This article was originally published on March 8, 2017, and has since been updated.
A middle-aged man jokes with his work friends, saying, “I love being a dad- I have 2 great kids…. but my wife has 3!” The group might laugh and allow the conversation to move on, but the truth is, many women today really do feel like they’re left to parent their partners instead of relying on their support with family life. Left to play chef, chauffeur, teacher, nurse, maid, special events coordinator, and correctional officer, many moms feel like they’re always running out of steam- especially if they work outside of the home as well.
It’s Not The Kids… It’s Hubby!
Unfortunately, for many women, as demanding as motherhood can be, their husbands can have an even greater impact on their stress levels. In fact, a 2013 survey conducted by Today of over 7,000 moms found that the average mom rates her stress levels an 8.5 out of 10, and 46% of women say their husbands are causing more stress than their kids! Researchers summarized: (1)
- Moms stress most about not having enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done
- 3 in every 4 moms with partners say they do most of the parenting and household duties
- 1 in every 5 moms says not having enough help from their spouse is a major source of daily stress
What’s more, researchers from the University of Padova have recently discovered that this carries over into a difference in health further down the road, when one partner passes away. When husbands lose their wives, their health deteriorates, but when women lose their husbands, they actually become healthier and are better at coping with stress and depression. (2) The researchers suspected this was because the men relied more heavily on their female partners than vice versa.
Why Are Husbands Stressing Their Wives Out?
Husbands Can Step Up More
There’s definitely more than one underlying theme here at play. On the one hand, moms are expecting equal support from their partners to take care of their families; things like organizing play dates, doctor appointments, and homework duties. But even in families in which both parents are working full-time, it’s still pretty commonplace for the women to be left with those responsibilities.
How To Fix It: If you notice you and your partner don’t have an even split of at-home responsibilities, talk with him about it! If it helps, try to make a list together of all of the little things that need to get done every week and see how you can make things more equitable. Try starting a shared calendar that both of you can easily access on your phones and computers, so no one has to be worried about forgetting important dates.
Wives Can Step Back More
There’s always two sides to a story. It might be easy to blame your partner for not taking more responsibility at home, but more often than not, they really do want to be the best father and husband they can be! The problem can sometimes be that moms aren’t fully trusting their partners to take on more.
How To Fix It: Women can have fantastic visions for their family and their children. But if not executed exactly right, it might seem easier just to do things yourself than to ask your partner to step in. Resist the temptation! Remember to value your own time to re-charge and care for yourself. Treat yourself to a yoga class and allow the stress to fall away. If you can’t find time in your schedule to go to a class, try downloading a class from YogaDownload.com to try in the comfort of your own home. They even have a class called “Time out for new moms”! And, if that means your kids are out in public with clashing outfits for the day, then so be it.
Put Some Spark In Your Relationship
When the flurry of parenthood starts, it can be all too easy to put your relationship on the back-burner. But that’s not how relationships work! You’re not just parents, you’re partners… and you’re individuals! Nurturing a loving relationship between the two of you will make a world of a difference both in the short term and in the long run.
How To Fix It: Do your best to commit a certain amount of time just to each other every week: no kids, no work, no distractions. Keeping the connection strong between each other can help you face those challenging days when all you want to do is scream or cry or hide in the closet with some comfort food. The truth is, both you, your partner and your kids will benefit from your family being founded on a strong partnership.