Make The Stress Of Mothering Less Smothering

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Pressure is part of the fabric of modern life. Working together with your spouse can make that pressure a little less stressful.

Jeffery waltzed into the kitchen wearing his underwear on his head. Suzie knocked over her juice as she poured milk over her bowl of Frosted Flakes. And Dave, running late for work, sprinted through the room searching for some lost item.

Jennifer mopped up Suzie’s juice while she quietly ran over her agenda for the day in her head: kids to day camp, grocery shopping, kids from day camp, lunch, laundry…

“Have you seen my keys?” asked Dave.

“They’re on your dresser,” Jennifer replied. “Right next to the dry cleaning receipt. And don’t forget to pick-up the dry cleaning. Jacob’s wedding is tomorrow.”

Welcome to an average morning at the Schultz’s.

If you’re a mom, you probably understand Jennifer’s role. Sometimes you feel like a parent. Sometimes a playmate. Sometimes an air traffic controller. And sometimes, it’s overwhelming.

The Schultz’s are a normal family. Everyone seems to depend on Jennifer a lot, which is also very normal. But just because it’s normal doesn’t make her life any easier. I can almost feel the pressure building as each new thing is added to Jennifer’s “to do” list.

How can Jennifer reduce the stress in her life? She can start by realizing she doesn’t have to be Superwoman. It’s quiet common today for a mom with young kids to feel the pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations. She doesn’t have to do everything, and she doesn’t have to do it alone.

If Jennifer is feeling overwhelmed, she should know it’s O.K. to ask for help.

Jennifer might want to communicate her need for help to Dave. In a relationship, roles tend to form naturally. Identifying tasks is a good way to divvy up activities. Maybe Dave could help the kids with breakfast. Maybe he could just clean up breakfast spills.

Whatever happens, the key is that expectations are clearly stated. A lot of women have unspoken expectations and when those expectations aren’t met, the women get frustrated. It’s usually not even that her husband wouldn’t help, he just doesn’t know what’s expected of him.

Another big issue with a lot of women is that their husbands don’t see what needs to be done. As a wife, you may think: “I shouldn’t have to ask. Can’t he see the juice dripping off the table?” But often a guy really doesn’t see how he can help — you need to ask. And you need to be very specific. Many men aren’t aware of the same things women are. It’s not that they’re dumb, they’re just wired different. Try to communicate you needs clearly and you may be surprised at the response.

Also, if you have a husband that acts like another kid, you may need to try to set new patterns. For instance, if Dave constantly misplaces his keys, then maybe Jennifer needs to hang a hook by the door so Dave’s keys have a place.

Another important – perhaps the most important thing for Jennifer is to be sure to make time for herself. If she burns herself out, she won’t have anything left to give to the family. She needs to make time a least once a week to do whatever recharges her batteries. Whether that’s walking, working out, time out with the girls, or whatever.

A friend of mine loves to read but could never find time for it. When I suggested she make time by setting aside 30 minutes of reading time, she couldn’t stop talking about how great it felt.

How can Dave help Jennifer keep her life balanced? If he senses her Stress-O-Meter is peaking, there’s two things he can do: 1. He can ask where she needs help, 2. He can remind her to make time for herself.

Some men who want to be helpful just jump in and end up getting in the way. It’s a better idea for a man to ask what he can do. Chances are his assistance will be more on-target and more appreciated if he just gets direction.

And even better than reminding his wife to make time for herself, he can help her make time. He can offer to watch the kids while your she jumps on the treadmill or runs out shopping with a friend. Surely, she’ll return the favor.

Pressure is part of the fabric of modern life. Working together with your spouse can make that pressure a little less stressful.

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By Laura L. Bokar, Ed.D., L.C.P.C., L.M.F.T., A.C.S