By Eileen L. Berman, Ed.D.
As long as you are a working woman in a domestic relationship – with or without children – the chances of your being stressed and feeling overwhelmed are high. The last blog on this subject led to quite a few comments with the theme that life is difficult for working moms no matter what you do. Many said that although their husbands “help” them, they are still left with the majority of the work. One, in particular, stated that “…marriage today is impacted by strained finances, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and exercise.” That’s’ a sad commentary which leads me to today’s blog in an effort to address some of these issues.
Just recently I talked with a young woman who, because of financial reasons, decided to leave her child home with her husband and return to her full-time job. However, this decision and ensuing experience filled her with guilt over leaving her toddler. She also questioned her husband’s ability to take care of him properly. Thus, she was extremely anxious about the whole situation as she felt she should be home fulfilling her motherly and wifely duties.
These feelings are being brought on by the woman herself which have been triggered by her situation. She is so guilt-ridden at leaving her child that she is building up an arsenal of stress.
How does this mother see her role? She felt she “should” be with her child, and that the domestic side of her life was her responsibility. According to her, mothers are supposed to do certain things, and if they do not, they are somehow deficient. This was her idea of a woman’s role, which she learned by watching her own mother as she was growing up. How then could her husband begin to fill in for her and help her if she diminishes his role and amplifies hers?
Many couples see certain domains as being gender specific, which, in fact, they are not. Who does the laundry … the shopping … the cleaning … the cooking? Who picks up the kids after school? Are these chores gender specific?
What about their finances? Do they have a budget? How much debt do they carry? How can they pare down their costs so as not put a heavy financial burden on the family? Every couple needs to have an honest discussion as to what is expected of each one vis. a vis. the house, the children, the finances.
The important thing to take away from this article is the need to have an open dialogue with your partner … and, particularly … with yourself. What can you do to make your life easier and more manageable? If there are children, they need to share in the running of the house. With or without children, however, the husband has to be an equal partner in the household. To have this happen, the wife has to learn to let go and not see herself as the only one who is capable of being in charge. It’s a generational shift from her own mother’s role as to what is necessary today in a two-income family. While it is not an easy shift to make, it is a necessary one if you want to have the time to smell the roses!
Be aware, that there is no one size fits all! Each of us has to take inventory of our own behaviors and then carve out a lifestyle that serves our purposes. Only then will we lower our stress level and make our lives more fulfilling.
Dr. Berman is a psychologist/consultant in Rhode Island and a regular contributor to “Personnel Perspectives.”