Ask Dr. Zoe – I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom Who Never Gets Rest. What Do I Do?

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‘Stressed, Tired Wife’ asked:

I’m a stay-at-home mom who never gets rest. My husband is a firefighter, and I try really hard to ease his transition back from the fire station, but when he walks in, it is so hard for me not to hand him the baby and walk out. I ask him for some time to unwind or relax for myself, like a morning to sleep in, but he will end up sleeping in or finding something else that needs to be done as a reason why he can’t help out with the baby. I want to be kind, and I know I’m in control of my own emotions, but I’m so tired and frustrated at going unheard with pleas for rest.

Dr. Zoe answered:

First, I want to honor your feelings of pain, weariness, stress and frustration.

I hear your desire to be a good wife to your husband and I also hear your desire to be seen, heard and cared for as a wife and mother of his child.

I notice that many women fall into the pattern of putting their feelings, needs and desires on the back burner, imagining that they are doing the right thing, not realizing the toll it will take on them and ultimately their marriage in the long run.

Sometimes we think we are communicating well, but we are really expressing frustration without being specific about what we need. If he isn’t hearing you, it’s likely because you are not being clear. Men need specific action steps. Without those, they will leave a conversation with knowledge that you aren’t happy, but with no clear path to making it better. And without a clear path, they will take the route of less resistance and that is to do nothing.

It’s time to have a hard conversation with your husband. Each of you need to get clear on how you define the roles of spouse and parent.

Ask him what he needs when he comes in the door from work, and tell him specifically what you need when he is off work and when.

It’s OK to be honest with your life partner. You are not being a good, supportive wife by keeping in your feelings and only expressing them to other people.

Your conversation could go something like this:

“I feel like I’ve been expressing to you my need for you to partner in our parenting. I see that you work hard for us and I appreciate all that you do to take care of and provide for our family. I also work hard and I need some rest time as well. I know I’ve expressed this to you, but maybe I haven’t been clear enough or specific. My fear right now is that I’m realizing that if things don’t change, it is going to negatively impact our marriage. I value our marriage and I don’t want that to happen, so we need to change some things.

I need you to allow me to sleep in (on these specific days). I need two hours (on these specific days) to recharge and care for myself. Because your schedule changes, we should have a bi-weekly meeting where we sit down and align our schedules so that you can give me time without the baby and so that you can plan your rest times as well.”

Remind him the night before it’s his night that you are sleeping in the next morning, so it’ll be his turn to take care of the baby. And don’t let him off the hook. You are not being a bad wife by holding your husband accountable to giving you rest or sharing in the responsibility of caring for your child.

If he doesn’t wake up, get your baby and bring him to your husband in bed—and you leave and go sleep on the couch or care for yourself in whatever way you need. Make it clear that you will not let him get away with not doing his part. We teach people how to treat us—even our husbands.

Advocating for yourself to your husband can be hard, but ultimately it is the ability to have the hard conversations that determine the health of you and your marriage. You can do this, mama! You’ve got this!

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