What do you think causes the most stress for parents? The sleepless nights, the endless bottom wiping, and the teething related tears (theirs and yours), right?
Well, new data from the Medibank Better Health Index found mothers of infants and toddlers didn’t have the highest rates of stress.
The Most Stressed Mamas – Is A Newborn Or A Teen More Stressful?
If, like me, you’re the mama of babies, toddlers and primary school kids, you might be wondering how motherhood could possibly become more stressful.
I mean, won’t it be easier once all the children can dress, potty and feed themselves?
It seems some mamas just swap nappies and sleepless nights for worries about homework, relationships and independence.
Which Age Group Had The Most Stressed Out Mamas?
According to the data collected:
- 3% of mamas with children aged 0-5
- 9% of mamas with children 6-11
- 5% of mamas with teens 12-15
reported they were suffering from stress.
Although the differences aren’t drastic, it seems the rate of stress can go up as children get older. As a mama with kids all under 11, I feel just a bit intimidated!
We all hear about postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety. We know the rate of PND, also known as postpartum depression (PPD), is high, but what about the rate of anxiety and depression in mamas with older children?
The data also found:
- 9% of mamas with children 0-5
- 4% of mamas with children 6-11
- 22% of mamas with teens aged 12-15
reported symptoms of depression.
Even higher than this too-high rate of depression, was an extremely high rate of anxiety. This also increased as children got older.
The data found:
- 3% of mamas with children 0-5
- 26% of mamas with children 6-11
- And a very high 29.3% of mamas with teens aged 12-15
reported feelings of anxiety.
With one in three women suffering from anxiety and stress, and one in five suffering from depression, it seems all mamas are also suffering the effects of societal issues, and/or from a lack of support.
Should such a large number women be suffering from stress and mood disorders?
Why Do Mamas Of Preteens And Teens Experience An Increase In Stress, Depression And Anxiety?
If the number of sleepless nights isn’t the most stressful thing, then what is?
Those who collected the data, as well as parents of preteens and teens, have put forward a few ideas. One theory is puberty can bring about big changes in families and contribute to stress.
Physical, emotional and hormonal changes have a huge impact. They affect children’s behaviours, their interests, and pretty much every other area of their lives.
For parents, this time of change can seem to come out of nowhere and happen very quickly, with great intensity.
For children, parents and family are their top priorities. As they get closer to the teen years, their focus shifts from their families to their peers. Add to that their newfound desire for independence and the dynamic in the home can change significantly.
Suddenly parents are left trying to find a new balance. They want to maintain proper authority and offer support, while also trying to foster healthy independence. For some mothers, this change can be incredibly stressful.
Another thing to keep in mind: if stress, depression and anxiety are already there in the early years, these changes can produce cumulative stress. A mama who is slightly stressed while her children are small, and who doesn’t find enough support, is likely to become more stressed as time goes on.
She might believe things will get easier as the kids get older, and so managing her stress doesn’t seem like a priority.
There’s a host of other issues children have to deal with, and at a younger age than in previous generations. For many parents, tackling things like earlier puberty, weight and body image concerns, pornography, and so on, can definitely raise their levels of stress.
Another possibility is that, as parents, our lives and priorities shift when our kids get older.
Medibank Medical Director, Dr Kevin Cheng says, “Women with children of this age may also be entering menopause, returning to the workforce, juggling other pressures, such as financial and relational, and meeting expectations, such as engaging appropriate education for their kids.
“It’s important to look out for mental health issues in mothers during this challenging time, and seek the support of qualified medical professionals if the mother appears to be struggling”.
Is A Lack Of Support In Motherhood The Real Issue?
As a mama who has been through the newborn, toddler and childhood years, and who is also a parent educator, I strongly suspect our overall lack of support for mothers might be the biggest culprit in this ‘stress epidemic’.
Sure, motherhood has always had its challenges. However, in past generations, mothers tended to have more support. Few mothers were expected to be back at work within weeks of giving birth, while also managing to exclusively breastfeed and then feed their babies only organic, homemade baby food.
They weren’t subjected to the same societal pressures as we are today. Of course there were judgements and unsolicited advice, but no mother was judged by hundreds, thousands or even millions as a result of making a comment. Now, it’s a regular occurrence for a mama to be condemned by a million strangers online.
If one mama in three is suffering, then, as a society, we’re definitely doing something wrong.