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Why Does Everything Seem So F*cking Hard Right Now?

Moms everywhere are (still) letting out a collective exasperated scream… here's why.

Written by Alexandra Frost
Originally Published: 
A stressed-out woman looks at her bills and holds her baby.
Thana Prasongsin/Getty Images

It's not just you. It's everyone. Wherever you look, you see frazzled moms — rushing through the grocery, wrangling kids in doctor's appointments, asking them to send a bill later for that copay, and trying to piece together a meaningful holiday season. What makes it worse is that it feels like it's just you, but it's not. And while it seems like it's a new problem to be battling inflation along with post-pandemic trauma and mental health issues in an economy constantly in flux, sadly, parents have been here before. But for some reason, it feels like it's getting worse.

"Historically, parents have always had concerns about providing basic needs like safety, health, and education," says Dr. Linnea Passaler, a health professional in nervous system dysregulation in Los Angeles.

"But today, there's an additional layer of problems that our parents didn't face, rooted in our rapidly growing population, consumerist culture, and the resulting global crises,” explains Passaler. “I grew up in a world that, while far from perfect, seemed to have a sense of predictability, a global order of sorts. Now, it feels like that order is unraveling."

‘Tis the season... to feel crushing pressure.

Add to it the "holiday cheer" that parents, especially moms, seem to be invisibly tasked with creating from scratch, and it's the perfect storm for a nervous breakdown. "This time of year is a lot," says Kelly Smith, a yoga and meditation teacher and host of the Mindful in Minutes podcast in the Twin Cities, Minn.

"Not only do you have the physical changes like the earlier darkness that comes with daylight savings, which contributes to lower mood and energy, but the mental load this time of year is also so high. You are managing different family gatherings, attending school programs, thinking about gifts to give loved ones, teachers, etc. ... and let's not forget we're in the thick of sniffle and cough season, resulting in kids staying home from school more, and extra vigilance in handwashing and care. It is all a lot."

Karlyn Green, life and business coach and founder of Dear Wild Heart in Cleveland, Ohio, says it can feel like you are the only person who didn't get the manual on how to survive the impossible demands as a parent. Yet, we are all insistently badgered by social media influencers — and well-meaning experts — recommending this quick fix or that trick or time saver they claim holds the secret.

Still, here we are, asking, "Why the f*ck is everything so hard?"

It's not just moms — dads are feeling it too. Aaron Steinberg, MA, PCC and co-founder of Grow Together, says it feels like we're threading a very thin needle to be good parents." It's hard not to be super critical of ourselves. There are also now myriad avenues for everyone else to criticize us, and we constantly feel under a microscope."

He adds that the increased dangers parents seem to have to protect their kids from, from cyberbullying to school shootings, seems far from the days of sending the kids out to play and then ringing a dinner bell.

Has the American Dream turned into an American nightmare?

This struggle is starting before parenthood for some, like Brooke Young, a business owner in Mansfield, Ohio. "I believe social factors such as social media, crushing inflation, loss of collective societal purpose, loss of values and morals, honestly all contribute to the feelings of hopelessness that crush us," she says.

She points to American Dream norms, like buying a house, which she said seemed very attainable in the past. "Today, it is a much harder feat, all of which speaks to the hopeless and defeated ideology. These factors are causing us to rely on our optimism muscles more than ever — but optimism can be exhausting too."

While nothing will entirely solve the mayhem, there are some things you can try when everything just feels like too much. The hope? These tactics will give you a few focus areas until (if?) things ever calm down.

1. Be real that everything's not OK.

The next time someone asks how you are doing, feel free to give them a bit of a hint into just how not OK you are. Everyone could use some genuine connection, and it just might give them the room to open up about how they aren't OK either.

"Everything is not awesome, and that's OK," says Green. "Not acknowledging it doesn't make things better. In fact, it feeds the lie that you are alone in your suffering and must be doing something wrong. This, of course, leads to the silent suffering of shame. And nothing makes a bad situation worse like sprinkling some negative self-talk and judgment on the top."

2. When parenting is hard, zoom in on your partner.

There's a reason, for coupled parents, that you chose to be a team. It's time to zone in on that specifically, especially when parenting is hard. Those without a partner can do this with a friend, prioritizing connection.

"It's normal during this phase of life to feel lonely and disconnected from yourself, your partner, your friends, and the rest of the world," says Jessica Trouillaud, mom of two and co-founder of Grow Together and co-author of In It Together. "If you're in a stage of parenting that feels especially difficult, I recommend focusing on your relationship with your partner. Knowing how to be parents together, how to support one another, and how to express and receive love from each other isn't something that always comes naturally, especially when you're also learning who you are as a parent."

3. Half-ass some of it. You're trying too hard.

In the most relatable advice of all, Green says to intentionally half-ass some things to survive. "Not every dinner has to be a production, and it's OK if there are some dishes in the sink." Or, a mountain.

4. Be imperfect but consistent with trying to stay calm.

Try telling a stressed-out mama to stay calm. It just fuels that ragey fire that we feel when the pharmacy closes one minute early or we have three more days til payday and a big bill due. Yet, Passaler says it's one of the key things to focus on modeling, calling our ability to stay present "incredibly powerful." But it's not what you think — you don't have to be perfect.

"Every little step we take in this direction not only benefits us but also sets a vital example for our kids. We're showing them, in real, tangible ways, how to navigate life's challenges without losing ourselves," she says. So, in the end, when shit gets real, it's time to hide on the couch under a really fluffy blanket with your cuddliest kid and call it a day. There's always tomorrow to try again.

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