5 Ways Being a Mom is Stressful

And what to do about it!

*We’ve partnered with Rescue to help make your day as a mama a little less stressful.

I’m the first one to tell you that motherhood is HARD. I’m not shy when it comes to complaining about all the ways it’s complicated and heartbreaking and exhausting…. but, I also recognize that I’m incredibly lucky. Knock on wood, I have healthy, happy kids, and all the ways that parenting is hard for me is so completely normal and expected, and that’s a really good thing.

What’s hardest for me is remembering all that in the moment — when my toddler spills a container of markers on the floor and is starting to draw on the clean, white walls, or when the 5-year-old insists on another outfit change when we’re already late to school. It’s legit stressful! But that doesn’t mean I can’t find ways to take a step back and appreciate all the good that goes on, like when my older kid helps the little one reach something, and he says “thank you” back in that sweet baby voice. Sometimes, I just need a way to take myself out of it all for a moment, step back, and get some perspective.

1. Going grocery shopping.
Why it’s stressful: Before I had kids of my own, I remember seeing a mom in a supermarket on the Upper West Side, holding an infant, and staring at her 3 or 4 year old, saying, “What do you want for dinner tonight?” At the time, all of 22, I thought I knew everything, and I said to myself, “well, that’s a terrible way to meal-plan with a kid! Too many choices! Give them two choices!”

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Now that I actually have children, I totally know what was probably going on there. I bet I missed the mom’s exhausted, sleep-deprived stare. I probably didn’t see the food-, spit-up-, and paint-stains on her shirt. I probably didn’t notice the hair that she really intended to wash all week, but never had time to. And I definitely didn’t see that the kid was driving her crazy!

Now I know that situation from the inside. Of course, it would be better to offer your little angel two healthy, nutritious meal options, but in reality, the little guy has probably rejected every good idea you’ve ever had, and your carpet, walls, and kitchen are covered in a thin film of discarded, organic crumbs of uneaten good intentions.

I admit, I have even found myself asking my kids, in desperation, “What will you actually eat for dinner? Just tell me. I’ll cook it.” I’m not proud of that. But it’s true. Of course, I try to avoid saying that in public, where judgmental 22-year-olds can hear.

What to do about it: When you’re trying to calm down in the grocery store, it’s all about what you put in your mouth. Because drinking hard liquor in the middle of the day is frowned upon, Rescue Remedy spray is the next best thing to help me take the stress level down a notch. It includes ingredients like Rock Rose, known to treat panic, as well as Impatiens, which helps with irritability. A few sprays and…kids? What kids?

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2. Functioning on a little less sleep.
Why it’s stressful: I used to be a champion sleeper! I could sleep through outside traffic noise that would wake the hearing-impaired. But as soon as we brought home our first baby, her little gasps and gurgles were enough to make me sit up, even as exhausted as I was. And, in my opinion, nothing makes stress feel magnified than trying to operate on 5 or 6 non-continuous hours of sleep. Sigh.

What to do about it: It’s important to find non-caffeine ways to stay awake and focused in the afternoons, so that you don’t end up wired when it’s finally bedtime. Nothing’s worse than finally having the opportunity to crawl into bed at the end of the day and not being able to sleep! Chewing gum can be a mama’s best friend and ensure you don’t fall asleep on the job. The act of chewing can be awakening, but Rescue Chewing gum has the added benefit of making you feel more calm and focused. Very important when trying to help a toddler put together a 35-piece puzzle for the 18th time that day. 

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3. There is just never enough time.
Why it’s stressful: Remind me again about that “free time” thing I’ve heard of… What is free time? Between work and parenting and family time and “having it all,” whatever that means, there’s not a lot of just-sitting-around-time. But you know what? I don’t actually miss that part all that much.

What to do about it: Maybe there’s not as much time to sleep in, or to go out, or to Netflix and Chill, but guess what? There’s also not as much time to worry about the small things that just don’t matter. Parenting will put your priorities in order, fast!

4. Vacation? Let’s call it a Family Trip.
Why it’s stressful: First, let’s establish that there is no such thing as “vacation” when you’re traveling with children — unless you’re also traveling with a brigade of nannies, chefs, and drivers. But then, that also sounds like a lot to manage, no? Basically, when one becomes a parent, one must adjust his or her definitions of certain words. Like “freedom” or “relaxing.” But I digress. And the hardest part about vacation with kids might actually be the travel part. Air travel is its own special kind of punishment with small children, but trust me, you can get just as stressed in the car or train.

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What to do about it: The best way to combat travel stress is to travel prepared. Stock up on some special travel toys that your kiddos have never seen before, and take an extra set of everything. Don’t underestimate the power of a few strategically timed treats, for your kid and for you! I keep Rescue Pastilles in my purse — they taste like candy, but have the added benefit of making me feel a little less overwhelmed. Offer them around to fellow passengers, too! The less stressed out they are, the less they’ll hear your crying kids.

5. The way you miss them when they’re asleep.

Why it’s stressful: I can complain with the best of them, but the bottom line is that I love those kids with a ferocity I didn’t know existed. I miss them when they fall asleep and sneak into their room to listen to their slow, even breaths. I get just as sad as my kindergartener at school drop off. I wish I could bottle up that baby smell and keep it forever. I can’t believe how fast they grow.

What to do about it: Love them, kiss them, breathe them in. They’re actually the best stress a person can have.

Photography by Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis.
This post was sponsored by Rescue. Find a Rescue retailer here.

Emily Barth Isler

Emily Barth Isler

Emily Barth Isler is a Brooklyn writer, mom, and wife. She's the author of 3 books for kids and young adults and co-creator of the natural beauty blog, Product Junkies Rehab. She loves coffee and podcasts, and is so good at watching TV it should be considered a skill.

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