Here’s Why American Moms Are the Most Stressed Out Mothers in the Western World
U.S. moms are the most stressed and least supported.
Motherhood isn’t just a full-time job — it’s a 24/7 job. Being a mom is rewarding and amazing, but it can often leave many feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed out. However, a new report suggests that for American moms, the motherhood gig is a lot harder than it should be.
In her new book “Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving,” sociologist Caitlyn Collins says she spent five years studying motherhood in four wealthy western countries including Sweden, Germany, Italy and the United States, and found that when it comes to American moms, they have it the worst.
Collins says that no matter where the moms lived, they all had a common goal.
“Across the countries where I conducted interviews, one desire remained constant among mothers,” she tells Psychology Today. “Women wanted to feel that they were able to combine paid employment and child-rearing in a way that seemed equitable and didn’t disadvantage them at home or at work.”
During her research, Collins looked at American mothers and their counterparts in other countries. Her findings show that American moms are the least supported. Many mothers have no paid leave, no minimum standard for vacation or sick days, a high gender wage gap and a lack of affordable childcare – it’s no wonder moms are feeling unhealthy levels of stress.
At the end of the day, American moms leave their jobs feeling overburdened, come home to their families and begin their next set of responsibilities. This becomes an overwhelming cycle of stress.
Collins said that American moms feel a sense of “crushing guilt and work-family conflict,” and to combat these feelings, they often try to solve the problem by changing jobs, trying to find ways to be more efficient and even buying the right gadget that promises to make life easier.
Meanwhile, mothers in other countries are not feeling this overwhelming stress at work and home because of the support system created by public policy. For example, many working moms in Berlin shift to part-time or telecommute after taking a full year of maternity leave, thereby making the transition back to the workforce easier on the entire family.
According to Collins, American mothers feel this stress and internalize it as if they are failing, but she wants every mom to know they are not to blame.
“I want to tell mothers that this is not your fault,” Collins said. “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.’
Here’s where every mom can relate because we’ve all been there: “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 said.
So, while many of these issues require major changes in public policy here in America, letting women know that these feelings are common and they are not to blame is a good start.