American mothers have it the worst, and it's not their fault—here's why

Working mom at home
Crience | Twenty20

It should come as no surprise to hear that American mothers are drowning in stress the most — at least when compared to other countries.

In her new book, "Making Motherhood Work," sociologist Caitlyn Collins explains why mothers in the U.S. have it the worst. The majority of them experience crushing guilt about not being good enough in their careers and not being available for their families around the clock.

But none of that is their fault, Collins argues, because they have more demands placed on them and fewer support systems to help them. In her research, Collins interviews 135 middle-class working mothers in the U.S., Germany, Sweden and Italy. "The United States is an outlier among Western Industrialized countries for its lack of support for working mothers," she writes in her book.

In Berlin, for example, mothers feel well-supported by the culture set in place. Policies there allow many to work part-time or telecommute after taking a full year of parental leave. "Germany has 83 million people, and they figured out. There are a lot of smart people here and [the U.S.] can figure it out," she said in an interview with Psychology Today.

Women's magazines and TV shows are filled with productivity tips — suggesting that women are overwhelmed because they don't know how to be efficient. But the truth is, women have too many demands placed on them.

How to let go of the added pressures

Until we see a cultural shift that reduces the responsibilities women are expected to juggle, working moms are likely to feel burdened by their busy schedules and nagging guilt. But that doesn't mean women should wait for the world to change before they feel better.

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Instead, working moms can choose to give up the internal pressures they experience about not being good enough. In my book, "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do," I identify how women can let go of counterproductive bad habits.

Here are three of the things that mentally strong women don't do that are especially applicable to working moms:

1. Insisting on perfection. From the pressure to host an Instagram-worthy birthday party for your child to the notion that you should never be late for work, insisting on perfection will leave you feeling disappointed. Remind yourself that mistakes are OK. And even if you could be a perfect parent, you wouldn't be doing your kids any favors. After all, they're going to encounter future bosses, partners and roommates who are going to fall short.

2. Toxic self-blame. Whether you're convinced the fish you ate during pregnancy must be the reason your child is hyperactive or you blame yourself for your child's less than stellar performance in math, toxic self-blame leads to burnout. It's important to accept appropriate responsibility for your behavior but don't take on extra blame. Practice a little self-compassion the next time you find yourself beating yourself up for something that isn't your fault.

3. Comparisons. You probably don't have to look very far to find moms who look like they're outpacing you for mother of the year. But just because other moms go to every soccer game or feed their kids organic meals every night doesn't mean you're less worthy. Focus on doing what's best for your family and refuse to draw comparisons between yourself and other moms who pretend they have it all together.

Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, a psychology instructor at Northeastern University and a psychotherapist. She is the author of the national bestseller "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do" and "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do." She was named the "self-help guru of the moment" by The Guardian. Follow her on Twitter @AmyMorinLCSW .

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