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6 Reasons New Parenthood Can Feel More Challenging for Asian American Women by an Asian American Therapist in Los Angeles, California

Anyone who knows a new mom can understand the various stressors, challenges and joys of entering new parenthood. Navigating the new demands of a baby and toddler along with the many identity changes in the first few years of parenthood is no walk in the park for any new mama. When it comes to Asian American mothers however, unique factors can threaten a mother’s mental health and wellbeing even more.

1) You may feel like a failure even if you “have-it-all”

A mother types on a laptop while their daughter plays with cards nearby. Learn how an Asian American therapist in California can offer support for new mothers by searching for therapy for Asian women. Search for individual therapy in Los Angeles, CA today.

Asian American mothers who identify as 1st and 2nd generation immigrants have to navigate the cultural expectations of motherhood in both eastern and western cultures. In many Asian cultures, motherhood plays a central role for women where traditional gender roles and collective values are expected. Mothers can often be pressured by extended families and spouses to make career sacrifices for the new arrival in the family. Additionally, women are often assumed to be the primary caregiver for the child following birth. This can conflict with western expectations of independence and career pursuits where women are expected to work as well as fulfill motherly duties. As such, Asian American mothers can experience greater tensions navigating the balance of career and family life. Added to this complexity is that many Asian American mothers feel pressure to excel in their careers brought upon by family expectations and the model minority persona, while also fulfilling expectations to be a “devoted” mother. This tension can leave many moms feeling like they are not good enough no matter what they do, negatively impacting self-esteem and putting Asian American moms at greater risk of developing mood disorders following childbirth. 

2) You may need to work hard to stay connected to your language/culture

For Asian American mothers who do not speak English fluently, navigating the many organizations and systems that children grow up in such as daycares, preschools, and schools can be especially stressful. Conversely, those who speak English fluently but do not have good command of their languages of origin can struggle to pass on a second language to their children. For example, a Malaysian American 2nd-gen mom who grew up in white mainstream culture may not feel equipped and comfortable teaching her children Malay and other aspects of her heritage. 

Even where best intentions to pass down Asian languages exist, sometimes children are still unable to learn it to a level of fluency due to the lack of exposure and resources in their environment. In mixed race/culture families, this becomes especially tricky as Asian American mothers must put extra effort to teach sometimes multiple asian languages. For example in the case of a Taiwanese/Filipino family, how will multiple languages be passed down? This can contribute to a greater cultural gap between generations. 

Since language is a conduit of culture, erosion of language intergenerationally means that the next generation may have difficulty connecting with people (such as grandparents), philosophies, and values of previous generations. This may bring up issues of identity and legacy for moms. Some moms can experience feelings of grief, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, confusion, loss, and sadness as important aspects of their identity are lost from one generation to the next.

A concerned mother sits with a stressed expression while deep in thought. This could symbolize the stressors that new parents face that an Asian American therapist in California can address. Learn more about individual therapy in Los Angeles, CA and how it can offer support via therapy for Asian women in Los Angeles, CA and New York.

3) You may experience more family conflict intergenerationally

Asian American mothers must contend with cultural value differences between themselves, their parents and those of their own children. Compared with families of non-immigrant backgrounds, Asian American families in the 1st and 2nd generation often consist of many different subcultures between the generations. For example, parents in a family can hold strong religious values tied to a homeland culture but this may not be passed down to the children’s generation. When the adult children in this family grow up and have their own kids, they may face pressures to pass down religious values from their grandparents’ generation. This gap in cultural values is likely to cause stress, tensions and conflict between family members.

Another example can be Asian American mothers who are unfamiliar with the cultural landscape that their children grow up in, as is the case of many first-gen immigrant mothers who raise children in a land different from the one they grew up in. There may be expectations on their children to be of similar values and disappointment when their children reject or deny these values. Family conflict between generations is likely to occur under these circumstances and contribute to stressors when raising a child. 

4) You may feel alone, judged, and unsupported if you do have mental health issues

Due to the stigma associated with mental health issues, many Asian cultures can be dismissive when it comes to mental health challenges faced by people in the community and in their families. As a result, it can be especially isolating and shaming for mothers suffering from postpartum depression/anxiety to gain support from family members during an especially sensitive period in their life. This can exacerbate symptoms and further alienate new moms.

5) You may find it hard to get childcare help from your family

An Asian mother sits with a tired and stressed expression while her kids run and play behind her. This could represent challenges that new mothers can face. Learn how an Asian American therapist in California can offer support via therapy for asian women in Los Angeles, CA and other services.

When immigrants move from Asian countries to the US, they leave behind a collectivist society and enter into one that values individualism. Childcare is seen as a whole extended-family-problem in the east, but as an individual-family-problem in the west. For generations in Asian countries, large families supported the growth and development of young children and it was common for in-laws, grandparents, aunts, and uncles for example, to help lighten the childcare burden on mothers alone. In the US, childcare plans and decisions fall primarily on the individual family unit, and most commonly on the mother alone. This not only puts additional stress on the mom but also alienates her children from extended family support that may be helpful. For example, American born children who otherwise would have grown up with many aunts/uncles/cousins close by may only grow up with siblings in the nuclear family system in the US. Sometimes extended families may not live close, or other times, only the nuclear family chose to move abroad, leaving the rest of the extended relatives behind. As a result, Asian American families can feel a lot smaller in the US and more distant than in the country of origin.

As 1st-gen Asian immigrant parents, mothers often do not have access to the same level of care from their own parents and therefore must shoulder more of the burden of childcare. For 2nd-gen Asian American parents, family conflicts and differing cultural values may make paid childcare options more attractive. Whereas there may have been more pressure in Asia for grandparents to help out with childcare, sometimes young parents opt not to place the childcare burden on their parents because there is no cultural expectation in the US for built-in-childcare in the extended family. Depending on how immigration looked for the family, young parents may also not live close to many extended relatives, making getting support from their families even more difficult. 

The structural changes in the extended family network make it especially stressful for new moms who must navigate new motherhood without the support system they may have had pre-immigration. These stressors can trigger feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, grief, and anxiety in new moms.

6) You may feel overwhelmed by the bicultural choices of new motherhood

For Asian American moms, the journey of pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, as well as each of the baby milestones will involve more conscious choice and planning where it relates to Asian culture. This can feel like another added stressor for the mom. For example, if you’re Chinese American, will you choose to have a proper zuo yue zi (sit-month) experience postpartum? Will you eat the traditional meals offered to new moms in China? Are there businesses that support your Chinese postpartum needs near where you live? As a Korean American, will you plan a Doljabi for your baby? Or perhaps, you want to avoid traditional traditions in favor of other western practices that feel more comfortable? Sometimes, even moms who aspire to stay more connected to cultural traditions can feel lost as to how best to proceed if they have not experienced these traditions for themselves. For example, a biracial Indian American mom wanting to get more in touch with her Indian heritage. For these moms, the plethora of choices can feel overwhelming, exhausting and stressful.

Seek Individual Therapy at Yellow Chair Collective in Los Angeles or New York

If you are seeking therapy specifically tailored to your needs, consider reaching out to the culturally sensitive therapists at Yellow Chair Collective. We understand that different parts of our identities and histories can show up in different parts of our lives, and that it can make navigating relationships difficult. We also understand that there may be unique cultural and contextual factors that may influence your experiences.

At our Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, NY-based therapy practice, we have many skilled, trauma-informed therapists who can provide an empowering therapeutic experience. For your added convenience and simplicity, we offer online therapy for anyone in the state of California or New York. We know that guilt and shame are painful experiences, and that the path to finding meaning and figuring out how to be a good person can be challenging. We want to support you on your journey. Follow the steps below to begin.

Begin Working With a Postpartum Mom Art Therapy Support Group in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY

You don’t have to struggle alone as you navigate new motherhood. Our team of therapists is happy to offer support groups and therapy across California and New York. You can join a support group with YCC by following these simple steps:

  1. Fill out our registration form here 
  2. Be notified when signups are open for the next cohort
  3. Start navigating your postpartum journey alongside a community

Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective

There are many options for treatment using online therapy in California and New York, it just depends on what you’re needing. And while we certainly service Asian American folks, we also work with individuals from other cultures, too. So, whether you’re needing support in overcoming anxiety, burnout, trauma, or PTSD, we can help. Likewise, we serve teens and couples in need of support, too. So when you start online therapy with us, you can bring your whole self, including past struggles, cultural impacts, and more.