High expectations for Portuguese mothers cause stress

An investigation into social media groups for moms highlights a pattern of excessive expectations for Portuguese mothers.

Catia Bruno
Cátia Bruno NewsMavens, Portugal
High expectations for Portuguese mothers cause stress - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Portugal is a country where most women work outside the home. It is also a country that is amongst the top 20 best nations in which to have children, according to most rankings. Still, things are not easy for working moms. Not only are they still the family member that does the most housework, they also encouraged to feel guilty if they don't live up to a certain standards as parents.

That is one of the main conclusions from Filipa César's investigation, "To Suffer in Paradise", part of her PhD thesis which was published in Frontiers in Psychology. In her research, Filipa analyzed both the "positive and negative feelings" mothers "disclose on specific public and closed motherhood sites on Facebook".

The results were unexpected. In a country where there is fully paid maternity leave, good maternal healthcare and where most women can manage to become working moms, a lot of mothers feel lonely, anguished and sad about their maternal roles. 

The investigators believe that this is due to the fact that Portuguese society promotes a model of the mother as a self-sacrificing being, immediately awash with love for her baby and devoting her entire time and energy to her children.

The disparity between that image and reality leads to many cases of postpartum depression and a general discomfort with maternity. That is why is so important to discuss the "real maternity" experience and open up spaces for free conversation amongst mothers. Only in this way can a cultural shift happen, leading women to face less judgement, not only as women but also as mothers. 

Details from the story:

  • Portuguese society puts sole responsibility of taking care of the children  on the mother's shoulders and men are still quite uninvolved. 
  • The pressure some women feel about living up to the role of "perfect mum" -- can be, as César points, "quite cruel".
  • Breast-feeding is often a topic that brings up tremendous anguish. Mothers tend to feel very guilty if they cannot perform it "right" and sometimes develop deep frustration that can lead to postpartum depression.
  • Sharing concerns and sorrows between mothers and openly in public might be a good way of fighting this type of silent frustration.
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