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I was coming home from taking my kids to school the other morning when the radio DJ was talking about a survey he'd read. The subject was: What causes moms of the world the most stress—even more stress than their kids?
As soon as he asked the question, I knew the answer right away and honestly, I was glad my three teenagers weren't sitting in the car with me any longer because I blurted out "HUSBANDS!"
And I was right.
The DJ mentioned a Today survey from 2013, in which more than 7,000 mothers rated their stress level at an 8.5 out of 10. And almost half of them said most of their stress comes from their husbands, not their children.
It's no secret that the mental load of motherhood feels heavier than the mental load of fatherhood—we discuss it all the time. My friends and I have had many conversations about how our partners don't see as much, don't notice as much, and they certainly don't worry as much.
If our child leaves the house without socks or eats sugar-loaded cereal for breakfast, it's no skin off their nose. Meanwhile we worry about what their health will look like five years down the road, and what other people will think about our sock-less child.
We aren't saying dads don't care about their child's well-being, but the consensus is, they don't seem to think as deep into the future as mothers do. Not to mention what other people think is rarely on their radar.
Women tell their truth
By the calls that came into the radio station, you could tell this is a real issue for many women.
One woman said her husband was causing her so much stress, she completely stopped counting on him to give her any help with the housework or scooting the kids around because they were fighting so much. This led to more things not getting tended to of course, but she said she was a lot less frustrated, so that's certainly a way to look at it.
Another woman called in saying she felt like she did so much more around the house and her and her husband both worked full-time outside the home. "I'm stressed just by the thought of him sitting in the recliner relaxing after work while I'm the one making the grocery list, cleaning up after dinner, and folding the laundry. We both need a break, but he takes it too far and tells me to just let some things go and relax."
I feel her pain. The problem a lot of moms face is they can't always "relax" because they know how fast the daily chores can add up and we all have a fear of forgetting something if we aren't keeping up with life.
One woman called in telling the DJ she felt taken advantage of; her husband wanted her to "be there to give him attention and affection at the end of the day," but by that point, she'd had enough of meeting everyone’s needs.
"If he would just acknowledge me a bit more, or ask what he could do to help, that would go a long way. But he doesn't unless I mention it. And I'm resentful because of it," she said.
It is not easy to have a partner who lives with you but doesn't carry the weight of another adult. And oftentimes, moms feel like if we don't do a certain chore, or make an appointment, it simply won't get done which leaves us feeling spread thin and really tired, which of course causes stress.
We feel like if our husband would simply do more around the house, or get more involved in the kids' schedules, especially without having to be asked, we could take a bit of a breather and perhaps we'd be in a better mood because of it.
"The problem isn't men, it's marriage. Marriage is stressful by nature, even good marriages...Marriage is a more difficult relationship than parenting. Combine the two and it's a recipe for stress."
—Hal Runkel, a therapist and author of ScreamFree Marriage to the Today show
While that is very true, I talked to a few women who said their marriages would improve dramatically if their spouses would do more.
One woman, Sharon, shared when she began working after staying home with the kids for almost a decade, she sat her family down to let them know she would be needing more help around the house. Instead of saying, "let us know and we can all chip in and help,” her husband replied with, "or, you can just realize a lot less is going to get done."
The man isn't even my husband and I am stressed just hearing her story.
Another mom, Christine, shared she wanted her husband to look into the future a bit more. “If we have a game to get to on Saturday morning, and I decide to get up early and go to the gym beforehand, he doesn't do anything to prep the kids for the day when I am gone. He waits for me to come home and light into him even though he knows what time the game is and what it takes to get everyone out the door on time."
One thing women seem to be hard on their husbands about is not being able to juggle multiple things at once.
My friend Amy said it drives her crazy when her husband is on the phone but can't help their son open the peanut butter jar or do a puzzle with him at the same time. "I've literally been in the shower and the kids will come ask for my help because their dad is on the phone."
This is why moms are stressed: We feel like we always have to be "on."
It seems easier for the dads of the world to cut corners without a care in the world, and they aren't able to predict all the things that need to get done like moms are.
EASY IDEAS FOR SELF-CARE AT HOME:
If you are a mom who feels like things run smoother when your husband isn't home, you aren't alone. It doesn't mean we don't love them, and we don't want a partner in our lives.
But it does mean it's easier to run the ship on our own than to have expectations of how someone else should parent and take care of a household.
It looks like it’s up to us to decide if we are going to lower the bar or keep feeling stressed and resentful. Just another thing to add to our list, moms.