Pregnancy is a process. And not a simple one. Over the course of nine months,…
Perinatal mental health—referring to mental health during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth—is critical, but struggles are unfortunately common during this period.1
For high performing women who may be juggling demanding careers or high-stakes professional roles alongside motherhood, there can be even more challenges than usual. And it’s an area of wellness that impacts not just mom, but the entire family.
Social support is one of the most protective factors available when it comes to sidestepping mental health challenges in the first year after childbirth.2 This includes the love and attention of friends and family, of course, along with other forms of assistance—support considered emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal.
So whether you’re a high performing mom on this journey yourself, someone who loves a high performing mom, or a healthcare professional in the field, understanding the intersection between social support and perinatal mental health is vital.
The Importance of Social Support in Maternal Mental Health for High Performing Women
Parenthood is tough, no matter who you are. But being a high performing woman often means juggling multiple responsibilities and increased professional expectations, both from ourselves and those around us.
Add motherhood into the mix, and the pressure can be overwhelming.
High performing moms may face time pressures, job stress, and those pesky societal expectations to “have it all.” Social support can be a crucial factor in managing these stresses and maintaining good mental health.
When we talk about social support, we’re talking about four primary types:
This type of support involves empathy, love, trust, and care from those around us—family, friends, and loved ones. It can help alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation, something that’s particularly important when facing the challenges of motherhood alongside a high-pressure career with lots of expectations.
Information sharing provides a practical means of support. This could be advice about childcare from experienced parents, or insights into flexible working options from a colleague. The idea is that high performing moms feel like there are options and ways to navigate this new (and challenging!) phase of life.
This form of support includes tangible aid or service from others, such as a partner taking on additional childcare duties, a workplace offering facilities for nursing mothers, or friends organizing a meal train to make sure dinner’s taken care of.
Appraisal support involves affirmation, feedback, or social comparison, helpful for enhancing self-esteem and promoting a positive sense of self. We all want to feel like we’re “keeping up,” and we don’t want our efforts to go unnoticed—or, worse, to be in vain. When we hear that we’re doing a good job, for example, it affirms that we’re on the right path, even when it feels difficult.
Research shows the positive impact of these types of social support on maternal mental health.3 A strong support network can help mothers manage stress, avoid burnout, and maintain a healthy sense of self, particularly for high performing women.
How High Performing Women Can Build a Strong Social Support Network To Improve Perinatal Mental Health
Balancing motherhood and a high-pressure career can feel like a delicate balancing act. For high performing women, a strong social support network is like a safety net underneath a tightrope, providing a sense of security and resilience.
Here are some strategies to build a social support network as a high performing mom.
Communicate Your Needs
High performing women are often used to managing everything independently, but it’s essential to communicate your needs to those around you. Whether it’s asking for help with childcare or sharing emotional burdens, open communication can go a long way in bolstering your support network.
It’s not always easy to identify our own needs when things are overwhelming. It’s okay to say that—don’t hesitate to be open and honest with your loved ones and ask them to tell you what kind of help they feel comfortable offering, instead. Chances are, you’ll both be able to settle on exactly the right choice!
Connect with Your Peers
Finding other high performing parents can serve as validation of the unique challenges you face. This could be through local parent groups, online forums, or even within your professional network. The sharing of experiences and advice can leave you with valuable informational and emotional support.
Ask for Workplace Support
Employers can play a crucial role in supporting maternal mental health. Don’t hesitate to advocate for policies such as flexible or remote working hours, regular breaks, or on-site childcare.
You know your workplace best, and how you approach these things will depend on the particular company culture. But the research is clear: a supportive work environment can contribute significantly to maternal mental well-being.4
Seek Professional Guidance
Professional support can be instrumental in managing the maternal mental health of high performing women. Physicians and other practitioners like clinical psychologists who specialize in high performing women and maternal mental health can provide valuable tools and strategies to help manage stress and anxiety.
Don’t Shy Away from Self-Care
In the whirlwind of managing professional responsibilities and parenting, it’s easy to overlook self-care. And high performing people often struggle to relax, instead prioritizing a sense of productivity. But taking care of yourself isn’t selfish—it’s necessary. Allocating time for relaxation, hobbies, or even a short nap can rejuvenate your mental energy.
Building a robust social support network isn’t a luxury for high performing women—it’s crucial for their success! By integrating these strategies into your life, you can ensure a healthier, more balanced journey through motherhood and beyond.
How and When to Seek Help
No matter how strong or self-reliant we are, there may come a time when we need to seek help for our mental health. Recognizing when this is necessary and understanding where to turn for support is critical for high performing women.
So how do you know when it’s time?
First, recognize the signs. Pay attention to feelings of constant exhaustion, persistent sadness, or reduced interest in activities you once enjoyed. Motherhood can certainly be tiring—but if you find it increasingly difficult to manage daily tasks, or if feelings of stress and anxiety become overwhelming, it might be time to seek professional support.
Then, reach out to the people who can help. Start with healthcare providers, like your primary care physician or OB-GYN. They can provide an initial assessment and refer you to further mental health specialists, if necessary.
Medical providers can also offer guidance on managing the symptoms you’re experiencing and discuss various treatment options.
Mental health professionals like clinical psychologists who specialize in maternal mental health or executive coaching—or, ideally, a combination—can also be an excellent resource for managing your day-to-day feelings and responsibilities. They can provide you with strategies for moving beyond the myth of work-life balance and truly embracing harmony.
You don’t have to navigate the landscape of being a high performing mom by yourself. There is help available—even online communities can provide value.5 Utilizing the resources available to you can ensure your personal success, both at work and at home.
Maternal Mental Health Doesn’t Have To Be a Solitary Journey
In a world where high performing women often find themselves striving to balance demanding careers with motherhood, acknowledging the critical role of social support in maternal mental health is a must.
Being aware of the importance of social support in maternal mental health can help high performing women take proactive steps towards building their own strong support networks—because the journey of motherhood and career success doesn’t have to be a solitary one.