How do mothers deal with everyday stress

Let go of stress! How mothers can recharge their batteries

On the one hand, numerous magazines, advertising photos and films suggest that life with children is great happiness and constant laughter; on the other hand, however, the work of mothers and fathers is hardly considered socially and in no way appreciated. Mothers are required to function perfectly at work, as partners and lovers, and as mothers. In addition, they are often “to blame for everything”. At the pediatrician, in conversation with the teacher in kindergarten and especially at school and possibly from the father of their children, mothers hear what is supposedly wrong with their children and what they change, what they pay attention to and what contribution they have to make .

This claim to want to do everything “right” and the experience that it just doesn't work is, in my opinion, a constant stress factor. It leads to uncertainty and additional stress, because life with children is by nature exhausting enough.
It begins with pregnancy, which in many cases did not occur as planned: Many mothers then find themselves in a phase of ambivalence in the first few weeks - especially when the father is neutral or negative about his fatherhood. If the mother has made a conscious decision in favor of her child, the physical changes and the literally “other circumstances” sometimes cause considerable stresses, including health problems.

While in many cultures the pregnant woman is the focus of attention and is treated with benevolence and care by those around her, with us this condition may be pleasant, but nothing that deserves recognition or special treatment. Women who have more than two children are often ridiculed, declared crazy or defamed as “rabbits”. Raising children is not “in” in Germany; Compared to other European countries, we are in a bad position when it comes to promoting families. Accordingly, the average family has “1.4 children”, and the trend is falling.

Because of these facts, parents, but above all mothers, are exposed to particular observation and criticism and find it difficult to take into account the different requirements of their surroundings: A good mother sacrifices herself - but at the same time should look chic and take care of herself. Children should not make any noise as much as possible, i.e. neither scream nor romp, but they should be given a variety of exercise options. Children should be encouraged, but should not cost anything as much as possible; they are supposed to be healthy, but have to grow up in unhealthy surroundings and with contaminated food. Fathers should take part in the upbringing, but are often indifferent, no longer available or even have a child-hostile attitude.

Anyone who, as a mother, deals with stress and overload should first check to what extent the everyday stresses and strains are intensified by the numerous “you have to ...” and “you should ...”. Stress starts inside me. Check out a situation that was very stressful:

  • What exactly happened
  • What thoughts and “films” did I have inside?
  • What could I have changed?


  1. Leonie wanted to put the shoes on by herself. But it didn't work. I helped her because we were running late. That made her angry.
  2. I thought of Moni's face, what she would have done if I had been late again. I thought of my mother, who said I wouldn't set Leonie enough boundaries. Peter agrees. It all made me white hot.
  3. I could have given the shoes to Leonie earlier. I could have said to myself: “I can be late”. I could have made it clear to myself that I am good enough as a mother and that I can get impatient as a person. I could have said to myself: I'm okay, even if others criticize me.

My first suggestion in dealing with stress is therefore:

1. Accept the situation

"Yes, what else should I do?" you might ask now. If you examine yourself, you will likely find that you are inclined to struggle internally: Why do I have such a headstrong child and not a calm one? Why am I not employed? Or: Why am I still working? Why does nobody support me? Etc., etc. At the moment the situation is as it is - and the fight against it makes it even more exhausting.

Accepting the situation does not mean resigning yourself to it. It is good to have visions, to discover wishes, to call for help and to get suggestions for improvement or to think up yourself. However, none of this helps in the stressful situation itself. Just say yes. Yes - I'm stressed and I can't change it right now. It is like it is.

2. Accept yourself

As a person and as a mother, you are always okay. We all make mistakes and often behave in ways we really didn't want. That is part of being human. Jesper Juul distinguishes between a feeling of guilt and a sense of guilt. Feelings of guilt are diffuse and do not get us any further. But a sense of guilt tells me that I did something wrong and I can apologize for that. After ten minutes, ten hours, ten days or ten years. By becoming aware of what I want to do differently in the future, I learn and grow with my tasks.

When you discover behavior that is bothering you, write it down on a card - in positive terms. Example: You are annoyed that you yelled at your son. Write on a card: I want to speak in a friendly voice. Or: I want to be clear by looking Tim in the eye, touching his arm and speaking short, clear sentences. Then find a symbol that expresses this new behavior: for example a flower, a certain picture, a cartoon or a smooth stone. Hang or place this symbol with your mnemonic in a place where you are often with your child, e.g. in the kitchen or in the bathroom.

3. Accept your child

Children can easily make us white-hot, but in the vast majority of cases they don't do this to annoy us, and often even to help us or to draw attention to something. In his view, the child is acting with the best of intentions. If this behavior strains our nerves, it is usually because we have different needs than the child. This is completely normal: when two people live together, different needs come into play.

If the one person is still very small and completely dependent on us, his needs come first. We know from infant research that children thrive better when their needs are met sensitively and promptly. They develop basic trust and intelligence when we provide them with reliable care and support. When they have learned that we do this unconditionally and reliably, they are more likely to accept us with our needs. A two-year-old child can stroke its mum because it notices how exhausted she is. The more we succeed in accepting our child as he is, the more likely it will accept us as it gets older and allow us to take breaks.

If there is something about your child's behavior that you find difficult to accept, talk to someone about it and hear their point of view. Any behavior can be seen as positive or negative; There is a gift in every problem: a child who dawdles may be very imaginative or thorough, a restless child is very lively and resourceful, a child who screams has assertiveness, and a child who wants to know everything is sure to become particularly intelligent. When it comes to living together, the following applies: the more we accept our child with its unique characteristics, the more harmonious our life will be.

4. Give yourself a break

Every baby sleeps at some point - and especially when you are stressed, you should use this break for yourself. Lie down or do some quiet activity that you like: for example, you can read, take a bath, do a craft or artistic activity such as knitting, painting, dancing, writing ... Don't turn on the television because that doesn't really relax. Everything you do with love and your hands brings you back to your center.

Many women are tempted to use the sleep break for household chores. Of course that is your decision. Check what is really important to you and decide according to your heart. If your child gets older and no longer sleeps during the day, or if you have two children, introduce a "quiet hour". At first this may only take 15 minutes, but that's better than nothing. Explain to your children that you need a break and that you don't want to be disturbed. Stick to it consistently, and little by little your children will accept this - especially if you then consciously approach them again and offer them a game or something else nice.

Don't let anyone put you under pressure! A relaxed mom is the best that you can offer your family. When tiredness overcomes you in the evening, just go to bed! A committed father wrote under the heading “What childless do not know”: “They do not know what it is like to go to bed at 7.45 p.m. on a Saturday” (Schlenz 2003b, p. 85). The sentence "I can take a break!" should have a permanent place in your head. You can apply for a mother-and-child regimen or just take an hour off by engaging your child's father or their grandparents. Find friends who are willing to do something with your kids every now and then! I think it's a very good idea to organize a child-free weekend every now and then with a couple of parents who are friends. Around kindergarten age, children can sleep elsewhere - preferably with their best friends. And if the parents are also your friends, you can take turns: sometimes all the children to us and sometimes to you.

5. Create a crisis spot

There are situations and phases that you can only survive - for example, when vomiting has broken out, a child has just discovered his will or tries high-pitched screams. Therefore, create a place in your apartment where you can pause for a moment and relax. Take your time for it. An armchair or sofa would be nice. Make sure that your gaze falls on something beautiful: a picture, a tree in front of the window, fresh flowers or a small table on which to put your favorite things (not the latter, however, if your child is in the "clearing phase") .

When you get stuck, there is still one thing you can do: breathe deeply. Exhaling deeply lowers blood pressure and provides relaxation. Take three deep breaths, and if you feel like it and your intolerant lodgers are not at home: stamp your foot or punch in the air! Look at something beautiful and do nothing more than perceive your feelings and breathe.

If your apartment is too cramped or you can't find any other space: consciously design a corner in the bathroom to turn it into a crisis area and lock yourself in there when nothing works.

6. Do sports or take a relaxation class

As we can see in children, people have different energy levels. Especially energetic mothers who have a lot of power but also get angry quickly need a physical balance: jogging, cycling, swimming, digging and all sporting activities help to reduce stress and to harmonize the body. Choose what you enjoy! In this way, you will also get to meet people again. And for the quieter types, there are yoga, tai chi or other relaxation courses that help to calm down and to focus on the essentials.

You can also do many sporting activities together with your children, e.g. cycling (with a child seat) or swimming. Sport not only helps to relax and to harmonize physically. It also boosts your children's intelligence and helps them stay healthy.

7. Set up a humor shelf

Humor defuses any situation. Unfortunately, we mostly forget that in times of stress. That's why I recommend a humor shelf where you can find weird items, if necessary, like magical wobbly eggs, cardboard noses, rolling eyes, kneadable rubber heads, funny hats, books and cartoons. If your children are older, funny videos can also be included. The books by Kester Schlenz (2003a, b) are an absolute must for me. But there are also a lot of funny novels that were written by mothers and that are very stimulating to look at the whole thing from the funny side. Inquire at your bookseller or in the city library!

Have you ever tried giving your children a “sermon” with a hat or without words, but scolded them with pantomime? (Both are, however, only suitable for children from four, smaller ones get scared).

And if your children are still very young: imagine the situation with your favorite comedian or exaggerate the whole thing inwardly until you have to laugh.

8. Keep a journal

Paper is patient and helps us to write down anger, worry, thoughts and feelings from the soul. Don't think too long, just write down what is bothering you. Writing is wholesome, and because it's only for you, you don't have to worry about style or mistakes. It's just about getting rid of something! Only much later will you be able to smile at your texts, but also be happy that the time is behind you and proud of what you have achieved. You will be impressed when you write down exactly what you did on a given day.

Perhaps you would also like to create a special book for the beautiful and happier moments. This includes observations about the development and success of your children, word inventions and sayings and maybe also special photos.

9. Anyone can sing

Music has a positive influence on the human brain, changes our emotions and can relax or cheer us up. Singing regularly at home reduces stress and at the same time promotes the overall development of your child. Nursery rhymes, lullabies, but also your favorite songs can be sung a bit “off the wall”. Your child doesn't mind!

Anyone who plays an instrument themselves knows how relaxing it is. Quiet classical music changes the mood on hectic days. But you can also “dance off” your anger by moving to your music. Babies and toddlers, however, need to be protected from loud music. Calm, gentle sounds promote sleep and wellbeing.

10. Find helpers and accept help

An African proverb says: "It takes a whole village to raise a child." That is absolutely correct. Even if you do not belong to the church, you can look for “sponsors” for your child and ask them for specific help. Remember that other people benefit from making them feel needed. Talk to the mothers you met during postnatal exercise or in the hospital. Post an ad if you are looking for other mothers or surrogate grandparents. Make a list of people you know and like and put them near the phone. Don't be afraid to ask for help - you deserve it!

11. Don't forget to be grateful

The power of gratitude is a source of relaxation and happiness. It is natural for us to concentrate fully on our problems during times of stress. But it is not salutary. If you take the mental effort to list what is all right with you and what you can be thankful for, you will likely be surprised. Don't forget to take small things into account, such as the toaster working. Wouldn't you be terribly annoyed if it weren't for that?

A small injury to the finger makes it clear to us how grateful we must be for good hands, and the disaster of a defective washing machine shows us the value of our usual household items. Only when our children become ill are we grateful for their health, and only when they leave the house do we realize what a wonderful, lively time we had together. "Gratitude is the vigilance of the soul against the forces of destruction," it says in a saying.It is worth checking what is given to us every day.

12. Smile at yourself

Stop several times a day and watch what is happening. How are you? What do you think? What feelings do you notice? Exhale until there is no more air and imagine something beautiful or look at something cute when it is there, such as your sleeping child. Smile and then give this smile to yourself. Say yes to yourself, to all mistakes and weaknesses. You are human and you are fine - just the way you are. You don't have to be perfect! Let that smile spread all over your body. Bring a smile to every part of your body, especially your heart and hands. Maybe you can send that smile beyond your body into the room, into your apartment and maybe even beyond. Smile at yourself - you deserve it!


  • Gisela Preuschoff (2002): Recharge your batteries, energy sources for stressed mothers, Munich, Beust
  • Kester Schlenz, Mensch (2003): Papa! Becoming a father - the last adventure. A man tells, Munich, mosaic
  • Kester Schlenz, Stay loose (2003): Papa! Be a father - the adventure continues. A man tells, Munich, mosaic


Gisela Preuschoff
Kieler Str. 61
24340 Eckernförde


Created on November 28, 2003, last changed on February 18, 2010