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Demands of modern life still leave many women stressed

Demands of modern life still leave many women stressed
Photo of Margaret Rauliuk MARGARET RAULIUK
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, June 16, 2017

On a scale of one to ten, how stressed out are you?

Do you find that there is way too much to get done in a day and not enough time to do it? Does it seem like your kids, your partner, your parents, your pets are constantly looking for your time and attention? Do you feel like there is an invisible umbilical cord between you and your cell phone and the people in your life expect you to be constantly available? Are you worried about work? Do you feel like you have achieved balance in your life? 

The 20th century brought many advances in technology designed to save time and provide more opportunities for leisure activities and relaxation. These innovations include the electric iron, vacuum cleaner, toaster, refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer; self-cleaning ovens; and the home computer, just to name a few.

While these advances have been a boon to the modern family and there has been some evolution in gender roles, many families have both parents working outside of the home in a way that did not exist in my mother's post-war parenting generation.

Girls are still subtly socialized by adolescence to step back and make sure the needs of others are met before their own. After all, if you are going to be a nurturing mother and wife, taking care of children and supporting your partner in their employment or professional goals, it follows that one's own career development might be take a back seat. 

In my work as a family nurse practitioner, I frequently speak with women who struggle to balance working along with managing the bulk of the home and child care work. While by no means universal, and often not the original plan, it is not uncommon for me to hear the work of the home and care of children still falling along traditional gender lines.

Full co-parenting or Dad staying home is still more the exception than the rule. Here is one tell: If you hear a father referring to taking care of his own kids as "babysitting," you can surmise the burden of child raising and managing the family home is considered "women's work." This is assuming, a two parent family - Statistics Canada reports that in Manitoba more than 17 per cent of families are single parent families, the majority of which are led by women.

Given the demands of modern life, it is not uncommon for me to hear mothers and adult daughters tell me they are stressed, exhausted and "don't have time for self-care." They feel too busy getting kids' lunches made, driving to after-school and evening activities, or staying up to finish up house work or to study. Sometimes they feel a little taken for granted by their partner. The partner, in turn, wonders what happened to intimacy and why the relationship feels strained (see "exhausted," above). 

My advice in this all too common scenario is to schedule and prioritize some self-care.

Now that summer is here, go for a walk, or a bike ride or a run - every day. Take 30 minutes and role model active living to your family; it will give you more energy, help you with stress management and improve both your cardiovascular and mental health.

For mothers with young children, I will often encourage them to connect with a mother's group or parenting group - has some great resources.

Delegate - partners and kids can participate in running the house by learning how to iron, vacuum, prepare simple foods, do their own laundry and clean the bathroom. These are important life skills, build confidence and self-efficacy; simple chores can start early and build as the kids grow and mature.

Consider taking an hour or two once a week as a family to clean the house. Once you get past the groans of protest and keep it up for a few weeks, others start to be invested in keeping the place a little tidier all the time. You can make it fun with contests and rewards for a job well done. You  feel better, open up a bit of free time, don't feel taken for granted, and maybe go out for a date with your partner. Win, win!

Margaret Rauliuk is a family nurse practitioner at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's ACCESS River East Primary Care.

This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, June 16, 2017

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