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Tired of Being Superwoman

QUESTION: I am having a problem coping with balancing a career, being a wife and a good mother. I have a nine-month-old son who is just a wonderful baby. He does want a lot of attention, which I try to give him. The problem is that I have a career (we need my income)and I drive an hour to work and an hour home plus put in a full work day. My husband does not get home until 8pm so I am left taking care of the baby, making dinner and making sure that things are taken care of for the next day. I am not the cleanest person and my husband is a neat freak. My husband gets on to me when the house is not clean or I leave things out. I don't feel like I can handle very much of this much longer. I can't say that I am depressed, but I know that I am not happy. I just need some help on balancing a few things and how to ask my husband for assistance.

ANSWER: You are clearly overworking. Talk with your husband about sharing equally in all work that needs to be done, including making dinners and readying your child for the next day!

Also, consider the possibility of cutting back on income temporarily while your child is still young. Is it possible to have one of you work part time instead of full time for a limited period until your child is at least old enough to benefit from preschool placement? We are raised in a culture which supports career over nurturance in the family. Is it possible that you and your husband could arrange to either live on less, or even take out a loan to allow one of you more time at home in your son's first two years of life? If, after discussing the pros and cons of such an endeavor, you both agree that you must continue your present time allotment to career over family time, consider getting help for everything possible from housecleaning to cooking. Prioritize responsibilities and establish an equal share for household and child-care duties. And strive to carve out time to relate each evening about things other than household chores and finances.

Though it is a popular myth that you can "have it all," in truth there are always trade-offs. Discuss with your husband what these trade-offs will be. Consider compromising "neatness" for relating. Lowering for things such as household cleaning may pay off in greater time to enjoy family life and spontaneous relating. Agreeing to prioritize what is most important in your lives together will protect against resentment developing between you in the future. Marriage is a two-way street. You must both feel that there is an equitable balance between what is given and what is taken in the relationship to maintain the affection so critical to family health.

Remember, too, that your child will be a baby for only a short while longer. These early years are important and irreplaceable. It is during this time that your son's emotional foundation is established. Discuss putting family relating first on weekends and in the evenings. Develop weekly outings that encourage family fun and bonding despite busy week-day schedules. Taking hikes, going to the zoo and in other ways sharing the enjoyment of parenting is an important part of your family's development at this time. The success of your ability to enjoy your son together will determine the strength of your family bonds in the future.

Do not wait for depression to take hold before talking with your husband. Take your sense of general malaise and dissatisfaction seriously. They are signals of a gap in your marital relationship. Take time to catch up on the changes that parenthood has brought each of you. And develop a plan to increase family time together and recapture your positive feelings for each other.

Let your husband know that you need his help, not his criticism. Show him your vulnerability, and ask him to take his place as a partner on your team, rather than a heckler in the stands!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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