LOSS: The word that might trigger ideas of losing a loved one; of losing an opportunity; maybe, of losing money—and funnily enough, of even losing hair! But has it ever occurred to you that the biggest kind of loss one could have to deal with is that of the loss of one’s identity?
I mean, picture this: You’ve been a goal-oriented working woman all your life and suddenly, due to certain circumstances, you have to be a full-time sit-at-home wife or a mom. How would you feel? On the outside, it would make you seem like the luckiest woman on the planet, who has to do absolutely “nothing”, but keep things at home together, right?
Pardon me for the “loss” of my cool here, but it makes me exceptionally angry that hardly anyone would think of how staying at home can wreak havoc on a woman’s mental health. I am a stay-at-home wife and trust me, I know this depression very closely. And this is exactly why I decided to delve deeper into the matter and speak to mental health experts about how women like you and I can combat the stay-at-home depression.
To begin with, the problem is real and no, you’re not alone
“What is typically called ‘Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) Depression’ is the elephant in the room no one talks about and it is real,” says Dr. Divya Parashar, Head of the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi.
Sadly, we Indians aren’t really interested in mental health issues in general. So, I didn’t quite expect to find much information online about the plight of an Indian woman—that too a housewife, who apparently “enjoys the perks of staying at home” and looking after her family. Needless to say, I wasn’t entirely wrong. Hence, I only have these international statistics to prove that the problem is very much prevalent.
As per a survey of 60,000 women conducted by Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, 41% of stay-at-home moms admitted they were more likely to worry, 26% of them felt sadness, 50% reported experiencing stress, and 28% were depressed. Let’s not get into the details of these numbers, but all in all, the rate of depression and anxiety in SAHMs was much higher than that of working moms, who were raising children while fulfilling their personal goals.
But how can you possibly get depressed in the “comfortable” confines of your home?
“A domesticated woman’s job is often thankless, with her spouse and children piling up their frustrations on her. This could lead to dissatisfaction and small issues can snowball into something big like depression over time,” points out Dr. Amoolya Seth, consultant psychiatrist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
Things could get even worse if you were a working woman once and had to give it all up suddenly.
“From having had an identity as an individual and also as a career woman, things suddenly change when a woman enters maternity leave or has to take care of her family, often forsaking her own life and career,” says Parashar.
“The sense of acute loss that is felt, of the huge transition into motherhood, and of giving up a significant part of themselves is often something that spirals into sadness or even depression for some women,” she further explains.
Need I mention the part about waking up with absolutely no goals in mind and sleeping with absolutely no sense of achievement?
The result? “Anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, and an identity crisis starts looming large,” Parashar exclaims.
Are you suffering from stay-at-home depression too?
Just like I wasn’t surprised at the lack of addressal of this issue faced by a lot of women, I won’t be surprised if you yourself are unaware of your stay-at-home-depression. Here are some symptoms to look out for according to Dr. Seth:
-Losing interest in day to day activities
-Overthinking and always being lost in your thoughts
Additionally, you could also see signs that one ordinarily notices in case of clinical depression, adds Parashar. Be careful if you observe these symptoms as well :
-Not being able to enjoy activities that once brought you joy
-Feeling guilty about/regretting your life choices
-Difficulty in sleeping and eating
-Being unable to take care of yourself due to paucity of time that you usually spend taking care of others
– Social isolation due to staying at home and being unable to interact with friends
-Feeling of helplessness
Ladies, I feel you. And just so you know, I am trying my best to at least not let the last listed symptom get to you. So, don’t feel helpless yet.
Here’s expert advice on how to fight the problem
-“For the once-working women, the best bet is to get back to their careers if possible,” suggests Parashar. “If not, then get a part-time job or indulge in an activity that you enjoy,” she adds.
-Self-care practices like engaging in some physical activity for overall well-being is also highly recommended by Parashar.
-She also urges the SAHMs to take up something that brings them a sense of fulfilment like meditation or an interesting hobby. The idea is to feel good about yourself. So, go ahead. Join that book club, meet your friends, write a journal, volunteer at an NGO, learn that course. Basically, figure out what brings you joy and simply do it for your own happiness.
-Additionally, Seth suggests maintaining a personal diary in which you could write your feelings down and if needed, get a counsellor to read and analyze the diary for further help.
After all, the situation, however lightly taken, is quite sensitive and needs to be handled with care.