I recently read Julie M. Smith’s article on “The Anthropology of Providing and Nurturing.” She challenges the notion of a “traditional family” consisting of a father who works and a mother who stays home to nurture the children. As an anthropologist, she examines the roles historically taken by each parent.

What’s more, she discusses the risk to maternal mental health in continuing this model. She writes:

“It’s unusual cross-culturally and historically for mothers to go it alone in the isolation of a single-family household while dad goes off to work. It’s very difficult to figure out how to be a mother for the first time, without someone more experienced there to coach you along the way and give you lots of breaks. The isolation and the overwhelm contribute to maternal depression rates. “

The whole article is definitely worth a read. Find it here.

My two cents? If a mother is breastfeeding, then it is recommended she be home, primarily care taking, at least for the initial months. The cost of living is high in the United States, and Paid Family Leave is little to none (don’t get me started on that one!), so often the spouse/partner is working soon after a baby is born. The postpartum stage is challenging on so many levels. So how could isolation away from her primary support person NOT make things worse?

What are remedies for maternal isolation and depression?



  • New mom and breastfeeding support groups
  • Playdates
  • Finding a “mama tribe”
  • Therapy
  • Exercise groups/classes that involve/include babies
  • Online support

What suggestions do you have for decreasing isolation for new moms? Please leave them in the comments.





Image credit: Urbanist