Motherhood & Mental Health: A Guide for Finding Balance

At Every Mother, we know the extraordinary demand mothers of all stages experience, often struggling in silence, neglecting their mental health, and simply trying to keep it all together. And on top of the innate challenges that come with motherhood, we are also increasingly exposed to images and messaging telling us how easily and gracefully others are doing it. We have a responsibility to address these myths of perfectionism, and to discuss mental health and the resources available, so together we can reset, restore, and reclaim our experience. 

EM founder Leah Keller sat down with Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW, the founding director of the Motherhood Center in New York City, a clinical treatment facility that provides mental health support and treatment to new and expecting mothers, for an honest Q&A around finding some balance and acceptance in motherhood.

Question: Where do these expectations of perfectionism in motherhood come from and how do we combat them? 

We’re all feeling frustrated, especially in areas where there’s no physical space for separation. And it’s even harder to maintain any sense of safety when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.  However, we can take a few actionable measures to at least introduce an element of control in what’s happening right in front of us.

5 Ways to Find Relief

1. Find communities where people are talking about “the real stuff.”

Seek out websites, forums, and spaces—like the Every Mother Village or Scary Mommy—where moms discuss their challenges and emotions without any sugar-coating. 

2. Decide the right therapeutic modality for you.

The benefits of therapy are proven, but Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) has been particularly successful for women experiencing Postnatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

3. Don’t feel the need to put on the “perfectionism cloak.”

Surrender the idea that if you’re not doing it perfectly, you’re doing something wrong.

4. Use “yes and…” phrasing technique.

This is a concept to approaching negative thoughts and emotions, and acknowledging that those feelings don’t define us.

5. Embrace your humanity.

Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings.

Question: What suggestions do you have for mothers suffering from Perinatal or Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder? 

A staggering 20% of all pregnant and postpartum women experience a PMAD—a Perinatal or Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Sharing your range of feelings in a PMAD support group and witnessing others nod their heads in agreement is a small, but powerful, first step for relief.

Question: How do you recommend mothers manage feelings of frustration and conflict with their family?

We’re all feeling frustrated, especially in areas where there’s no physical space for separation. And it’s even harder to maintain any sense of safety when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.  However, we can take a few actionable measures to at least introduce an element of control in what’s happening right in front of us.

3 Steps to Manage Anxiety & Conflict

1.  Introduce structure.
Make an effort with your partner to plot out the day, plot out the week, and make sure everyone in your family is on the same page. This can offer a sense of safety and an element of control in an otherwise chaotic climate.

2. Take time for yourself and narrow your focus.
If you need to go into the bathroom and close the door, do that for “me time.”

3. Create rituals and transitions.
Carve out separate spaces for working, eating, and sleeping. Identify places where certain things are going to happen, and create opportunities to transition from one thing to the next.

There’s one thing for certain that we need to keep in mind: We are all in this together. And thankfully, there are a number of resources available to help us through this time, and all times. The Every Mother community continues to support each other, and all moms everywhere. We encourage you to keep visiting our EMpower blog for updated articles and information around health, exercise, and lifestyle. For more information on motherhood and mental health, visit the Motherhood Center of New York


Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW, is the Founding Director and Chief External Relations Officer of The Motherhood Center of New York. Paige suffered from severe postpartum depression following the birth of her first child and became committed to fighting for education, screening, and treatment for postpartum depression so that no more women would have to suffer silently. She drafted legislation in New York State mandating education and strongly encouraging screening of all new and expecting mothers that was signed into law in 2014. Paige has been an outspoken advocate on the issue of postpartum depression and uses her own story as a tool for change.

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