I am the mother of a 16 week old infant girl. She is my first child and I looked forward to her birth from the day I first confirmed I was pregnant. But I can’t enjoy her. I’m exhausted! She’s not a difficult or demanding baby, but I just can’t find enough hours in my day to get everything done and tend to her needs also. My husband recognizes that I am stressed out and offers to help me, but I think I ought to be able to do it all without help. I guess I’m just wondering how other moms meet the needs of their baby, their husband, and themselves at the same time. Can you help me?
Dr. Stewart: There are plenty of research studies showing the effects of stress on our bodies. Stress has been linked to depression, weight gain, chronic fatigue, and a myriad of other health-related problems. Just being pregnant for nine months and delivering a baby is enough to stress out a woman. And it is not unusual for you to feel overwhelmed and ineffective. You are not alone. But it is important that you find ways of coping with the stressors in your life.
Dr. Lori: Stress also has a “trickle down” effect in families. Babies aren’tborn with stress management skills and growing up around a parent who is frazzled tends to result in frazzled kids. We don’t want our children stressed, but unless we as parents teach our children how to cope with stress, our children will be unprepared to tame the stresses of life.
Dr. Stewart: One of the first things I would encourage you to do is to sit downin a quiet place where you can afford the luxury of thinking without being disturbed. This may be where your husband’s offer comes into play. Ask him to stay with your daughter while you take some time for yourself. Then sit down and ask yourself these questions: (1) Am I realistic in my expectations of myself or do I have expectations of being Super-Mom? (2) Do I adequately take care of my physical, mental, and spiritual needs or do I rely upon catching opportunities here and there whenever I can? (3) Why is it difficult for me to ask for help—especially when it is freely offered? and (4) What healthy (and unhealthy) coping skills am I modeling for my child?
Dr. Lori: As Stewart suggests, we women sometimes need totake “turtle time,” a time when we figuratively pull into our shell, shut out the outside world and recharge our emotional batteries. It takes a lot of energy to do what we do day after day, week after week, and our emotional reserves get depleted. Taking time for yourself to exercise, rest, visit friends, or sit back with your feet up for a few minutes each day may seem selfish, but in the grand scheme of things, doing these things results in a recharged mom with more energy and vitality to give away.
Dr. Stewart: Speaking from a man’s point of view, I think many wivesthink we husbands might expect more from them than we actually do. Men tend to compartmentalize life into manageable units and approach tasks differently than women. But a truly loving and supportive husband realizes when children are in the family that more cooperative efforts have to be implemented to get things done. Sometimes we are slow to recognize that by being more giving, the result often is receiving more. By helping with the household duties or child care, our spouse has more energy and more zest for life, which they can then share with us.
Dr. Lori: It’s important that you realize that help is available to you and that itis not a sign of weakness or inability to utilize the resources that are available to you. Your husband has offered to help. Make a list of things he can do to help and sit down with him and go over it. Raising a child is a team effort and you are not approaching it that way. In a way, that robs your husband of being an integral part of the team and developing a good feeling about being actively involved in his marriage and in his child’s upbringing.
Dr. Stewart: And I would just reiterate the need for balance in your life. Theremust be time for you; there must be time for you and your husband; there must be time for you and your child; and, there must be time for you and your family. It’s all a balancing act, but you can do it. Just think of yourself as an important and critical part of your family that needs self-awareness of your own needs so that you will be aware of the needs of other members of your family.
Dr. Lori: Even the President of the United States finds time to exercisedaily and play on the weekends! If he can do that with all he has on his plate, you can also. He does it so that he can maintain adequate stamina to meet the demands of his job; you do it so you can maintain adequate stamina to meet the demands of your roles of Mom, wife, and person! You—and your family—deserve that. Good luck.
Lori Beasley, EdD is Asst. Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of FamilyLife Education at the University of Central Oklahoma. Stewart R. Beasley, PhD is a licensed psychologist who practices in Edmond and Oklahoma City and is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
Do you have a question about early childhood issues for the Beasleys? E-mail it to SRB@DRStewartBeasley.com.