Mothers work tirelessly to ensure their children are happy and healthy. But who's looking after Mom?
According to a recent study conducted by researchers from Arizona State University and published in the journal Developmental Psychology, satisfying and authentic friendships play a key role in keeping mothers’ spirits high. Specifically, feeling unconditionally accepted and comforted is crucial to a mother’s psychological health.
More than 2,000 well-educated, upper middle-class mothers participated in the study, in which they were asked to name the factors that help them cope with motherhood. According to the researchers, this demographic spends more time per week on children’s activities and commitments as compared to well-educated fathers and less-educated mothers, and are therefore considered at “high risk” for parenting stress.
Out of seven factors, four of them—unconditional acceptance, feeling comforted when needed, authenticity in relationships, and friendship satisfaction—stood out as inhibitors of stress. Simply being married was not directly related to a mother's psychological well-being; the quality of the marriage proved more important.
Additionally, the findings did not support the "helicopter parenting" stereotype, which argues that a mother's well-being is directly linked to her investment in her children.
"These findings are extremely encouraging in showing the strong protective potential of close, authentic relationships in buffering women through the myriad challenges of motherhood," Suniya Luthar, one of the study's researchers, said in a statement. "...Mothers, like children, benefit greatly when they know they have reliable sources of comfort when in distress."
Read more about how to make friends as a grown-up.