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Pandemic Report: American Parents Stressed, Depressed, Drinking, Gaining Weight

Parents are being asked to carry an impossible load amid the pandemic — and the toll on their mental and physical health is clear.

The pandemic has been rough on everybody but it’s been especially hard on parents, as moms and dads across the country have to somehow try to balance working full-time while raising their kids without school while taking care of their own mental health, while also taking care of the mental health of their kids.

If that sounds like a bonkers level of juggling of responsibilities, it’s because it is. It’s a nearly impossible load for anyone to try and carry, and a new report from the American Psychological Association shows just how great of a physical and mental toll the pandemic is taking on parents with children under the age of 18 at home.

The survey, which included over 3,000 participants, found that 75 percent of parents would have liked more emotional support than they ended up receiving in 2020 and that parents have been diagnosed with mental health disorders during the pandemic more than non-parents.

How have parents been coping with the constant stress of raising kids in the midst of a global pandemic? By not sleeping enough (or sleeping too much), and eating and drinking too much. About 87 percent of dads and 77 percent of moms aren’t sleeping as much as they would like in either direction.

And we’re eating and drinking, a lot. Eighty percent of dads and 66 percent of moms said they have experienced unwanted changes in their weight since the pandemic began, with dads gaining an average of 45 pounds and moms gaining 27 pounds on average.

Nearly half of dads and 30 percent of moms say they’ve increased their drinking during the pandemic, which makes sense because everything is terrible and we’re all ridiculously stressed.

Parents whose kids are still doing remote learning are suffering the most: nearly half of moms and 30 percent of dads whose kids are still learning at home said their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic. (Some have suggested that moms, who have lost jobs at a much higher rate than men in what is being referred to as a “shecession,” have worse mental health because they take on more caregiving responsibilities than their husbands and are more likely to be unemployed at this point.)

So what is the solution for parents who are struggling to stay afloat? The APA suggests parents take 15-30 minute breaks throughout the day, which could include taking a short walk, calling a friend, or watching an episode of TV.

Of course, that sounds nice and genuinely helpful, but it’s a bit like a bandaid. Parents really need structural help — like kids returning to in-person schooling as soon as it’s safe, and access to therapy.

The APA basically acknowledges that by saying that without proper support and access to mental health resources, parents are unlikely to escape the weight of the stress they have been experiencing for over a year.