I’ve worked outside my home and been a stay-at-home mother as well. When writing Motherhood Stress, I talked to mothers in both situations. I’ve learned each group experiences some stresses the other doesn’t.

But most motherhood stress is common to all mothers; it comes with the territory.

What mother can’t identify with one or more of the various stresses described by the following women? (Names have been changed, as have been most names throughout the book.)

Carol told me: “I felt like a giant rubber band with my five- year-old on one end and my new baby on the other. I’d gotten used to dropping everything and doing what I needed to do for Sarah. But now there was little Anna, a whole other person who was pulling me in an entirely different direction.”

“Letting go is so stressful,” said Andrea, the mother of two teenagers. “I want so badly for my children to make the right choices, because every choice they make now counts. And I have less and less influence over those choices.”

Melissa, the mother of two preschool boys, said, “I get up in the morning with the list of things I’m going to do. And by the end of the day, I haven’t done any of them. At first that was hard for me. As an accountant, I always want everything to be just so. I like having everything all in a row and balanced—debits equal credits. I wanted to have my child and not have my life change in any way. I learned really quickly, motherhood doesn’t work that way!”

And then there was the mother who left her job as a correspondent in the Paris bureau of Women’s Wear Dailyto care for her baby. In the March 1989 issue of American Health, she wrote, “Insecure in my new role, I was at odds with—and battered by—an ideal of the breezy, capable mother I assumed everyone else was. I could handle myself at important meetings, meet tough deadlines, argue fluently in French. Why couldn’t I keep Cheerios off the kitchen floor?”

“It always seemed so easy for my mother,” admitted Anna, mother of five- and one-year-old daughters. “Adult life in general and motherhood in particular have proven so much more difficult than I ever expected.”

Joanne summed up motherhood in this way: “Some days it seems as if everyone’s happiness depends on me. When you’re a mother it’s always give, give, give. And even though you want to do it, giving is stressful.”