The Price of Parental Stress

September 27, 2019
Raising a child is more stressful nowadays, especially due to the increasing demands of children and parents. Summers in town, afternoons at the park, and such activities have slowly turned into extracurricular activities that put kids and adults under pressure.

There’s no doubt that having a child is a blessing. But the price of parental stress that raising a child entails is a completely different matter. In fact, you may even say that raising a child is almost like running a marathon.

When a woman is pregnant, people tell her that stress is a risk factor and that it can affect the baby’s development. However, a woman’s life pretty much changes once the baby is born, and it’s not as easy to avoid stress.

A good part of stress arises from a trend: making children do many extracurricular activities. In many cases, these activities add to the parent’s guilt of not spending enough time with their children.

A stressed mother at work.

A piece of advice for moms

When the baby is born, only few parents know how to deal with stress or how to avoid creating a stressful environment in the household. In fact, in many cases, people think that, as a parent, “you must learn along the way”, so usually no one cares to explain how to manage it. On the other hand, if the mother has a professional career, it usually doesn’t make it any easier.

This fact in itself is already stressful. Plus, many experts recommend other habits that might make everything even more demanding, such as making the newborn sleep in the parents’ room but not on the parents’ bed.

Moreover, the mother must be careful with what she eats if she’s nursing. And there’s also the common idea that if a woman goes back to work, she doesn’t love her baby enough. But then, if she doesn’t go back to work, then she doesn’t love herself enough.

Constantly doing things for your child

All these factors turn parents into tired and stressed human beings; people who look in every corner to get as much time as they can.

As soon as the children are old enough to start music lessons, join a sports team, or learn another language, stress can still increase. Taking them to their activities, picking them up, keeping up with their schedules… These activities require, apart from time, financial resources to pay for the enrollment and monthly fees. Sometimes parents may ask themselves “Am I able to pay for a better education for my children?” which leads to more restrictive family budgets and extra work hours in order to make the money for said activities.

The real price of parental stress

Being under this stress for long periods of time affects health. Stomachaches, headaches, and muscle pain may start to arise. The long-term consequences are even more dangerous and include high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression, among others.

And this is in reference to the parents’ health. But the truth is that parental stress also affects children. From the moment she becomes pregnant, the mother’s stress can impact the baby’s health. In fact, a research study about this aspect shows that maternal stress during pregnancy can affect a child’s physiology and mental stability.

Furthermore, during their first childhood years, children with parents who suffer from stress and anxiety tend to pass it on to the next generation. It also seems that a highly controlling upbringing style boosts anxiety even more.

Young child with anxiety problems.

You don’t need to rush in order to be a good parent

According to this data, the obvious conclusion is that stressed parents are somehow a danger to themselves and their children. Too many activities and options to succeed for a child can be counterproductive if stress is often present.

Maybe it’s the time to go slow and reevaluate everything again. Maybe too many activities aren’t necessary or perhaps you can substitute them for other, more relaxing activities. Although you might think that the activities near your home aren’t the best, keep in mind that your family’s physical and mental health are certainly more important.

  • LoBue, Vanessa (2019) The Cost of Parental Stress. Does the push for hands-on, intensive parenting come at too high a cost? Psychology Today. Recuperado de https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-baby-scientist/201905/the-cost-parental-stress
  • Parkes, A., Sweeting, H., & Wight, D. (2015). Parenting stress and parent support among mothers with high and low education. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 29(6), 907–918. doi:10.1037/fam0000129
  • Kaplan, L. A., Evans, L., & Monk, C. (2008). Effects of mothers’ prenatal psychiatric status and postnatal caregiving on infant biobehavioral regulation: can prenatal programming be modified?. Early human development, 84(4), 249-256.