working. Financially many families need two incomes today, but at the same time want to raise happy kids! So much to consider.

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