In a survey by UrbanSitter’s, parents reported that mothers are the primary caregivers of the family 53% of the time. A survey by the Family Caregiver Alliance saw that women were the primary caregivers 50% to 68% of the time. They were also more likely to do the more laborious caregiving work. (American Psychological Association, 2021) While it might not seem impressive that this statistic applies to less than half of the population, it’s helpful to remember that there are about 85 millions moms in America. This means that even at the lowest possible amount, our audience is composed of over 40 millions people.
It is well reported that women tend to put their own health on the back-burner. In one survey, 78% of women reported that they put off taking care of themselves to make time for those they are caring for, which could include their children, spouses, aging parents, and other ailing family members. The same survey reported that “approximately 82 percent of women do most of the health-related research for their kids, 86 percent of women schedule the majority of the health care appointments for their kids, and 72 percent arrange for the payment of the majority of the bills for their kids health care”. (Sizensky et al., 2021) If you take into account that seven out of ten moms also work outside of the house, you’ll find that this paints a pretty busy picture for American mothers. (Caumont & Wang, 2020)
Due to the pressures of caring for others and working full time, the health of these moms is overlooked. Pediatricians report that it often isn’t until a mom brings her child into the doctor that she receives any medical attention herself. The child’s doctor will often bring in another physician to check out Mom’s health while her child is being examined. (Campoamor, 2019) While medical professionals may remind moms that they have to take care of themselves, a realistic way to do so is lacking. There is a sense felt by mothers that they must “do it all” and if they don’t, they’re a failure (Escalante, 2019). Amy Westervelt, an author and journalist, described the pressure of the modern day mom perfectly when she wrote: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.” Their work cannot interfere with their mom duties, and their mothering can certainly not interfere with work meetings and deadlines. (Ziegler, 2020) This often leads to feelings of exhaustion and burnout.
Being that the main focus of mothers is on children and work, many aspects of self-care fall to the wayside. In a scientific statement about self-care and the prevention of CVD, Riegel et al. (2017) explained that across hundreds of studies, the best ways to increase self-care were through interventions that focused on building skills and behaviors, the importance of social support, and personal values. Specifically, individual boosting of self-care is best achieved through creating specific habits that can be reinforced, providing feedback, and using motivational interviewing. On a community level, self-care is best achieved through events that raise awareness and provide information. It’s also important that these events also encourage community participation. In this instance, self-care is defined as paying attention to the body’s signs and symptoms as they come and making meaningful decisions. (Riegel et al., 2017)
Lo et al. (2019) found that self-efficacy was a major factor in increasing fruit and vegetable intake among rural women. Building confidence and skill in preparing food was an integral part in boosting self-efficacy. It’s important to pair these skill demonstrations and lessons with other information about nutrition. Providing/encouraging the skill alone does not yield the same results. (Lo et al., 2019)
It is with this information and the knowledge that a healthy diet supports a strong body, which is certainly needed for those who are caring for others all the time that the framework, goals, and objectives of Happy Healthy Moms was developed. The goal of this program is to be available nation-wide to mothers of all backgrounds and demographics. It will start with a pilot program in Philadelphia, PA. The aim is to provide realistic ways for moms to care for themselves while caring for their families. This includes breaking down mental barriers surrounding the idea that taking care of themselves is selfish or not a priority and lessons on simple and effective nutrition practices. Some of those barriers include feelings of guilt and comparison to other moms. Social media can be a trap for moms who find themselves comparing their hectic lives to what seems like a picture perfect (literally) life of another mom they’ve never actually met. (Webber, 2017; Ziegler, 2020) It is the aim of this program to educate women in the realistic ways of taking care of themselves while acknowledging that days will seldom, if ever, be perfect.
To achieve and encourage a balance in the lives of these women, there will be a website available as well as content put out on social media about the program. The goal is to have local chapters that will be able to offer in-person lessons about nutrition, exercise, and realistic ways to apply these things to a busy life. These could be held at community centers, businesses, college campuses and more. In addition, local chapters will be encouraged to work within the community to find partners that allow these changes to feel even more doable. Examples would include local farmers markets and accessible and affordable workout groups and spaces.
This program will do more than just make sure that these women are healthy. It will also create even better caregivers. Children look to their parents for an example of what to do, and that includes dietary behaviors. Seeing their mothers make room for nutrition and self-care will likely have a trickle-down effect that promotes healthy children (Johnson et al., 2011). This is an important result for a country that is facing an obesity epidemic (CDC, 2021). On top of this, preventive care like proper nutrition can be a game changer for the millions of moms who do not have healthcare coverage in this country (America’s Health Ranking, 2021). If they cannot visit a doctor annually, they can at least make sure they are doing their best to care for their bodies. Happy Healthy Moms can do wonders for the moms in this country.
America’s Health Ranking. (2021). Health of Women and Children. www.americashealthrankings.org. https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/health-of-women-and-children/measure/Uninsured_women/state/ALL.
American Psychological Association. (2021). Who Are Family Caregivers? American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq/statistics.
Business Wire. (2017, May 10). New Poll Finds 81% of Moms with Kids Under 18 Admit to
Campoamor, D. (2019, December 15). Perspective | Moms are putting off care for themselves, and our tough-it-out culture isn’t helping. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/12/16/moms-are-putting-off-care-themselves-our-tough-it-out-culture-isnt-helping/.
Caumont, A., & Wang, W. (2020, July 31). 5 questions (and answers) about American moms today. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/09/5-questions-and-answers-about-american-moms-today/.
CDC. (2021, February 11). Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html.
Escalante, D. (2019, March 6). Mothers Are Drowning in Stress. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/201903/mothers-are-drowning-in-stress.
Johnson, C. M., Sharkey, J. R., Dean, W. R., Alex McIntosh, W., & Kubena, K. S. (2011). It’s who I am and what we eat. Mothers’ food-related identities in family food choice. Appetite, 57(1), 220–228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.025
Lo, B. K., Loui, C., Folta, S. C., Flickinger, A., Connor, L. M., Liu, E., … Seguin, R. A. (2019). Self-efficacy and cooking confidence are associated with fruit and vegetable intake in a cross-sectional study with rural women. Eating Behaviors, 33, 34–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2019.02.005
Riegel, B., Moser , D. K., Buck, H. G., Dickson, V. V., Dunbar , S. B., Lee, C. S., … Webber DE, D. E. (2017, August 31). Self-Care for the Prevention and Management of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke: A Scientific Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association. Journal of the American Heart Association. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28860232/.
Sizensky, V., Editors, H. W., & Spector, N. A. (2021, January 19). New Survey: Moms Are Putting Their Health Last. HealthyWomen. https://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/new-survey-moms-are-putting-their-health-last.
Webber, R. (2017.). The Comparison Trap. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201711/the-comparison-trap.
Ziegler, S. G. (2020, September 4). How to Let Go of Working-Mom Guilt. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/09/how-to-let-go-of-working-mom-guilt.