The Strange Paradox of Mommy-Time

“Just relax honey, that _(insert random household chore)_ can wait till later.”

Yeah….right…just relax… How do you do that?

I love my husband. He is an amazing father, provider and friend. He is the person that does the grocery shopping in our house, takes out the garbage, helps fold the laundry and fixes broken things. A true renaissance man! So I write the following words with nothing but respect and appreciation in my heart.

I don’t think he fully understands all that is on my plate and the weight on my shoulders.

Yes, he understands my busy schedule but it is hard to explain how I can’t relax when I know there are multiple boxes that still need to be checked-off or the possibility of mini-fires that I have to put out. How I can never fully turn-off my brain, or put my feet up and fully relax knowing that there is a myriad of different things waiting for me to get done in the other room.

I thought it was just me being good-old Type A Jenn. But this recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Why Mom’s Time is Different From Dad’s Time shined some needed light on my neuroses.

So yes moms, there is a scientific explanation to why you always have that pit in your stomach. To set the stage, here are a few interesting facts from the article:

  • Men and women work about the same number of hours a week, but women work more unpaid hours than men.
  • Mothers spend approximately 10 extra hours a week multitasking than fathers.

But the main difference between mothers and fathers is the sheer number of time-sensitive domestic tasks we deal with. Any mom trying to get breakfast on the table, lunches packed and kids dressed knows this feeling. By 9 am you are ready for happy hour!

The article talks about these “pressure points” that happen throughout a mom’s day which makes life more stressful. Many times these happen unexpectedly and you are left feeling like they could pop up at any moment.

That is why we resort to multi-tasking and looking for moments to fit-in errands, exercise or even time to “veg”.

So what is the solution? How do we moms get to a place of Zen, or at least one step closer to relaxation knowing that we have a never-ending to-do list?

The article emphasizes that in many cases the “perception of fairness” is more important that the actual distribution of tasks and responsibilities.

There was a fascinating study that demonstrated this impact. UCLA researchers took saliva samples from couples and measured their levels of cortisol, stress hormones, during different times of the day. They found that leisure time reduced this hormone levels in fathers but did less to reduce stress in mothers.

So when did cortisol levels actually drop for moms? When they witnessed their husbands stepping in and making an effort to reduce the chaos in the house.

For my family that is the morning. Usually my husband is out-the-door by 6 am, well before the craziness begins. But in those rare cases when I feel like I am at the end of my rope, I ask the hubby to stick around a little later in the morning so I can take a shower and get dressed without the additional juggling.

I am going to make more of an effort to communicate about “pressure points” to my husband and give him some practical ideas on how he can help.

At the bare minimum, showing him this article was great first step in helping him understand why I have trouble unwinding. Hopefully the combination of improved communications about my day and giving him examples of how he can help with the “cat-herding” will result in less overall anxiety in our house.

But if not…I can always resort to the time-tested stress reliever loved by many moms across this country.

More wine!

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