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7 Possible Causes of Working Mom Depression

by Marcus Clarke of "psysci"
Photo by: iStock

While postpartum depression is highly researched topic, we should be aware that depression that can occur when women go back to work after having a baby is important to talk about as well. Mother’s mental health is directly related to mental health of her children. It also affects her marriage, social relationships and her productivity at work. External depression is a type of depression which is thought to arise from a specific, identifiable external cause. As complex as it is, it’s crucial to discover causes of depression in order to start dealing with the problem.

1. Change is Stressful

Being a mother is a very demanding role by itself, and when the working role is incorporated into her daily routine, her life can change drastically. Any changes in life, even the positive ones, can be very stressful. Going back to work after maternity leave can come as quite a shock. It is difficult to adjust to working environment and meet all the potential challenges, and if failed to do so it can lead to an extreme amount of stress.

2. Attitude and Expectations

It’s understandable that working moms come across a lot of problems and difficulties on a daily bases, and the way they think and feel about those problems can highly affect their mental health. Ignoring the fact that going back to work while raising a baby can be overwhelming and not asking for help is one of the attitudes that can lead to emotional distress.

3. The Feeling of Guilt

Working moms spend less time with their children than stay-at-home moms and consequently they miss out on many thing related to their child’s everyday experiences. They are constantly reevaluating their decision to “leave” their child and go to work, because they feel that they are not good mothers for doing so. The scientist from the University of Toronto discovered that for women the guilt persists even if the work intrusion does not interfere with their family life.Feeling guilty for missing out on her child’s growth and blaming herself for not being organized enough can lead a working mother to depression.

4. Trying to Be a “Super-Mom”

Even though one may think it’s always better to be convinced that “you can do it all”, in the case of working moms, it’s better to be realistic and acknowledge that you have to make certain sacrifices. According to University of Washington study, “super-moms” have more chance to be depressed than those who are aware their roles are not easy to fulfill.Women who expect that work and family life can be combined without many tradeoffs may be more likely to feel bad because it seems to them like they are failing.

5. Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness is defined as the “giving up reaction” that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t make any difference. Facing a difficult tasks like juggling work and taking care of a baby will eventually lead to some type of failure or mistakes. If those failures repeat over and over again, there’s a big possibility that it will cause a feeling of helplessness. According to Seligman, depressed people feel that they have no control over their environments.

6. Lack of Social support

Working moms are having trouble managing all of the demands: juggling daycare and demanding clients, sick kids and business trips. Social support is something that can absolutely make life easier for a working mom. No price can be put on a helping husband, understanding boss, approachable colleagues, friendly cousins or neighbors, for a working mom. Studies have found higher probability of experiencing depression among people who have a lack of social support.

7. Sleep Deprivation

Generally, moms who are providing primary child care have a lot of obligations and do not get enough of sleep. When they go back to work, their spare time is either much smaller than it used to be, or it doesn’t exist at all. The importance of sleep is very well-known, and it is not surprising that sleep deprivation can lead to negative emotions. Correlation between sleep deprivation and depression was investigated, and one study found that sleep-deprivation is a predictor of moderate depression.

A huge cause of any type of depression are beliefs and expectations. In case of a super-mom, her belief is that she can do it all, and that’s why she can’t deal with failure in a healthy way. On the other side, mothers that are dealing with learned helplessness are giving up before they even try. Being a working mom is very stressful as it is, and when additional obstacles, such as lack of social support, feeling of guilt or sleep deprivation occur, there’s a greater risk of developing depression.

Marcus Clarke has a degree in psychology, a masters degree in health psychology and has worked within the NHS as well as private organisations. Clarke started psysci a psychology and science blog in order to disseminate research into bitesize, meaningful and helpful resources.

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