A working mom’s wellbeing is more dependent on her basic psychological needs being met than on her infant’s temperament
It’s all in your head.
A working mom’s wellbeing is more dependent on her basic psychological needs being satisfied than on her infant’s temperament, a new study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests. In other words, happy moms felt competent at motherhood, free to make their own choices, connected to their child and not overly self-critical; they saw a decline in wellbeing when they experienced feelings of pressure, inadequacy and social alienation. Meanwhile, the child’s characteristics didn’t appear to play a huge role.
With that said, the study found, having a more extroverted kid did help buffer mothers against self-criticism and feeling their needs weren’t being met. “Our findings point to a complex interplay between parent and child characteristics in the prediction of maternal wellbeing,” lead author Katrijn Brenning, a researcher at Belgium’s University of Ghent, said in a statement.
The researchers, using a sample of 126 mothers aged 22 to 39, studied five days’ worth of diary entries they made after finishing maternity leave and first sending their child to daycare. (The authors chose this period for its potentially stressful nature stemming from struggles with work-family balance and parent-child separation.) Diary measures asked women to rate their depressive symptoms, vitality (i.e., feeling alive and dynamic), positive and negative feelings while being with their kid, and feelings of satisfaction or frustration around certain needs being met.
The women’s daily fluctuations in wellbeing, they found, seemed to be “rooted in mothers’ need-based experiences.” And “more positive perceptions of the child’s temperament,” Brenning said, “were found to buffer to some extent against the affective difficulties associated with a lack of need satisfaction, high need frustration and maternal self-criticism.”
The authors, in sum, advised mothers to seek out interactions with their kids that fulfill their own psychological needs. They also recommended targeting “highly self-critical mothers” in intervention and prevention initiatives to boost their “resilience to the transition to motherhood” — suggesting compassion-focused therapy or the mindfulness-geared Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
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