Living in the age of 'continuous parenting' is burning out parents

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Each day, licensed clinical social worker Ofra Obejas has appointments with a number of parents—with the idea that this is a designated time for them to decompress, turn their attention inward and concentrate on the counseling session. Yet, Obejas says she has noticed a disappointing trend: Many clients don't disconnect for that brief period.

"Parents have sat in therapy session with me and checked every time their phone alerted them, 'In case that's my kid calling me,'" she tells Motherly. "The smart device allows parents to never be away from the child."

Unlike in generations past, today's parents can be always "on" due to everything from high-tech baby monitors to a stream of pictures and updates sent to their phones. That's what we at Motherly have termed "continuous parenting," and the risk is it not only sets parents up for fatigue, but also sends children unhealthy messages about their own boundaries.

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The answer isn't to erase our kids from our minds every so often—because that simply isn't possible. But we can benefit from making the effort to step back from actively "parenting" every now and then.

Parents spend more time than ever with their kids

According to a recent study from The Economist, American moms now spend twice as much time with their children compared with women 50 years ago. That works out to be an average of 125 minutes per day of devoted mom-child time. (Kudos to dads, too: Since 1965, they have tripled the time spent with their kids. It's now up to an average of 59 minutes daily.)

Experts credit this to increasingly flexible work schedules and options to punch in from home. Likely also at play is the fact that the newest generation of moms and dads are embracing the duty like few before, with 99% of millennial parents reporting they truly love parenting.

We're leaning into parenting—but are we overdoing it?

It's one thing to identify first and foremost as a parent and take pride in that role. It's another thing, however, to confuse our sense of worth with our children's accomplishments, which is something former Stanford University dean of freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims says was commonplace among the parents she encountered.

"When I ask parents why they participate in the overprotection, overdirection, hand-holding frenzy, they respond, 'So my kid can be happy and successful,'" she writes in How to Raise an Adult. "When I ask them how it feels, they respond, 'Way too stressful.'"

This constant investment in children's lives can take a toll on the parent-child relationship when the parent doesn't take time for him or herself, too. "The parents feel that they 'sacrificed' their own time for the benefit of the child, even though during much of that time there was no direct engagement with the child," Obejas says of those hours spent shuttling kids around town or waiting outside the doctor's office. "The parents' own emotional and mental cup becomes empty, and when the child asks for more attention, the parents feel like they have already given enough."

The expectation of constant contact 'is draining for the brain'

Even outside the category of helicopter parents, the expectation that we should constantly know what our children are doing is problematic. "'Always on alert' didn't start with children," says Obejas. "It started with devices and apps designed to be addictive. It overtaxes our fight or flight response and leads to toxic stress when levels of cortisol and adrenaline don't ever subside."

Compared with the days when it was the norm for kids to roam free until the streetlights came on, it's commonplace today for parents to expect regular updates of their kids' exact whereabouts either by texts or GPS tracking tools.

"While this can be a safety backup, it increases the type of hypervigilance we know is draining for the brain," says Urszula Klich, licensed clinical psychologist and president of the Southeast Biofeedback and Clinical Neuroscience Association. "[This] can also cause incredible anxiety as parents hear and read things they wouldn't normally be subject to, that is, let's face it, a normal part of kids growing up."

Roles have reversed

Not so long ago, parents would go to the store or out on a date only with the faith that everything was fine at home. Now? That's almost unthinkable—as we've instead shifted to the mentality that our children or their responsible caregivers should be able to contact us at any given moment. Despite the good intentions at play here, this comes at an expense.

"In what other job do you never get a break? It is truly exhausting to never get to turn off the parent brain," says LMHC Jasmin Terrany, author of Extraordinary Mommy: A Loving Guide to Mastering Life's Most Important Job.

Driving this is the trend toward maternal gatekeeping, which describes the subconscious desire to micromanage child care even when someone else is perfectly capable of holding down the fort. As uncomfortable as this may feel, it's healthiest for everyone when parents can hand over the reigns on occasion.

"We must have regular practices to refuel," Terrany tells Motherly. "We don't need to feel guilty about taking this time for ourselves—our kids will not only learn that self-care is essential, but when we are good, they will be good."

This is also how we let our children know another adult can attend to their needs, which is an important step in fostering their sense of independence and confidence. As Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, previously told Motherly, "Let your partner actually figure it out on their own and know that the system survives even when you are not there."

Being 'always on' can degrade quality time, too

Much of being "always on" is a two-way street: Not only do we bring our children into our work days and social lives, but we also bring other obligations home with us in the form of emails sent to our smartphones and mid-playtime breaks to check social media.

"Our children need us, the parents to be 'there,'" says Tom Kersting, licensed psychotherapist and author of Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids. "They need us to talk to them, play with them and be present with them. This is literally impossible if we are multitasking between the iPhone and our interactions with them."

As expert as we may consider ourselves at multitasking, there is also something to be said for setting boundaries. "In today's world it's become difficult not to carry that phone around you all the time, even more so when your job is tied to it," says Klich. "Set boundaries for yourself for when you will check, even if it's once an hour, and stick to that making it clear to the kids what you are doing and why."

And when we're away from the kids, remember this hack: Calls from favorite contacts can still come through when you're on do not disturb mode. So tell your partner or your babysitter or your kids to call if it's a true emergency—and then allow yourself to go off the clock. You'll be better for it.

[This post was first published June 25, 2018.]

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Things We're Loving

Mom guilt is one of those things that hits us hard in the early days, and as the Duchess of Cambridge explains, it's also something that doesn't necessarily go away once your kids are school-age.

In a new interview on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast with Giovanna Fletcher, the former Kate Middleton was asked if she ever feels "mom guilt." The mom of the future king replied, "All the time."

Happy Mum Happy Baby on Instagram: “So... this happened. HAPPY MUM, HAPPY BABY with The Duchess of Cambridge will be available tomorrow from 4pm. The Duchess talks about her…”

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"I think anyone who doesn't ... is actually lying," the Duchess said, explaining that on that very morning Prince George and Princess Charlotte were disappointed that she wasn't able to be the one to drop them off at school that day.

Her experience proves that even mothers who seem to have everything going for them often don't feel like they're the "perfect" mom everyone else sees from the outside.

"You're always sort of questioning your own decisions and your own judgments and things like that. And I think that starts from the moment you have a baby," shared the Duchess.

That's, unfortunately, the truth for so many of us.

According to a 2013 survey of 2,000 moms in the United Kingdom by NUK, 87% of us feel guilty at some point, with 21% feeling this way most or all of the time. Sixty-nine percent of moms feel guilt over the ratio of their work-life balance, and 40% worry they're not devoting enough time to their children, also according to Nuk.

Stateside, American moms "seem to feel more pressure than moms in the other countries surveyed based on a higher level of agreement with statements reflecting parental confidence," according to a 2015 survey by Fisher-Price. In that survey,42% of U.S. moms polled felt that "properly caring for baby while taking care of myself and my responsibilities is a big challenge."

So many of us are feeling mom guilt, and it is time to ask ourselves why. If someone with all the privilege the Duchess of Cambridge can feel the guilt, then how can a mom who is feeling guilty for working overtime or having to buy the store-brand baby formula possibly not feel it?

Well, experts say it starts with accepting that you are doing the best you can, and channeling that guilt into something productive.

"We have all had our fair share of fails as parents. Whether we are running on three hours of sleep and literally can't stop the "Just go to sleep!" rant before it pops out, or we accidentally bonk little one on the head while lifting him from the car seat, I know we feel those moments even more than our precious babes," writes Dr. Holly Ruhl, a Developmental Psychologist.

"Can I remind you of all the times you've kissed the boo-boo and made it better, sat up with a sick child through the night, rocked a crying baby even though your eyes and your heart were heavy, fed your kids first to make sure there was enough before you ate, passed up what you wanted so you could buy that thing for your little one, loitered outside the halls of the school to make sure your kid was going to be okay, braved through tough conversations, and comforted an upset child?" Ruhl asks guilt-ridden mamas.

She continues: "Your kids aren't holding your mistakes against you. They love you—and more than anything—they want to see you smile. You're not a screw-up to them, you're their whole world."

Whether you are mom to the future King of England or a mom who works at Burger King, please know that you can only do so much and that your children will know how hard you worked for them.

As mama Rebecca Eanes once wrote, "You don't deserve all that guilt, mama." We feel all that underserved guilt in part because society's expectations for moms are unrealistic (if the Duchess can't live up to them, they definitely are). You can't be perfect all the time and you shouldn't feel guilty all the time for that. Even Kate is human.

A little bit of mom guilt is normal—we totally get how Kate's heartstrings would be pulled by an adorable Prince and Princess asking mama to do the school run—but overdosing on it isn't good for anybody. We're glad Kate sees that, and hope the world can, too.

News

There is so much joy in the world right now, even if our news feeds and the headlines in the paper don't always show it. Babies are being born, mothers are harnessing their power and children (yes, little children) are changing this big world.

That's why we are always on the lookout for the stories that are going to make us smile, because there are certainly things in this world that are upsetting and worth worrying about, but there is also so much joy, so much resilience and an amazing future ahead of us.

These are the stories that made us smile this week:

Mom's post goes viral after she gives baby advice meant for goats 😂

Have you ever replied to a post in an online group thinking you're in another one? It's happened to a lot of us, but never quite as hilariously as it happened to Hailey McHone.

McHone is a member of multiple Facebook groups, including a mom's group and a group for goat owners. When someone needed advice about an ill kid (which, to be fair, can mean a young human or a young goat) McHone replied with goat advice, thinking she was in that group.

"Put the kids in a plastic bag in a warm bath. 103-104 degree water is the best. Rub honey and cayenne on their gums," she wrote.

When one of the Facebook group members asked why a parent would want to raise an infant's temperature, McHone realized her mistake.

"[O]h my god," she wrote. "I thought this was in my goat emergency group. Normal goat temperature is 102. All this advice is for baby goats. Please do not follow any of it."

McHone's advice may not have been what OP was looking for, but it sure made the rest of the group (and now the whole internet) crack up.

2-year-old sees himself reflected in Target display and his reaction went viral 

Representation matters for kids with disabilities, as nearly 2-year-old Oliver Garza-Pena and his mom demonstrated with their now-viral post about a trip to Target.

"Oliver stopped me dead in his tracks and turned back around to see this picture that he spotted! He just stared at it in awe! He recognized another boy like him, smiling and laughing on a display at Target. Oliver sees kids every day, but he never gets to see kids like him. This was amazing!" his mom, Demi Garza-Pena, wrote on Facebook, in a post that has been shared more than 34,000 times.

Oliver's experience is similar to one writer Jamie Sumner had with her then 6-year-old son Charlie at Target back in 2018.

"But when we rolled past the Cat and Jack sign with the little boy in the walker, it became a different kind of day. For Charlie, who has cerebral palsy, it was the moment he saw his own lifestyle reflected in the world."

Thank you, Target, for including kids who move through the world a little differently.

This little girl is going viral and providing 'more than peach' crayons

When Bellen Woodard was in third grade she began to wonder why classmates would refer to the peach crayon as "skin-color" when skin comes in so many colors besides peach. That's why she launched the "More Than Peach" project, aiming to celebrate and highlight diversity by giving kids the art supplies they need to draw what they see in the mirror, at home and in the classroom.

Multicultural crayon and marker packs do exist thanks to Crayola and the company is now helping Bellen put diverse art supplies in the hands of her elementary school peers in Loudoun County, Virgina.

Thank you, Bellen!

Sisters go viral after giving birth on the same day, in the same hospital 

What's better than having twin? Having a "cousin-twin"! That's what sisters Charell Anthony and Cierra Anthony of Indianapolis call their little ones, Terry Valentino (Charell's newborn son) and Dream Monique (Cierra's newborn daughter).

Terry and Dream were born on February 12 at Community Hospital East in Indianapolis, Good Morning America reports. "They're going to be really close," Charell told GMA. "Being born on the same day, that's going to be really special for them."

It was a special memory for the extended family, who were going back and forth between the two hospital rooms and could not believe the timing. "They were so excited," said Cierra.

Viral Instagram photo series shows surrogacy birth creating a family + a friendship

Olatz Mendiola Marinas of San Sebastian, Spain, wanted so badly to be a mother and Celeste Remediz of Texas made her one. Now the two women are connected by a bond most can't conceive of, one that was documented by photographer Stephanie Cabrera of Reborn From Within, who was there for the birth of baby Kala and posted her photos on Instagram.

"I feel so lucky to get to witness how amazing the love between people can be. Surrogacy is something I've always admired, to provide someone with the gift of love, a gift more precious than any other gift in the world is incredibly special," Cabrera, the photographer, tells Motherly.

The surrogate, Celeste Remediz, a former Dallas police officer, told Good Morning America that she found out about her own third pregnancy a bit late in the game, around 5 months along, and felt a bit robbed of the pregnancy experience because of that. Three kids were enough for Remediz and her husband, but she wanted to be pregnant again.

"After the birth of our daughter, I told my husband that if she was to be our last child, I felt I had missed out on half of the pregnancy and didn't get to fully enjoy it and take it all in. I love being pregnant and enjoyed all my pregnancies," Remediz told GMA.

Credit: Stephanie Cabrera/ Reborn From Within

Remediz continues: "I realized then, that if my husband and I were done growing our family, I could be pregnant again and help someone else grow theirs through surrogacy. My husband agreed to support me and we found the agency who did an amazing job matching us to Olatz."

The two women became super close.

"Since I knew Celeste was going to be the surrogate mother, we started to talk regularly on the phone and got along well very quickly," said Marinas, the intended mother. "I had the chance to live with Celeste three weeks before giving birth and to be fully involved in her family['s] daily life, which really allowed me to get to know her well, support her and share her feelings on a daily basis."

Remediz says she was elated when the baby she'd just given birth to was placed in Marinas's arms. "I felt like the baby's aunt or something but never like her mother. This journey has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done and has taught me so much," she explains.

Credit: Stephanie Cabrera/ Reborn From Within

Cabrera says she was inspired by the two mothers who shared a birth and shared their story, and plans to continue capturing birth stories like this one to show the world that there are so many ways to become a mother, and so many ways to support mothers.

"My family and I will be traveling full-time the next few years in our old restored Volkswagen bus and by plane. During this time I will be documenting various individuals during their prenatal, birth and postpartum process. One of my biggest goals is to highlight all of the inspiring birth workers and organizations that greatly improve birth outcomes for everyone especially for people of color and low-income communities that are so often marginalized and at higher risk for maternal and infant mortality. This documentation will also take me across borders to document birthing traditions in other countries and cultures," Cabrera tells Motherly.

These are three incredible women and such incredible pictures.

News

For a long time the first photo the public would see of a celebrity who'd recently given birth was a carefully staged, lit and edited bikini photo under headlines about how she "got her body back." But today, celebs are turning the tables on this old trope, sharing their bodies and stories on their terms through social media.

We love this trend so much.

We love it because it helps postpartum mamas accept and love their own reflections, and because the next generation of moms won't grow up thinking that bumps disappear within days, and will know there is nothing wrong with them when the bump (and the stretch marks and scars) sticks around.

Check out these celebrity mamas who are honestly sharing their postpartum experience (and taking the pressure off the rest of us).

Ashley Graham

Model Ashley Graham has been super open about her postpartum body and we love her for it.

These stretch marks are on display on her Instagram grid and they are beautiful. She captioned the shot: "Same me. Few new stories."

We love how real Graham is about her postpartum experience, stretch marks and all.

Daphne Oz

Daphne Oz just had a baby 10 weeks before she posted this shot, so she was slowly returning to her workout routine. We love that, because she was giving her body time to heal. Giving birth is hard on the body!

"I'm not in a rush, I just want to start to feel my core again and strength in my skin. consistency and baby steps get it done," Oz wrote in an Instagram caption, noting that when she snapped this selfie she had just finished the second workout she's had since welcoming her youngest, Gigi.

This isn't the first time Daphne Oz has been refreshingly honest about postpartum life 

But this isn't the first time Oz has been super real about her expectations for her postpartum body. After having her third child, daughter Domenica, back in January 2018, the former co-host of The Chew posted a mirror selfie that sums up how so many fourth trimester mamas feel.

"Seven weeks post partum [sic], still looking three months pregnant," she captioned her photo. "There is no bounce-back, it's all onwards and upwards."

For the record, she still looked amazing in that pic. Both of these photos are amazing.

Katrina Scott

Tone It Up co-founder Katrina Scott has a degree in Health Promotion and Fitness. She knows her stuff and is using her platform to teach other mamas the truth about postpartum fitness: It takes time to for our bodies to build back core and pelvic floor strength, even if fitness is literally your business!

On an episode of The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential, Scott explained: "We need to change the conversation with everyone and with ourselves and realize how cool it is that our bodies are different."

Ayesha Curry

In a recent interview with Working Mother Curry, a mom of three, explained that since becoming a mom when she's been depressed about her body, and struggled with her body, and regrets the decision to get her "boobs done" after her second daughter was weaned.

"The intention was just to have them lifted, but I came out with these bigger boobs I didn't want," she explains, adding that she's now trying to give her body more love and teach her kids to love what they see in the mirror, too.

"I'm not thin; I'm 170 pounds on a good day. It's been a journey for me, and that's why I want my girls to understand who they are—and to love it."

Chrissy Teigen 

Chrissy is a queen. We love how real she was about postpartum panties after Miles was born in May 2018, and she's never been shy about her stretch marks.

In March of 2019 she took to Twitter to talk about her postpartum body and how the former swimsuit model is in a new season of life, one where she's a mom of two and a cookbook author who unapologetically loves food.

"I am 20 pounds heavier than I was before Miles," she wrote. "[H]e's 10 months old. I never lost the last bit because I just love food too much. Just coming to terms with my new normal, when I had this certain number for so long!"

Kate Hudson 

Kate Hudson is basically fitness personified, but she's been super real about her postpartum recovery since the birth of daughter Rani Rose in October 2018.

A few short years ago the first picture the public saw of a celebrity postpartum looked a lot less real than this, but Hudson's honesty is part of a refreshing change in celebrity culture.

The era of headlines about celebrities "bouncing back" after pregnancy is behind us, and it's refreshing to see Hudson admitting that a mother's body doesn't change overnight after she gives birth.

Tia Mowry 

At seven weeks postpartum in June 2018, Tia Mowry explained how not seeing realistic postpartum images during her first pregnancy in 2011 negatively impacted her, so she chose to share her real body to help other mothers (and future mothers) understand that so-called snapbacks are an illusion.

"I remember after giving birth to Cree, my belly didn't all of a sudden go flat. I did have a C-Section, (as well as with my second pregnancy) and I thought something was wrong with me. I had seen in magazines the many women on the beach a few weeks #postpartum in a two piece. To be honest, it had to take time for me to embrace my new body. With this second pregnancy, I now have embraced that fact that I've housed a human being. A miracle. A life. If it takes a while for me to get back to my normal self, than so be it. This.Is.Me. And I love me."

Ali Manno

assets.rebelmouse.io

In July 2018 former Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky Manno posted what she called her "most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," showing her real postpartum belly to the world after welcoming her second child two months earlier.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky wrote.

Desiree  Siegfried 

Another mama from Bachelor nation, Desiree Siegfried also posted a post-baby mirror selfie at four days postpartum.

"So here I am 4 days postpartum looking like I'm still pregnant but feeling like a supermodel/ warrior," she captioned her pic.

Jessie James Decker

Jessie James Decker's postpartum mirror pic was a little further out, and shows that bumps sick around for a long time after birth and that's totally normal and okay.

"Keepin it real! 3 weeks post and I'm still very swollen. The 3rd has been by far the hardest recovery, but I'm feeling stronger every day," Decker wrote after the birth of her youngest in April 2018.

Jenny Mollen

Actress and author Jenny Mollen is known for sharing pretty much everything on Instagram, so it's no surprise that IG followers got to see her c-section scar In October 2017, at two weeks postpartum.

"I wish somebody had shown me a pic like this 9 months ago," Mollen wrote.

[This post was originally published March 3, 2019. It has been updated.]

News

It was a historical moment for the world and a scary moment for a woman who had just become a mother for the first time. When the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital on July 22, 2013, with her new baby in her arms she was happy—but understandably scared, too.

Kate Middleton recently appeared on Giovanna Fletcher's Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast and when Fletcher asked her about her postpartum debut Kate said she felt a little freaked out when she stepped out with her newborn.

"Yeah, slightly terrifying, slightly terrifying, I'm not going to lie," Kate said.

During the podcast the Duchess opened up about her pregnancy and birth experiences, explaining how much hypnobirthing helped her and that she didn't know whether she was delivering a prince or princess until Prince George was born as she'd opted to be surprised.

She was surprised and thrilled when she met her son, and looked forward to post-pregnancy life after spending her pregnancy quite ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (a seriously debilitating form of extreme morning sickness). She was happy, but was also (very understandably) overwhelmed. In addition to all the pressure new moms feel, Kate had an army of photographers waiting outside the hospital for her.

"Everything goes in a bit of a blur. I think, yeah I did stay in hospital overnight, I remember it was one of the hottest days and night with huge thunderstorms so I didn't get a huge amount of sleep, but George did, which was really great," she explained. "I was keen to get home because, for me, being in hospital, I had all the memories of being in hospital because of being sick [with acute morning sickness] so it wasn't a place I wanted to hang around in. So, I was really desperate to get home and get back to normality."

Kate wanted to get home, but she also did want to share her baby boy with the public who had been so supportive of her young family, she explains.

"Everyone had been so supportive and both William and I were really conscious that this was something that everyone was excited about and you know we're hugely grateful for the support that the public had shown us, and actually for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public, I felt was really important," she shared, adding that "Equally it was coupled with a newborn baby, and inexperienced parents, and the uncertainty of what that held, so there were all sorts of mixed emotions."

"All sorts of mixed emotions."

The now-iconic images of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exiting the hospital with their firstborn have gone down in history, but so has Kate's bravery that day.

There's been a lot written about whether those pictures put pressure on other moms who might not feel ready for heels and blowouts right after giving birth, but one thing critics of the photos often miss is the positive impact it had on other young women.

Yes, Kate looked beautiful, but she also looked like a woman whose body had just given birth—and the iconic images of her in that polka-dot dress taught a generation of women that the female body isn't an elastic band and that recovering from birth takes time.

"I, myself remember being really surprised when Kate Middleton came out of the hospital holding Prince George," Tina, now a mom herself and a model of postpartum realness in Mothercare's "Body Proud Mums campaign" explained last year.

Tina recalls how Kate's postpartum appearance showed her a reality society hadn't: "She had the baby bump, and I remember being surprised that your belly doesn't just go down after giving birth. I also thought how stupid I was to have ever thought it would. I guess pre-children you just have unrealistic expectations."

Tina wasn't stupid, she just hadn't been shown the truth.

So thank you, Kate, for stepping out of that hospital in 2013, despite being terrified, and showing the world your beautiful baby and your bump.


News
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