What is stressing out mums?

What is stressing us out?

This post is part of a series on how we can manage the stress of family life. You can find other posts in the series by clicking here.

In my most recent Planning With Kids’ Survey, I asked readers a number of questions about stress and family life. Stress had been a prominent theme with readers’ questions and emails, so I wanted to understand more about what was stressing readers so that I could tailor useful posts to help with this.

In today’s post, I am going to share the results of the survey with a few of my thoughts and then the following posts will look into stress in more detail, provide tips and strategies on how to minimise and cope with stress as best you can.


I do want to point out that not all stress is negative. Back in 2015, I wrote a post on the upside of stress. This type of stress is referred to as Eustress or positive stress and it can:

  • help you cope with potentially serious situations (fight or flight)
  • help you face challenges
  • help you stay motivated
  • complete tasks
  • achieve goals

Psychologist Dr. Kara Fasone says eustress is all about sufficiently challenging yourself without expending all your resources. This type of stress empowers you to grow in three areas:

  • Emotionally, eustress can result in positive feelings of contentment, inspiration, motivation, and flow.
  • Psychologically, eustress helps us build our self-efficacy, autonomy, and resilience.
  • Physically, eustress helps us build our body (e.g., through completing a challenging workout). {source}


But there is no doubt that stress can negatively impact our wellbeing and this is referred to as distress. When this type of distress is excessive or goes for prolonged periods of time, it could see us experience:

  • fatigue
  • burnout
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • feeling unable to cope
  • decreased stress tolerance

If we don’t find ways to manage our stress levels, then we are at risk of developing stress-related health conditions in addition to the mental health problems listed above like:

  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • heart attacks
  • stroke

What is stressing readers of Planning With Kids?

90% of the over 650 respondents said they were currently experiencing family life as moderately stressful or higher.

Kid stuff was the biggest cause of stress for readers (22%) and this includes things like getting the kids ready in the morning, after school activities, managing homework, managing tech use, kids fighting, kids behaviour and kids’ routines in general.

Work and family issues were the second biggest cause of stress to families (20%) and this covered issues like trying to do everything, the contentious issue of balance between work, home duties and kids, the feeling of constantly juggling too many responsibilities, a heavy mental load, struggling to keep up with everything, feeling overwhelmed and feeling like there is too much to do and not enough time. 

Here is a small sample of some comments that really stood out to me from the over 650 submitted in the survey:

What is the single biggest cause of stress in family life at the moment?
Demands placed on me by kids, family, work
Struggling to keep up with everything - home, kids commitments, part-time work.
Juggling money/work with kids activities and schedules
So many responsibilities and that parental life is a life change! Consequently not fully realising and accepting that how we used to work and live is no longer applicable to supporting a healthy relationship with family/children needs, professional goals, partner needs, domestic/home care and fitting in 'me' time and needs.
My mental load - paid work, parenting, running the house, marriage
Time pressure. Feeling overwhelmed and like everything happens at high speed.
Managing time (work full time, dad travels for work, trying to fit it all in)
Feeling like there’s not enough time to get everything done
Trying to please everyone ALL THE TIME
Being everything to everyone (mum, wife, teacher, mentor, cook, cleaner, building project manager, driver, activity planner, household organiser etc etc)
Managing everyone's expectations and ideas of what they want to do
Too many commitments, not enough time. Feeling disorganised. Feeling disconnected from husband.
Organising everyone and getting the kids to help out.
Balance & money and the flow onto marriage relationship
Fitting my 3 kids extracurricular all into our schedule
Juggling everything with three kids in two different schools and getting everything done at home and being everything to my husband and kids and having a new puppy
Having to carry the weight of all home organisation and managing starting school and kinder for the first time
Driving kids to school, activities and social events
Screens, mostly tv for kids and lack of sleep for kids and me
Getting no help. Routines not being adhered to & I have to nag & nag.

And I created this word cloud from the responses which provides a great visual on what is stressing out mums:

Reflecting on the answers to the question about the source of stress inf family life, I came away feeling that mums (98.8% of respondents described themselves as mums) are expecting so much of themselves. They are trying to give their kids the best of everything, fit in all these extra activities and experiences, while also trying to do well at work, keep the house totally organised, keep the life admin under control, keep fit, be a good friend and be a fantastic life partner.

If you were to read a job description that said you had key responsibility for all of that, you would run a mile! And even if you aren’t expecting yourself to do all of the roles listed above, you would still have a significant workload.

I can relate to so many of the comments left in the survey and over my 21 years of parenting have felt almost all of them to some degree. But I feel very differently now.

In 2015 I made significant changes to the way I parented and the way I lived my life in general. I had to make changes because I finished the end of 2014 by almost reaching burn out. (If you are interested in this you can read about it here.) Sometimes the rough years can be more valuable than the easier ones in terms of what they teach you. My experience gave me three key lessons:

  • Planning needs to be focused but flexible to keep the family organised and share the workload
  • Pruning needs to be constant and considered to keep life at an enjoyable pace
  • Presence makes life more meaningful and less stressful

I will share tips on all these areas in upcoming posts and have already written one planning post to help those who find school mornings a source of stress – Tips for smooth(er) school mornings.

How is family life for you at the moment?