Easing the effects of emotional labor
Licensed clinical psychologist Marla Zeiderman laughed out loud when she heard about a mom who was at back-to-back meetings, while her husband, who was at home with the baby, fired off text questions such as “Where is the flyswatter?” and “Should I give the baby the whole pouch of purée?”
Zeiderman hears this scenario play out many times in her work at Kaiser Permanente. “I laugh, because it’s all too familiar,” she says. “If you poll moms at home and moms in the office, you find the same stories. While there are plenty of dads involved in the household, generally it’s the mom who stays on top of everything that’s going on in the business of the family.”
The result can be toxic chronic stress, Zeiderman says, which can make you vulnerable to anxiety and depression, worsen existing illnesses such as asthma, and chip away at the ability to handle stress at all. “I ask people, ‘Are you chewing your nails? Road raging?’ because these are warning signs that can lead to those bigger health problems.” Once aware, women are more willing and able to break the cycle, Zeiderman says.
Talking with friends is a wonderful way to de-stress, Zeiderman says. Date nights and apps with short meditative exercises (such as Aura apps) you can do in the grocery store are a good bet, other experts say.
Shifting your priorities to find balance is key, Zeiderman says. “The worst thing I could possibly suggest to anyone is to get up earlier to get it all done.”
Instead, women should look at the bigger picture and ask themselves how important is it to drive to six more soccer practices?
“Every successful CEO will delegate,” Zeiderman says. “Women may ask me, ‘How do I get the help I need if my spouse doesn’t even know where soccer practice is?’”
Probably the most important thing to do is sit down and work out the partnership, Zeiderman says. “Get vulnerable and tell your partner, ‘I’m overwhelmed; I can’t take all of this on,’ and then accept that everything won’t go exactly the way you want it to, but your child will probably get to soccer.”