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Pressure Got You Down?

Pressure Got You Down?

General points of the female experience 

As you journey through motherhood, you may have received unsolicited advice from other people trying to pressure you into their own ideas of “the right way”. These pressures can come from strangers within the public or even those closest to mom, like close friends, family or even the other parent. While many people think sharing their opinions will be helpful, these unwarranted thoughts develop into subconscious standards of comparison. Regardless of the unrealistic expectations, meeting these pressures satisfies an innate need for belonging. People are often socially rewarded (regarded as “mom goals”) for adhering to social norms and punished (ostracization of the child) for deviating them.1  

Pressures society places on women 

From childhood, women are conditioned to chase standards created by a male centered society. Little girls grow up to be women who have been educated to meet unrealistic expectations that society has imposed on them. These expectations have one simple message, you must be perfect.4 

Common criticisms are to:  

  • Count calories 
  • Hide cellulite 
  • Show intelligence 
  • Be well dressed 
  • Fall in love and find “happily ever after” 
  • Have children before 30 

The mediums through which these messages are shared have adapted over time along with society. It started with folklore and then transitioned through tv shows and movies to magazines. Now it’s prevalent all-over social media. The influence of the media will continue to be decisive for women to live prey to stereotypes because they are bombarded with messages that drive them to demand perfection. The problem is that when you don’t achieve perfection, you can experience low morale and depression.4 

Pressures society places on mothers 

The pressure doesn’t stop at the female experience. “Mom shaming” has become an inevitable part of motherhood. Many societies associate a woman’s success and value with her performance as a mother. Moms are often criticized for routine behaviors like what they eat, how they sleep, diaper changes or their decision to breastfeed. Each of these notions support the myth that her top priority should be ensuring her children are properly cared for and well-mannered.  

Societal pressures can also vary across different types of mothers. Historically society highlights nuclear families, but we know that the term “mother” can have many faces. This means the experience of adoption, surrogacy, or parenthood through marriage can have its own individual isolating pressures.  

Despite the assumption of endless bliss that is associated with motherhood, many women report lower satisfaction with life during its onset. Symptoms of depression and exhaustion among mothers who feel pressure to be perfect often experience lower work-family balance and, in turn, lower career ambitions.1 As women continue to pour into the workforce, many mothers find themselves carrying two loads, juggling responsibilities between home and the office. Research shows that societal pressures can lead to higher levels of guilt and stress. These feelings contribute to parental burnout.1 

There is a steep cost to the harsh norms placed on women. Being the “perfect mom” actually means mom is under too much pressure. It is not possible to make motherhood easier by simply trying harder.3 One area of improvement is not the only input into a baby’s health and happiness.3 Although suggestions are sometimes helpful, the pressure that results can build stress. If the environment that children are in is an environment where someone’s stressed and anxious, children’s brains can grow to mirror what they see in many ways.3 Hyper-focusing on an exact method can be detrimental to mom’s mental health.  

The best way to handle Mom Shaming is by setting clear boundaries. Its easier said than done, but like most things practice makes perfect. Try saying something like:  

I would appreciate it if you did not give me advice unless I asked you. It’s important to me, if I’m going to let you into this space, that you respect that. And if you aren’t able to, that’s okay. I’m going to need some time away and some space.3 


Again, establishing boundaries can be tough. Especially when trying to establish boundaries for those that are closest to you or who represent matriarchal or patriarchal authority figures (your mother/father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparents, etc.) If you find yourself struggling to establish boundaries, it may help to talk to a therapist. Therapy is a great tool to utilize not only to help with establishing boundaries but can also help you work through the symptoms these societal pressures can cause (I.e., anxiety, depression, mom guilt, etc.). If you find that therapy does not work for you, sometimes talking to other moms about your experiences as it relates to the pressure’s society puts on moms/women may be helpful as well! There are plenty of support groups for moms out there that could be beneficial to you. We at Pickles and Ice Cream Georgia even offer our own peer support groups, facilitated by moms for moms, so moms and birth givers in the state of Georgia have a safe space to discuss all aspects of motherhood with someone who has walked that journey themselves. If you are interested in our free, virtual peer support groups, click here to learn more! 


Dealing with the pressures of mother/parenthood that society places on women and parents can be a heavy burden to bear. But reminding yourself that you are not obligated to explain your choices to others can be helpful as you begin to shed that burden off your shoulders.  


  1. Meeussen, L., & Van Laar, C. (2018). Feeling Pressure to Be a Perfect Mother Relates to Parental Burnout and Career Ambitions. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 2113. 
  2. Van Metre, M. (2021). How to Throw Away the Societal Pressures Felt By Mothers for Good. Hello Postpartum [blogpost]. 
  3. Kennedy, E. (n.d.) Mom Shame and How To Eliminate Societal Pressures To Be The “Perfect Mom”. [podcast/blogpost]. Mom Shame and How to Eliminate Societal Pressures to be the “Perfect Mom” – My Little Eater 
  4. Refreadmitreat. (2021). The Social Pressures for Women. Refresh Recovery. 
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