Substance Abuse in Stay-at-Home Moms: The Stress of Motherhood

Medically Reviewed

Motherhood comes with demanding challenges that women must meet, whether they work outside the home or stay home to take care of their children. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, and other adverse emotions can set in as stress to keep a household running smoothly grows. This level of responsibility can make it seem like the world is on one person’s shoulders, but over time, that world can collapse.

While all mothers can feel overwhelmed by the tasks of caring for their children, stay-at-home moms may feel the added pressure of juggling everything perfectly without complaint because she does not work outside the home.

There is a perception that a woman who has decided to take care of the family has nothing else to do but take care of her family, which can feel limiting and perhaps unfair. If a woman in this position shares that she struggles, she may feel judged for expressing her unhappiness or uncertainty, particularly by mothers who hold a 9-to-5 job.

Terina Allen for Forbes writes that women who stay home to raise their children aren’t given a judge-free zone to air their gripes. “Sure, stay-at-home moms can complain and share disappointments just like anyone else, but when they openly do so with other moms, the situation can get very dicey, very fast,” Allen says.

If stay-at-home motherhood gets too dicey, some women could be at risk of turning to substance use for relief. This can become a bigger problem than they may be prepared to take on.

Stay-at-Home Moms Can Struggle with Isolation

A decision to stay at home to care for the children is a personal decision, and many women embrace it. Some, however, may not be ready for the lifestyle changes or the negative feelings that can surface once the decision becomes everyday, real life.

Staying at home and focusing on caring for a child can be a big shift for someone used to going to work to provide for their family. It can also be a challenge for a new mother working to find the right balance between caregiving and taking care of herself.

New mothers are also going through bodily changes such as hormonal fluctuations, and mood changes, such as postpartum depression or stress, making them more sensitive to physical or emotional pain. Pain is a trigger for substance use among women, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says.

Being around children all the time makes some women feel like they have lost their identity, freedom, and social ties to friends and family and just the outside world in general. Verywell Family reports that one con to being a stay-at-home mother is experiencing higher levels of anger and sadness.

Some women in this situation may also feel like they’re on the outside looking in at other people whose lives seem to be seamlessly going well. As a result, stay-at-home moms can feel isolated and lonely, two states of being that ripen the chance to develop problematic substance use that could eventually create a hard-to-break addiction.

An at-home mother who falls into the trap of comparing herself to other women who seem to have it all and the kids could be on the pathway of feeling despair that could eventually have her turning to alcohol and drugs to numb her pain. The only problem is she likely is increasing her pain, not erasing it.

Why Some Stay-at-Home Mothers Abuse Substances

A woman who stays home to care for her children may struggle with her decision to do so or struggle with the results of that decision.  Either way, changes in mood or emotional health can lead someone to turn to addictive substances to medicate themselves to deal with their emotions and mental state.

Some of these substances are prescription drugs, such as benzodiazepines (Xanax), or opioids, such as Percocet. Some may be hooked on their “mommy juice,” a term used in mommy wine culture, which promotes mothers pouring up their glass of wine to find stress-free validation and freedom with guilt nowhere in sight.

Substance abuse can start for any reason, but below are a few that explain why the stress of motherhood can make stay-at-home moms vulnerable to substance abuse.

Substances Provide an Escape

Alcohol and drugs can provide just the relief a woman feels she needs from the daily grind of the constant duties of motherhood. Many women find it difficult to find a moment just to shower or enjoy a cup of coffee or catch up with a friend by phone when they have a child to care for. Using substances to “check out” for a while is dangerous to a mother and her child. Being under the influence while caring for children puts their safety and well-being at risk. The mom who engages in this practice is also at risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD) if she becomes dependent and then addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Substance Use Breaks up an Everyday Routine

Some stay-at-home mothers may seek out drugs or alcohol to make their lives seem less predictable and more “exciting.” Drugs and alcohol can make some people feel like they are throwing caution to the wind because they don’t care as much or at all about their responsibilities when they are under the influence.

A woman who is tired of being responsible for another person or an entire family may find some freedom in not caring because she’s high, but unfortunately, when the high wears off, the reality will be there to greet her. The desire not to face the truth can cause one to pick up substances again and again, which can lead to substance abuse problems and possibly addiction.

Substances Provide Immediate Gratification

Some stay-home moms abuse substances because of the immediate high they get from using addictive substances. Some may get a thrill out of using a substance they know they are not supposed to use. Instant gratification can serve any purpose, depending on the person. In some cases, it is a stress response, and using a substance immediately numbs the user to unpleasant thoughts or feelings that they do not want to deal with or may not know how to handle in a healthy way.

Using mood-altering substances for any reason is a slippery slope. If you or someone you know has a problem controlling their drinking, prescription drug use, or illicit drug use, professional addiction treatment at an accredited facility is the best next step to address the disorder before it worsens.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

A stay-at-home mother who has an existing mental health disorder, whether it is officially diagnosed or not, can also abuse drugs and alcohol to ease her symptoms. Not every woman who turns to addictive substances is doing so out of pure enjoyment. She may not realize she has a serious depressive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Substance users who also have a mental health disorder are said to have comorbidity or dual diagnosis. It is important that a person struggling with both a substance use disorder and mental illness get the addiction treatment that addresses both disorders together at the same time. This is the most effective way they can improve their mental, physical, and emotional health.

Serenity at Summit offers dual diagnosis treatment. If you are a stay-at-home mother who has used drugs or alcohol to deal with a mood disorder, or if you feel like addictive substances are the only way out of your mental and emotional battles, we want to help you. Our programs are designed to meet you where you are in your substance use journey and help you find your way to sobriety.

Stay-at-home mothers need support, and we understand that here. We know that using substances to self-medicate in order to deal with life’s challenges happens for various reasons, and we want to extend a hand to help you find a safer, healthier way to address those challenges.

Serenity at Summit is a judge-free zone. We’re here to help you. Call today.

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