Why you need a momtribe to reduce the burnout of motherhood
"Women need closeness with other human beings every day." Psychologist and author Dr Sheryl Ziegler's TED Talk will change the way moms see friendships.
"I thought to myself, besides my family, who could I call?" (iStock)
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It was only after an emergency hospital visit that Dr Sheryl Ziegler realised something wasn't quite right about her life. 

As a Doctor of Psychology, one who had spent hours counselling mothers on how to cope with loneliness and depression, and a mom herself, Dr Sheryl had no idea that she had been facing similar struggles. 

"I thought to myself, besides my family, who could I call? Who could I call to simply say, 'I am in the hospital, I don't need anything from you... I just thought that you would want to know,'" she shared while presenting at a TEDx Talk in 2017 entitled Why Moms Are Miserable.  


Also see: Why is it so hard to make friends as a mother?

Are you finding making and maintaining friendships really hard as a mom? Has a friendship ever been a life-saver during difficult times with your family? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.


"I was feeling lonely, and I didn't even know it" 

Just like the mothers she had been treating, Dr Sheryl found herself exhausted and overburdened, and despite a busy schedule, she was also isolated. 

This moment of realisation, she explained, lead her to uncover some potent research, information that she would later use in her book, Mommy Burnout. 

Throughout the nearly 11-minute video, Dr Sheryl highlights thought-provoking studies that have been conducted on the struggles of motherhood, revealing that the burnout mothers feel has more to do with a lack of social network than anything else. 

We did some digging and found a few of the studies she covered in her talk. 


Also see: ‘Nothing’s wrong, it’s just hard’: Mom’s post about the struggles of parenthood goes viral


Social isolation and the feeling of loneliness increases the risk of death, more so than smoking or obesity

Stressing the health implications of loneliness, Dr Sheryl alludes to this meta-analysis, an examination of a variety of studies on friendships across all mammal species by Yale University and Duke University

Its findings show that without a supportive social network, the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular and infectious diseases increases in mammals. 

What's more, people already suffering from a life-threatening disease but whose support system of friends was on solid footing were found to have a "50% increased likelihood of survival". 

"Since the 1970s, women have been reporting less life satisfaction than men"

In The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, University of Pennsylvania researchers probed 35 years of data and found that in terms of marriage, health, finances and professional life, "women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men."

Admitting that their findings could not pinpoint specific reasons for the decline, the researchers say that the lower level of satisfaction could be connected to the fact that women are expected to perform on both the home and work fronts, and compared to men, women take on the bulk of "emotional responsibility for home and family". 

Women need closeness with other human beings, not just casual connections

Research conducted by Canada's University of Calgary suggests that for females, social interaction is even more important than for males, and that "the lack of a social network may itself be stressful."

In order to determine the impact of social isolation in females, researchers looked at the brain activity of both female and male mice after being separated from their littermates for 18 hours. 

Their findings showed raised levels of the stress hormone, corticosterone, were present in the female mice only. 

The University of Calgary experts performed an additional test by exposing both male and female mice to forced swimming and found that female mice reacted to both experiments in the same way. 


Also see: You’re not “just a mom”: Motherhood is like working 2.5 jobs – fact

Friends are like free therapists

While it's comforting and validating, scientific reasoning offers no clear cut solution. 

For Dr Sheryl, the answer is simple: moms need to make time for friendships, admitting that if her clients had close friends to turn to, her business would not be as popular. 

Because, despite the exhaustion, and the busy schedules, investing in building a community is equivalent to investing in ourselves.  

Watch: 

Chat back:

Are you finding making and maintaining friendships really hard as a mom? Has a friendship ever been a life-saver during difficult times with your family? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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