• Husbands Stress Us Because They Feel Like Another Job. That's the Truth

    Here's why husbands are more stressful than kids — and what you can do to get hubby to help finally.
    by Dedet Reyes Panabi .
Husbands Stress Us Because They Feel Like Another Job. That's the Truth
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  • Mom Unfiltered talks about the realities that moms don't post on social media, or, as we like to say here, these are the thoughts we all have in the bathroom.

    Does your husband stress you out more than your kids? You’re not alone. A survey had moms rank their stress levels — 8.5 out of 10 — and nearly half of them admitted that their biggest “crybaby” was their hubby.

    One survey respondent said, “It seems like I am the only adult in my house. My husband and daughter compete with me for my attention.”

    Another said, “I am exhausted emotionally and physically when my husband comes home. He feels like another job.”

    We hear you, sisters.

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    The señorito complex

    While the survey was conducted in the United States, it triggered a barrage of #MeToos from Filipino moms. One mom wrote to SmartParenting.com.ph because she was so affected by of this article "Moms Are Often More Tired Than Dads: How Men Can Be a Better Partner," which talks about the invisible workload many moms have.

    She writes, "Every time I talk about how much work I need to do we always end up fighting because he says he helps me. But like what your article says, he only helps when I tell him to do so!"

    Lisa*, mom of three, points out: “I think it’s worse here because men are so used to being pampered by their moms and then by their wives. They wake up to hot breakfast — pinagtitimplahan pa ng kape! — and ironed office attire and polished shoes. Then they feel so proud because they’re an ‘involved parent’ because they bring the kids to school.

    "But moms are the ones who wake up at 4 a.m. to make breakfast and baon and prepare everything from uniforms to the maid’s market list.”

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    Celina*, a mom of a preschooler and a newborn, says her husband’s pickier and more demanding than any of her kids. “My son won’t complain if I feed him chicken nuggets on a paper plate. But my husband will ask, ‘Bakit ganito ang dinner natin?’ 

    "And since he’s a neat freak, he gets irritable when the house isn’t clean. We once fought because I was masungit and I told him I was just super tired. And he made a face and said I had a yaya to help me. He has no real idea about the work it takes to run a home and raise the kids.”

    And that’s not all: all the moms we talked to complain that their husbands don’t pick up after themselves. Clothes are left on the floor, even if the hamper is just a few steps away. Dishes are left on the table. That empty bottle of shampoo will stay in the shower until your kids graduate from college unless you throw it yourself and replace it with a new one. They just assume that house elves — or in this reality, the wives — will do the dirty, menial work.

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    Mothers bear ‘the mental load’ alone — and dads get the credit

    Dads show up at the preschool family day. Moms make the costume, prepare the food for the class potluck, help the child memorize the song, talk to all the other co-parents and teacher, and take the pictures.

    Dads make a quick run to the grocery to buy a few missing ingredients. Moms get the recipe, make the meal plan, check it against the food budget, cook the food, pack it into lunch boxes, and convince the kids to finish their vegetables.

    Dads treat the kids to pizza after a good report card. Moms nag about homework, buy all the materials for the school project (and probably stays up to help with it), attend the parent-teacher conferences, tutors or coordinates with the tutor, and end up being the “Annoying Parent” for enforcing the no-gadgets-on-weekdays-rule.

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    Ironically, dads complain they don’t feel appreciated for helping out at home. So, basically: an unappreciated, stressed out mom should feel guilty about not recognizing the help a dad should be giving in the first place?  This is grossly unfair when dads already get more than their fair share of Facebook tributes and viral videos. “Oh, look at this man singing a song to a baby! He gets a YouTube video for something a mom does every…single…day.”

    It wouldn’t be so annoying if some of that social media love is actually directed at moms. “Why are we always told that we’re not doing enough and get #momshamed by other parents, and dads are praised just for being sweet and affectionate with their kids? Hugging and loving kids are the easy part. Moms are stuck with the mess, the discipline, the everyday problems,” muses Irene, mom of a preschooler.

    “I think that’s what causes me the most stress in my parenting. I still feel I am doing the hard part alone. But if you tell your husband, ‘Please help me!’ they think all they have to do is read a bedtime story and he’s a perfect dad.”

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    Marriage IS work (and who has time for that?)

    But perhaps the biggest reason for the stress is marriage is a very complicated relationship — maybe even more than the one with we have with our kids.

    Kids are cute. They ask for help and hugs. They cry, but in a few minutes, everything is better. Adults are as needy as kids, but we’re not so cute, and we never ask for what we really want. Instead of crying, we suppress stress and emotions and then take it out on each other in passive-aggressive ways. Plus, marriage is weighed down by expectation: “If you cared about me, you would…” or “if you really understood me, you would know…”

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    That’s what causes the stress. It’s not just what our husband did or didn’t do — it’s what we feel about what he’s not doing for us without being told. Because being women, we think if we need to say to him then that’s 99% of the problem.

    So there’s this emotional backdrop that’s happening behind all the everyday stress of parenting, housework, career, money — the stuff you’re supposed to do together, but you can’t because you’re not really feeling connected emotionally to the person who’s standing next to you.

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    Moms, we need to spell out our needs

    So wives feel, ‘I’m tired and stressed, and you’re not helping me. You’re making it worse.”

    And husbands feel, “I’m tired and stressed too, and I don’t know what you want from me.”

    This is stress in its worst form because it’s unarticulated and unresolved. The resentment and disappointment build up, and we feel not just physically tired but emotionally drained and isolated. That’s why it’s important for couples to reach out to each other every day.

    “You can talk about what stresses you out, but if you don’t want to talk about it, then at least ask for comfort in the way you want it,” says family counselor and life coach Ariel Dominguez. “Spell it out. ‘Please put down your phone and let’s hug in the bed for a few minutes.’ Or, ‘I had an awful day. You take care of the kids tonight, I want to sleep early.’”

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    As a psychologist and a man who knows what goes on in the mystery that is their brain, Dominguez says the last thing you should do is bottle it up and then blow up. “By the time you open up to him, you’ll be so emotional that he won’t understand you or he’ll shut down as a defense mechanism.”

    Talk when you’re calm, and when you really know what you want from him.  Dominguez adds that there are different kinds of stress: real, emotional, and imagined. 

    Real stressors include tasks, deadlines, and emergencies. Emotional stress is worst case scenarios or what you think people will say — “it hasn’t happened, but you are afraid it will.”

    Imagined stress is emotional stress gone wild. For example, you feel guilty about leaving the baby with yaya so you can work, so you interpret everyone else’s actions negatively. Your mother-in-law makes one random comment about how your baby isn’t gaining weight, and you think it’s a judgment of your parenting rather than…well, just a comment on the baby’s weight.

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    You are in charge of your happiness

    “From my experience as a marriage counselor, many of the needs and emotions are not something that can be fixed by another person,” Dominguez says. “Stress is your body’s way of telling you, ‘Something doesn’t feel right,’ but it is really your job to understand what you want to change.” 

    The good news is that you are in charge of your happiness. “Mom stress is real, and husbands can certainly add to it, but stress or your reaction to situations is in your control,” says Dominguez. “You need to create boundaries. First, say no to what you don’t want to do. Make rules and stand by them. Second, stop feeling responsible for everything and stop feeling guilty about everything! You are the only one who can manage your emotions.”

    Your husband can and will help you but only if you know what you want. He’s no knight in shining armor who will sweep you off your feet; he’s just a guy who needs to get instructions in guy language. That means being specific, concrete, and calm.

    “Your husband loves you but does not know how to help you. Tell him what you need, and not just when you’re fighting, and you can’t take it anymore! It takes several conversations and reinforcement. You just need to recognize the efforts to change and then meet him halfway. That’s what marriage is about.”

    Tell us about your mom stress! Do your husbands stress you out? Have you tried to talk to them about it? Share your comments and experiences below or send them on our Facebook Messenger and smartparenting2013@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you! There’s no perfect marriage, situation, or answer, but it helps to know we’re not alone!

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    Dedet Reyes Panabi was editor-in-chief of a parenting magazine for seven years, then quit to work from home and spend quality time with family and Netflix. She now works from home as a digital communications and social media manager for a multinational. (Or has her son described it on Career Day, “My mom’s on Facebook the whole day.”)

    *not their real names

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