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New survey explores the mental health impact of being a mum

10th May 2019

The comprehensive study of mums aged 25-60 - with kids between the ages of three-20 - also found that thirty-three per cent of mums say their career or work life has suffered after becoming a parent, while one in eight mums struggle with stress ‘every day’.

And nearly eight in 10 believe there are more pressures on mums today, than during their own mothers’ generations.

Cheryl Lythgoe, senior matron at Benenden Health and a mum of four, said: “The mental and physical pressures of being a parent make it undoubtedly one of the hardest jobs we will ever have.

Our results found this statement is well borne out by modern mums, who are often struggling to deal with everything that gets thrown at them.

While many mums may focus on the impact of becoming a parent on their physical health, there are also lots of mental health challenges, including stress and anxiety, that need to be managed.

“A strong support network of family, friends and colleagues, along with putting time aside for yourself as well as your children can help you make good strides towards staying healthy in both body and mind. Your GP can also help if you notice changes in your mental health which are causing you distress.”

The impact on your career and work

Cheryl Lythgoe added: “It is both sad and unsurprising that a third of mums feel their career has suffered after becoming a parent, while over half are struggling to maintain a good work/life balance.

“Employer culture can be a significant factor because whilst the law gives provision for basic equalities, employees who are mums can feel let down by a simple lack of support from their employer or little accessibility to flexible working arrangements.

“Increased stress therefore becomes one of the most reported impacts, which may lead to longer term mental health issues.

“Many employers who recognise the value of mums as part of a diverse workforce are offering practical solutions, such as the provision of a mental health helpline through a healthcare provider.

“Other solutions include flexi-time arrangements, ability to work from home and childcare vouchers or financial support.”

Coping with the stress of being a mother

A third have explored techniques such as meditation or exercise to try and manage the stress of being a mother. Of these, one in 10 have phoned a helpline, and a fifth have searched social media for tips on dealing with stress. Although two in five modern mums feel the pressure they face comes from social media.

A further 41 per cent found comfort in food, and more than half turned to exercise to try and bring their stress down.

One in three parents also believe they only experienced issues with their mental health after becoming a mum.

Forty-four per cent of respondents say their partner helps them deal with their stress – but another 42 per cent claim their partner is the cause of it.

What do mums worry about most?

Half of mums think the pressure of their child’s schooling can also have an effect on their mental health.

A third worry about their kids not getting good enough grades, and 55 per cent feel anxious their offspring could be bullied.

Another 45 per cent worry about their kids getting involved with the wrong crowd, according to the research conducted through OnePoll.com.

The mental health of young adults is a particular concern and there are nine behaviours that could be a sign of mental illness in a young adult. Take a look at these behaviours and ways that a parent could help in Benenden Health’s helpful video.

The top 15 causes of stress as a mum

  1. Not having enough money
  2. Worrying about bullying
  3. Worrying about how well your child is doing at school
  4. Worrying about your child's future after education
  5. Worrying about your child's mental health
  6. Pressures from social media presenting unrealistic expectations for mums to achieve
  7. Not having enough hours in the day
  8. Worrying your child isn't eating properly
  9. Keeping your relationship going
  10. Worrying about your child's physical health
  11. Never having time to yourself
  12. Feeling guilty about treating yourself
  13. Self-doubt
  14. Difficulty maintaining a work-life balance
  15. Worrying about the house being a mess

As well as talking to your GP when your mental health is causing you distress, there are many resources available if mums are concerned about their mental health. In particular, if mums experience mental health problems in pregnancy or the first year after birth – commonly known as postnatal depression – information is available, find out more about the symptoms and ways to seek help. Or you can find general tips on ten ways to help your mental health which is suitable for all mums.

The survey of 2,000 UK mums aged 25-60, with at least one child aged between 3 and 20, was conducted for Benenden Health by OnePoll during April 2019.