Friday, December 2, 2011

Tired Mama

I am a Mom. I am the Mom of a very energetic little boy. My co parent travels 85% of the year. I am tired. I am very tired.

I know full well the perils of stay at home mom hood. The exhaustion and isolation that sometimes accompany this life choice. And for many of course, staying at home is a luxury not available. So I know how lucky I am. I do. So I do hesitate to voice the not so happy feelings that lurk within me. The thing is, I have discovered that many other Mom’s (for it is still vastly women who stay at home with the children-and more on that in later blogs) feel similar dark feelings that are rarely spoken and often not easily admitted within oneself.
So I will rock this boat, because I know for sure being silent about stuff that feels bad inside will fester.
I will be writing about this issue on this blog in upcoming installments. I will be venting a bit, offering some advice from both a Mom perspective and a therapist perspective (I have been a clinical social worker active on and off for 15 years, and many of those years were spent helping children and teens, as well as families caught in a hard place.)
To start, I will say that being the primary person for all of your child’s (or children’s) needs is not easy especially if you are either single, or functionally single. Because that is what I have witnessed playing out for years and it’s what I find happening across households that I come in contact with either professionally or personally. Moms are carrying a HUGE deal of the energy burden for their children’s lives. From the meals and cleaning to managing time and appointments, to handling nighttime terrors or a myriad of emotional needs. It falls often to one parent and that is often the Mom. When I speak with stay at home Dads I hear similar feelings but honestly they often get a lot of help from their wife/coparent even if she is the one working. Moms often do not.

I know that many readers will think I am bashing here or being unfair. I am just saying what I see. And the statistics from researchers back it up. Depending on the source of data, anywhere from 25% to 49% of all US household are led by a single Mom. Especially within the lower income areas, the number is very high. If you add to this the families where a partner travels a lot, or as with military families where the coparent (usually the Dad) is gone a year at a time – we are looking at adding another large percentage to the previous number. So this is an important phenomenon to explore. The societal norms that are assumed both in the media and in policy do not suit a large percentage of American homes.
For me, I adore my child fiercely and am hugely grateful for my time with him. But even now as I sit trying to take just 10minutes to write this, he is tugging at my leg and whining for my time. When I tried to take a shower he was outside the shower door talking and asking when I would be out. Often, I just smile and think how cute he is. But often, especially if I am was up in the night, or have an article to write or just am feeling worn down at the end of a 7 days stint of his Dad being on the road, I can feel overwhelming frustration. And I get bitter, I admit it. Because, I am not getting much domestic support. This means precious little time just to be me.  I cannot afford a sitter from evenings out for instance, and since my partner travels I just almost never get one. My son’s father gets most evenings out and has dinner with adult conversation and time to himself. I know he works hard, but he gets to play too. I don’t. I had hoped parenthood would be more shared and I would have more fun with it as a result. It’s not just me, but relationships that are unbalanced are a recipe for failure. I know a lot of families for whom this is exactly what occurred. Mom was feeling alone and unsupported. Dad took nights out with the guys, tailgate parties, golfing – you name it. Mom had to be the one for the kids, almost entirely with no time for her. She festered. She smiled and pretended it was ok. She tried to talk about it and it ended in an argument so it went by the wayside. Now they are dividing up the week with the kids because they are divorced. This is not uncommon.

So I’m saying we all need to talk about it more. Because I just know we as a culture can make change. I also think Dad’s need to share their burdens as providers (for those for whom this is their primary role) because kids who have rested and involved Dad’s gain a lot from this relationship. With awareness and not shame about what we are feeling, maybe new laws can be passed for businesses to better support families. Maybe people can come together to sort out these feelings and reduce the isolation. There is a lot we can do to change our society if we just acknowledge the need. Our country isn’t where it was even 15 years ago. Many kids are living without one of their parents and many families are divided.
Working parents are often exhausted, single parents are sometimes isolated, stay at home parents are too often exhausted and isolated.

If we can talk to each other, we can improve conditions for families, for women, for children. We can provide more space for fathers to enjoy time with their kids.  There is room for it all when we can open the dialogue with compassion.   

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