Stress as a status symbol? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-25-2011, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello, I am a senior psychology major/women's studies minor at my local university. For my senior project I have chosen to analyze the concept of "stress" for mothers in all socioeconomic classes. We all know that mothers frequently feel over stressed and under appreciated. I would like some first hand perspectives on where the stress is coming from.

 

Do you feel American society perpetuates the idea of stressed motherhood?

What is your take on the term "super mom"?

Do you ever find yourself comparing levels of stress with other mothers?

Any other insights on the topic??

 

Thank you all so much for the feedback. It will be put to good use. :)

Alicia~

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Old 03-02-2011, 06:21 PM
 
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As parenthood consumes scarce resources (time and money) and produces delayed, if ever, gratification, it is generally stressful, no matter what "society" makes of it. (Though ways of sharing the parenting burden within the community/society can mitigate the stress, it strikes me that there are always trade offs.)

 

I don't compare stress levels with other moms. I know virtually no other women who have comparable professional and personal commitments to me therefore eliminating most opportunities for commiseration ;) The few women I know with comparable situations are too darn busy to talk about it.

 

I think this could be an interesting topic but I would caution against utilizing anecdotes from anonymous forum participants :)

 

Good luck!

-Anonymous ;)


Mother of two since 2007 and 2009. Hoping third time's a charm in 2012.

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Old 03-03-2011, 01:32 PM
 
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I understand that parents can be stressed, but I'm having a hard time making the connection between stress and "status" as the title of the thread suggests. 

 

I do think there is a certain amount of competitiveness that goes on in mothering/parenting circles, and of course there is societal pressure to be supermom, but that in itself doesn't lend its self to stress.  Some supermoms appear to be completely unphased by all they do.  For others, stress occurs for a wide variety of reasons...from lack of sleep to guilt about parenting methods to no time to maintain one's physical and mental health. 

 

Most of the stress that I experience is totally unrelated to mothering.  Stress results from very individual experiences in my opinion, with the biggest stressor of all being the inability to achieve some kind of life balance.  I certainly don't view stress as a status symbol, and I don't think that is the societal message being perpetrated.  Stress is a symptom.  What I do see is the societal message that one needs to achieve perfection, and in my opinion stress results from that.  If I compare myself to other moms, what I find myself most comparing are those moms' means and methods and how they seem to do things better than me. 

 

OP, I guess I can't get past your premise that stress might be a status symbol or a goal to achieve, 'cause it is something that I try to avoid on all levels.  Are there actually people out there who compare and contrast stress levels?  I'm curious to know.  Or, is the lack of stress (often perceived in supermomdom) what you're driving at as far as status symbol?  I guess I need some clarification. 


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Old 03-03-2011, 10:19 PM
 
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I don't think that our society perpetuates the idea of stressed motherhood.  I think that the media and books on the subject tend to acknowledge that raising kids is sometimes a very stressful and draining thing, especially when we combine motherhood with other factors like working, homework, a child struggling with something, money being tight, illness, etc...

 

I think the term super mom was coined by people who didn't have the energy to take their kids around to the many enriching activities while also seeming to have their household running smoothly in a healthy way and it is used as praise or as a derogatory term depending on the context.  I think it is a silly term because there are many things that every mom does with their child that is going above and beyond to the rest of us. The superficial things we can see a mom doing aren't all that matters when it comes to raising children.

 

I don't find myself comparing stress levels, but I do talk to my friends about things when I am stressed and they do the same with me.  Being able to share even the stressful things is what makes having a friend who understands being a mom a nice thing.

 

I also think that the lack of stress angle as a status symbol suggested by the previous poster may be a more promising way to go with your research.  My mother was a SAHM and she talks about how stressful that was and how socially unacceptable it was for moms in the church she attended to admit to negative feelings about motherhood.  I don't see that as such a problem for working parents because it is stressful to balance two competing priorities day in and day out and not a lot of people would say otherwise, though they may make statements favoring one choice over the other even with the stress involved.

 

 

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Old 03-04-2011, 06:44 AM
 
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I have definitely seen stress play out as a "status" symbol in the graduate school environment.  The whole -- "I spent 28 hours in the library last weekend."  "Well, that's nothing, I spent 34 hours in the library and pulled an all nighter." type of oneupsmanship was very common.  It was a highly competitive environment with a number of people who were used to be the smartest, hardest working people in the room until they got distilled down to an environment where virtually everyone was just as hard working and smart.  Lots of egos got bruised in that process.

 

My experience with the stress of being a mother has a different vibe about it.  Lots more of the stress comes from self-doubt.  The road to success in grad school was very clear.  For being a mom, there are so many theories of the "best" way to parent and you won't really know how successful you were in parenting for 18 or more years which is different from the instant gratification of the A on the exam. 

 

I take all the stories of "supermoms" in the media with a huge grain of salt, so I guess I don't feel competitive with them.  I figure they're just about as real as a Disney princess.  I know a couple of moms in real life and on the forums who like to make others feel bad about their parenting choices, but I don't view either them or their parenting as being particularly admirable, so I don't feel competitive with them.   Usually, I see those sorts of people as being so insecure in their own choices that they need to make others feel bad about their own.

 

 

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Old 03-22-2011, 02:59 PM
 
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Quote:

Do you feel American society perpetuates the idea of stressed motherhood?

What is your take on the term "super mom"?

Do you ever find yourself comparing levels of stress with other mothers?

Any other insights on the topic??

 

Thank you all so much for the feedback. It will be put to good use. :)

Alicia~


No. I think society (but especially other parents) accepts the idea that motherhood can be stressful, esp with a new baby, in an understanding way. 

Super mom is quite out of date IMO. Back in the 80s, women had to be super moms and do all the childcare and have a good job and great social life and yadda yadda yadda because the men were still catching up to the idea - "oh, you work too? well, that's just a side thing compared to my 'real' job, so as woman you are still responsible for all the cooking, cleaning, carpools and diapers." I don't know many young people that would put up with that bs today. I don't, and I'm 44. Today I think most people realize that a super mom is a false external image, that no one is really perfect, and actually being that would be unhealthy for the person. 

No, I don't compare my levels of stress to other moms. But if they say they are stressed, I have empathy for them, and expect the same in return. I do, however, compare my levels of stress at work to other employees. Possibly because my work stress level is exceedingly high.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleGriff View Post

As parenthood consumes scarce resources (time and money) and produces delayed, if ever, gratification, it is generally stressful, no matter what "society" makes of it. (Though ways of sharing the parenting burden within the community/society can mitigate the stress, it strikes me that there are always trade offs.)


I disagree with this. I find parenting has many immediate gratifications. Maybe because my husband and I have such an even amount of responsibility for our children, that it does not become overwhelming, which means I can really enjoy it more. For example, putting the kids to bed, reading them a book, could be a chore. Or it could be so cosy and loving. I usually see it as the later. Occasionally as the former. However, when they were 2 years and a newborn, it was much more stressful and much less gratification, much harder. But that time passes and after 6 months or so it is mostly joy imo.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post

I don't think that our society perpetuates the idea of stressed motherhood.  I think that the media and books on the subject tend to acknowledge that raising kids is sometimes a very stressful and draining thing, especially when we combine motherhood with other factors like working, homework, a child struggling with something, money being tight, illness, etc...


ITA!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane93 View Post

My experience with the stress of being a mother has a different vibe about it.  Lots more of the stress comes from self-doubt.  The road to success in grad school was very clear.  For being a mom, there are so many theories of the "best" way to parent and you won't really know how successful you were in parenting for 18 or more years which is different from the instant gratification of the A on the exam. 

 

I take all the stories of "supermoms" in the media with a huge grain of salt, so I guess I don't feel competitive with them.  I figure they're just about as real as a Disney princess.  I know a couple of moms in real life and on the forums who like to make others feel bad about their parenting choices, but I don't view either them or their parenting as being particularly admirable, so I don't feel competitive with them.   Usually, I see those sorts of people as being so insecure in their own choices that they need to make others feel bad about their own.

 


I also agree here. I think we are all super moms in some areas and poor in other areas. That is life. The ones that in my view might look like super moms - sparkling house, well behaved kids, totally healthy meals 24/7, kids rarely in daycare.... might be truly loving their job as mom, but they are not super moms. They are just natural in these things. And I know some think I am a super mom, for having such fab kids and a career. They see me doing art projects with my kids, who rarely ever fight, and they see this idealic picture in their head. I also know my house is a mess and I sometimes let them play too much computer, and I am not super mom. But I actually do not feel that bad about the mess or the too much computer, I am not trying to be super mom, I'm just trying to be human and good enough. Good enough is better than perfect, imo, and I think a lot of moms today feel this way. 

 

Stress for me in parenting came only after the birth of my 1st, when I was unsure about so many things. And we as a society do not live in a villiage anymore, so there was not the support I needed. But I got over that quick, and I'm older and relatively confident anyway, so I was confident in my parenting. I accept that my kids will have a few scratches along the way, and I will make mistakes. I also accept that that is what makes us human. 

 

Lastly I think my job outside my home is where the real stress is. Which is an unfortunate waste, because a job is not valuable, it will not be there. But 10-20-30 years from now my children and my husband still will. They are what is valuable. 

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Old 03-22-2011, 03:54 PM
 
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I know 3 people who are constantly stressed, "SOOOOO busy," late to every appointment, overextended, etc. Of those 3 people, two don't have any children and the third has grown children. With them, there does seem to be an element of stress as a status symbol, but it doesn't have a parenting component to it. 

 

I don't find myself competing with other moms about who is the busiest, because I don't buy into the idea that busy = productive/good/valuable. 

 

ETA: An interesting angle for your research might be how Facebook affects all of this. I've noticed that some people seem compelled to show how full their lives are via their Facebook posts -- posting lots of "My life is so crazy but I love it!!!" type stuff. 


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Old 03-23-2011, 06:54 AM
 
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Originally Posted by limabean View Post

I know 3 people who are constantly stressed, "SOOOOO busy," late to every appointment, overextended, etc. Of those 3 people, two don't have any children and the third has grown children. With them, there does seem to be an element of stress as a status symbol, but it doesn't have a parenting component to it. 

 

I don't find myself competing with other moms about who is the busiest, because I don't buy into the idea that busy = productive/good/valuable. 

 

ETA: An interesting angle for your research might be how Facebook affects all of this. I've noticed that some people seem compelled to show how full their lives are via their Facebook posts -- posting lots of "My life is so crazy but I love it!!!" type stuff. 

 

Then again, if they are so busy, how do they have the time for facebook? I finally joined after years of people bugging me to join. I then spent two evenings, about 4 hours each time, "catching up". At the end I realized I had learned nothing AT ALL in that time. I mean, I learned that Sarah likes blue icing and that the neighbors went to the playground that day... but I learned nothing really relevant at all, and did not feel any more "connected" to anyone than before wasting 8 hours. I go on facebook about once a month now, for 10-15 min tops. I'm on MDC a lot more often, but I tend to find the info much more useful at this point in life. 

 

I also find that a lot of the people that complain about being so stressed actually have no kids or grown kids. I think it's more a matter of personality, those that don't know how to say no, or who don't organize their time well, or actually waste a huge amount of time on X (facebook or MDC for example winky.gif).
 

 

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Old 03-28-2011, 03:04 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahealey1 View Post

Hello, I am a senior psychology major/women's studies minor at my local university. For my senior project I have chosen to analyze the concept of "stress" for mothers in all socioeconomic classes. We all know that mothers frequently feel over stressed and under appreciated. I would like some first hand perspectives on where the stress is coming from.

 

Do you feel American society perpetuates the idea of stressed motherhood?

What is your take on the term "super mom"?

Do you ever find yourself comparing levels of stress with other mothers?

Any other insights on the topic??

 

Thank you all so much for the feedback. It will be put to good use. :)

Alicia~


First I want to commend all the previous posters. You guys responded a lot nicer than I would have.

 

To the bolded--when someone is raising another human being, trying to mold them into productive members of society, with self esteem intact, fully responsible for their care (room, food, activities, hygiene, yada yada yada) and on someone else's time table (with babies, they set when they are hungry, with older kids, school & homework) it is, in essence, stressful. When one has 2 or more competing needs and only some can be fulfilled, it is stressful.

 

I'm actually wondering if you have any children? I don't mean it in a snarky way, but I can't imagine any involved parent saying that having children is not stressful. Even simple things, such as making dinner can be stressful if someone is having a meltdown or issues with friends, or xyz, etc.

 

As far as comparing stresses, not really. I will talk to other moms about being stressed, but more in a vent or seeking advice kind of way. And the same goes with them. When I went back to school I asked my friend who has one baby & wohm for tips & commiseration because she had more experience in that field, whereas I am more experienced in the phases children go through. But never was it a 'one up manship' . If anything, I've found that admitting or talking about the 'dark side of motherhood', of which stress is a part, is a taboo in this society. It's as if saying your kids stress you out makes you a lesser parent.

 

Ami

 


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Old 04-26-2011, 03:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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the last poster completely misunderstood what I was asking. In no way would I ever suggest being a parent is not stressful. The point of my paper is to examine where the stress is mostly stemming from and what, if any, changes as a society we can make to be more supportive.

 

thank you to all the posts that took this as a serious question and not just some woman trying to make assumptions on mothering. Your input is valuable and I appreciate your honesty. :)

 

My paper is complete now so I will not be posting on this particular topic anymore. Thank you again!

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