According to a new study, women who believe in intense parenting are likely to have mental health problems. Intense parenting involves belief in certain concepts, such as “women are better parents than men, mothering should be child-centered, and children should be considered sacred and are fulfilling to parents.”
Parenting can be very challenging, requiring a wide range of skills, expertise, resources, and flexibility. Not as easy task for sure, but certain beliefs about parenting are detrimental to mothers’ mental health.
Many women idealize motherhood as one of life’s most fulfilling experiences, but report that taking care of their children is more stressful than being at work. Increased stress and guilt are also associated with intensive parenting style.
The discrepancy between what mothers hope for and what they experience is known as one of the parenthood paradoxes. As Debra Winger’s character so famously said about parenting in 1983 movie with Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment, “As hard as you think it is, you end up wishing it were that easy.”
Using online questionnaires, Kathryn Rizzo and colleagues from the University of Mary Washington looked at whether intensive parenting, rather than parenting per se, was linked to increased levels of stress, depression and lower life satisfaction among 181 mothers of children under the age of five.
Overall, the women were satisfied with their lives but had moderate levels of stress and depression. Approximately 23 percent had symptoms of depression.
The authors conclude that certain women believe that intense parenting makes them better mothers and are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s lives. In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what the parents intend, and certainly is not doing the mothers any good.
“Insight into the parenthood paradox: mental health outcomes of intensive mothering,” will be published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.