The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood:
Coping with Stress, Depression, and Burnout
A. Kendall-Tackett, PhD
New Harbinger Publications, 2001
Available from LLLI, No. 1211-7, $14.95
reviewed by Jeanne Faulconer
Stanardsville VA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 6, December 2002 - January 2003, p. 135.
I came across The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood: Coping With Stress, Depression, and Burnout by Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett while browsing in a library. I began flipping through it while standing in the stacks. Before I knew it, I had sunk to the floor and was reading avidly, thinking, "La Leche League Leaders need to know about this book." The book’s openness to LLL’s ideas about mothering immediately sets it apart from most mainstream books on the challenges of motherhood. I noted right away that the well-known authors quoted in the book included LLL-friendly writers such as Phyllis Klaus, Marshall Klaus, William Sears, Sheila Kitzinger, and Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It was no surprise to learn that the book’s author is a Leader, a frequent author for articles published in NEW BEGINNINGS and LEAVEN, and spoke at the 2001 LLL International Conference. The book is a natural for inclusion in LLL Group Libraries.
Hidden Feelings provides information and support for mothers who are having a hard time coping with various challenges of motherhood. The book is not a definitive work on postpartum depression and is not meant to be. Instead, it explores a range of difficulties mothers experience, including burnout, exhaustion, stress, dealing with a challenging or ill child, employment situations, the loss of a pregnancy or child, the demands of managing a home, the repercussions of having been abused, and depression. This makes the book ideal for a woman who is wondering, "Why do I feel so overwhelmed?" since the answer to the question is often "because of a combination of things." As she finds the sections of the book that ring true for her, a mother will discover that she is not alone in her difficult situation and she will be able to use the excellent resource list and notes at the end of each chapter to find further help specific to her challenge.
Most refreshing is the book’s projection of mothering through breastfeeding and attachment parenting as the norm. For instance, Kendall-Tackett offers the suggestion that chronically tired mothers may find co-sleeping to be a restful option and provides resources, including The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin and Nighttime Parenting by William Sears, to which parents may refer for more information. She offers special considerations that breastfeeding mothers should take into account if they are taking medication for depression, and refers mothers to Medications and Mothers’ Milk by Thomas Hale. In a respectful, balanced chapter that addresses reasons some women work outside the home, Kendall-Tackett offers sequencing and alternative work arrangements as ways some mothers might choose to have more time at home, while also providing a list of publications and organizations that can help "women at home feel confident in their choice."
The one drawback of the book is that it is not indexed, and as is common these days, the specific citations in the back are in one alphabetized list. Since the references are not tied to page numbers or even separated by chapter, a reader cannot make up for the absence of an index by using the citations to find particular passages. Otherwise, it’s clear that the book is well researched and thoroughly supported by parenthetical documentation throughout the text. Additionally, the organized structure of the book and the lists "For Further Reading" help to minimize the impact of this inconvenience.
Hidden Feelings helpfully blends academic material with mothers’ stories. Some readers may find the chapter on the history of women’s domestic work to be a distracting tangent; others will be fascinated with the perspective it provides. All readers will appreciate the practical suggestions for solving problems ("Lightening Your Load at Home," and "Work Arrangements That Work for You") combined with a frankness about the demands of motherhood.
Mothers who are facing serious depression will not find all they need here because that would be beyond the scope of this book. Kendall-Tackett makes it clear that depression should be taken seriously. She gives an overview of causes and treatments and specifically refers mothers with severe depression to their doctors. Leaders may find this book to be a resourceful first recommendation for mothers who may be dealing with depression because it contains additional resources for readers and explores contributing factors to depression. In addition, Leaders will find the book to be helpful to mothers who are having a hard time coping with their lives.
As it helped me, reading this book will help other mothers realize that many women experience these "hidden feelings." The ideas contained within reflect LLL’s long history of respecting mothers as the experts on their own situations, offering empowerment to women who are looking for ways to make things better.
Jeanne Faulconer was accredited in North Carolina, USA in 1992 and led with LLL of Mooresville, North Carolina for eight years. Jeanne, her husband, Rick, and their three sons have returned to their home state of Virginia, USA, where she homeschools the boys in rural Greene County. After serving as a District Advisor, Area Conference Supervisor, and Area Coordinator of Leaders in North Carolina, Jeanne has recently joined LLLI’s Book Evaluation Committee. Book Review Editor Jake Aryeh Marcus has been a Leader in Pennsylvania, USA since 1997. She is a lawyer and freelance writer and editor. She lives with her husband and three sons.