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Do Moms Need A Time Out From Parenting? Why It May Be Our Own Fault

By Danielle Sullivan |

mothers guilt, mom stress, mom work, childcare duties, parenting stress, marriage stress

Do we bring on stress ourselves?

Moms are overwhelmed, period. That doesn’t come as a surprise to most of today’s mothers.

Reuters reports that a study by ForbesWoman and the pregnancy website TheBump.com found that 92 percent of working moms and 89 percent of stay-at-home mothers felt overwhelmed by work, home and parenting responsibilities. Nearly 30 percent of working mothers said they do the bulk of the household chores and 31 percent said they are responsible for all of the parenting.

And some say our resulting stress might just be our own fault.

Furthermore, seventy percent of working moms and 68 percent of stay-at-home mothers said “they feel resentful toward their partner” because of all they have to do:

“It’s not just that women can’t ask for help; they don’t want to,” said Meghan Casserly, a reporter for ForbesWoman. “She feels it’s damaging her sense of motherhood to ask for help. And it’s causing resentment.”

“Moms have an innate aspiration to do it all and a secret desire to be superwoman,” says Carley Roney, editor in chief of TheBump.com, which she feels may start in childhood. “There is an underlying self-doubt and guilt in saying ‘I don’t want to do this. It’s literally ingrained in most of us to want to be Super Moms,” she says.

And it’s this longing to be the perfect, patient mom who should not only be able to handle it all, but do so with a smile on her face, that makes us self sabotage:

That guilt then, and the reluctance to relinquish any task of motherhood, might just be Public Enemy No.1. “It’s a martyr syndrome,” Roney contends. “You want to do everything, but you want to be recognized for it. You want to be offered the help, not to ask for it; and that’s where the resentment kicks in.” Seventy percent of working moms admitted resentment towards their partners for not being as helpful as they’d like with parenting duties.

Roney may have been in my house before she uttered these words. I honestly don’t know why I naturally assumed that every part of child rearing fell on me but ever since my kids were born, when they needed something, I was the one who ran to get it. If I was at work, my husband happily took over, but when I was home, it was as if everything fell on my shoulders. The problem is that even when my husband offered to help, I’d still feel an intense need to do it. So eventually he began to stop asking. But he should just do it, without my asking, I would think. And I began to feel resentful.

In my state of anger, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t respond to the baby’s obvious need to reach her sippy cup or have a diaper change when I so obviously did. But that was when I was angry. Soon enough, he would say or do something minor (that irritated me) and I would let out the laundry list of reasons why I felt resentful. It was a lose-lose situation. When cooler heads prevailed, I was able to tell him how the events leading up to my melt-down bothered and exhausted me, and he was able to tell me he really didn’t notice all those minute details that I did, but if I asked him to help, he would have.

So why was it so hard for me to simply ask?

“There’s ego in motherhood,” Roney concludes. “And an ego in being a wife. It’s the nature of being a mother—that you’ll just do it. That you’ll take it ‘like a mom.’” Communicating the need for help is a troubling but necessary first step, she says, to relieving stress, avoiding resentment and—ultimately—getting the time out every mother deserves. “At some point, you’ve got to say: I can do a lot of it, but I don’t want to do it all.”

Not until I learned that I didn’t have to do it all, did I find any peace. During one recent discussion about the sheer volume of dishes that have to cleaned in a household of five, my husband told me that if I didn’t have to do every dish as soon as it was dirty and if I left them there, since he works the evening shift, he’d do them later when he got home from work. But my compulsion was to have the kitchen cleaned before I went to bed. That was how I was raised and if I was dead tired, I still had to get it done. That’s what my mother did and still does. It had nothing to do with him or his willingness to help, but rather reflected my childhood beliefs of seeing my own mother do everything alone.

Surely, not every woman has this reluctance to ask for help, but so many of us do. Many of us were raised being the “good girl”, and don’t want to put someone out, even our own husbands at times. It’s not difficult to understand why we ended up this way either. I have heard countless times from women of our mothers’ generation who place the parenting and household responsibilities on the woman because it was all placed on them years before.

Throughout our marriage, the more I talked about it this self-imposed martyr sentence with my husband, the freer I felt. Last week after a particularly grueling workday, I left an entire sink filled with dishes and went to bed, and when I woke up, the kitchen was spotless. So I fully understand what Roney is saying.

Sometimes it’s our own fault when we are stressed. Sometimes we have to ask for help. Sometimes our husbands don’t see everything that needs to get done…but would certainly pitch in, if we simply asked.

Image: MorgueFile


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About Danielle Sullivan

danielle-sullivan

Danielle Sullivan

Danielle Sullivan writes for Babble Pets. She is also an award-winning parenting writer, who authors a monthly column for NY Parenting and ASPCA Parents blog. You can read more of her work at her blog,Some Puppy To Love. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Do Moms Need A Time Out From Parenting? Why It May Be Our Own Fault

  1. Gretchen Powers says:

    Hell…I always ask for help. I yell for help if I need to. My husband’s alright. He wants to do good he’s just not as aware of things as me, so he needs to be told. I don’t have the mother/housekeeper ego thing…at all.

  2. Rosstwinmom says:

    My husband had a request before we got married. He asked if I would please tell him what I want/need and not make him read my mind. It made sense and, though I have to remind myself of this when I start going all melodramatic, it keeps us calm. He does do things without being told, but the everyday stuff we talk about to keep resentment low.

  3. mrg says:

    I think it’s more my son’s fault than my husband’s that I have to do everything. If I am home, it’s as if his father doesn’t exist.

  4. Rosana says:

    I had trouble, not asking for help, at the beginning but with the way my husband did things for my kids. I still hate how he does my son’s hair in the morning but I feel that it is fair to let him do things his way. He tends to volunteer more if I don’t criticize. He does housework without being asked and even if he did not, I would expect him to. We both work full-time outside the home and I know we would be miserable if parenting and housework only fell on one person’s lap. We are better parents if we have less stress and being a better parent everyday is our goal.

  5. Sadie says:

    I don’t understand why we are still talking about men “helping” with household duties and children. The house and children belong to both partners and work done by either should certainly not be considered helping but fulfillment of basic responsibilities. Both outside employed and SAHMs do a disproportionate amount of this work and I don’t think that will change until we stop considering any work men do as helping. It is time for men to step up and change this and women to let go of the idea of home and family as their personal domain. A marriage is a partnership.

  6. Rebecca says:

    I think this made a lot of sense. Quite often, even when my husband offers to help, I get huffy with him and say that I’ll do it. Sometimes he does things in a way I wouldn’t and it stresses me out. I need to keep my eye on the prize though, no matter how it’s done, it gets DONE! We moms need to cut ourselves some slack! It’s A LOT easier said than done though!

  7. joanie says:

    My problem is I want to do more of the cleaning and cooking — I find it relaxing to tidy quietly after a hard day at work. But the children want to climb and play on me. So my husband and I both get jealous of each other. He wants to have the kids jumping on him (and can’t convince them to do so) and I want to have some quiet time (and can’t get them off of me.) There are worse problems to have, so we try to stay chill.

  8. Lynn says:

    count yourself very lucky that you left the dishes, went to bed and the kitchen was cleaned in the morning…count yourself lucky that your husband wanted the kids to play with him. My husband would get home from work and hide in his room till after the kids were in bed. Never helping with any housework, yardwork, etc etc…Am I the only woman whose husband belived his “work” was over for the day when he left the office??

  9. Sarah says:

    I ask plenty, but still don’t get the help. Maybe, just maybe I get help once in a while, but it’s a one-time thing when I’ve really gotten upset. Same ol’, same ol’ the next day. I agree with Sadie. Its time we stop considering their role as “help.”

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