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Family health

Putting Mom’s Mental Health First, the Other 364 Days of the Year

Vice President of Mental Health at GreenShield, Harriet Ekperigin, shares her insights to enable mothers to prioritize their mental health.

Putting Mom’s Mental Health First, the Other 364 Days of the Year

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Last Sunday, thousands of mothers woke up to fresh squeezed orange juice and farm-fresh scrambled eggs enjoyed in the comfort of their beds. They got fresh tulips, heartfelt greeting cards and, for some, even time alone to relax and recharge. It was Mother’s Day, after all.

Modern culture gives mom one official day to be pampered and celebrated. For the other 364, she puts everyone else’s needs above her own. A recent study conducted by GreenShield revealed that mothers spend 44% more time caring for others and doing household chores and spend 21% less on their mental health than their peers.

Mother's Day is not always a happy one

And for many, Mother’s Day isn’t the cliched picture of bliss. The day can be triggering for those struggling with infertility, dealing with the loss of a parent or child, or those with a complex relationship with their mothers or children.

Regardless of the circumstances, the mental health implications of such a milestone day open the opportunity for a more extensive discussion around nurturing mental health year-round.

mom putting laundry in the machine while holding a baby Getty

Imagine if mom had an extra 20 minutes…30 minutes, or even an hour a day to prioritize herself first. Imagine the ripple effect her positive mental health would have on her family, work, and society. But it’s not as easy as that.

The issue’s core is women struggling to prioritize themselves because of systemic barriers. They are usually the default childcare provider, with many forced to leave the workforce, and those who stay in, are often overworked because they feel the need to prove themselves.

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At the very least, they often carry the mental load: planning the birthday parties, writing - and buying - the grocery list, signing the school permission forms, extra-curricular activities, doctors appointments, etc. And those from marginalized or racialized communities are even more underserved by the current system, facing additional barriers.

Telling Mom just to put herself first isn’t the answer 

Telling women what they ‘should’ be doing can be counterproductive, as it pressures them to do more when they’re already overextended.

Instead, she needs support systems that give her time to access actionable, realistic, and easy implementation tools. We want to enable her to put herself first, one step at a time:

Start small:

Many women don’t have an extra hour in their day to fill with self-care and mental health. Try carving out 20 minutes and build from there, working up to a one-hour therapy session.

Know your worth: 

Women are conditioned to believe they must earn love and attention, often through serving others. Using affirmations and meditations to reframe internal dialogue can be a powerful tool in helping women understand they are worthy just as they are.

mom looking at a laptop with her son hanging off her back Getty

Find the joy:

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Women, particularly mothers, often lose a sense of what they genuinely enjoy. Between laundry and cooking and comforting and homework and gymnastics and more comforting, many talk openly about losing sight of themselves.

Even if they were to have an extra hour to themselves, they wouldn’t know where to start. Sit down and make a wish list of things once enjoyed. How long does each activity take? Can you commit to adding just one to your week?

About The Author:

With over 20 years of experience in the mental health sector, Harriet has played a transformative role in advancing access to mental health services in Canada, currently holding the title of Vice President of Mental Health at GreenShield.

As a mother of twin 12-year-olds, she understands the struggles of balancing and prioritizing herself. As the Senior Lead for Virtual Mental Health at the Ontario Telemedicine Network and Ontario Health, she led the growth of Ontario’s virtual mental health program from a pilot project to Canada’s first province-wide, fully-funded, internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy program - which supported over 120,000 Ontarians during the pandemic.

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Her expertise in mental health nursing and her passion for innovation has made her a respected leader.

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