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Children suffer from mom’s stress – no kidding

Submitted by on Monday, 18 May 2009 No Comment

If there’s an up side to a recent spate of studies looking at the impact stressed moms have on kids, it would be that researchers are starting to take seriously what’s been whispered at water coolers and cried in ladies’ rooms for years:

  • I had a bad day at the office, and I snapped at my kid. I felt like crap about that.
  • Work was brutal today, and all I wanted to do was lapse into a coma. I read with the kids, but my heart wasn’t in it.
  • No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep up with it all.

Forget momshell and Alpha Mom. They’re unicorns. That’s just not real life for many of us without supportive spouses, without spouses at all or with stressful jobs.

According to a recent study from the University of Michigan, the latter in particular has an impact on kids. Not just on their behavior, which would be expected, but on academics as well.

It’s not that stressed moms aren’t putting in the time with their kids. It’s the old “quality time” issue.

“Because they’ve had such stressful days, they may be less patient, attentive, and responsive than they would otherwise be able to be, and this is what may be having a negative impact on their children’s achievement,” researcher Christina Felfe said in a news release.

Women with low-paying, high-stress jobs get hit twice because they’re under the gun and they often can’t afford quality day care to make sure their children’s minds are stimulated during the day.

Once again, though, you have to wonder where the dads come in. It doesn’t seem plausible that all 1,090 women surveyed were single moms.

The most discouraging part of the study is that researchers could offer no particular solutions.

“It’s hard to expect women who are stressed out and exhausted to be able to put their feelings aside for the sake of their children,” Hsin said. “In these circumstances, quality daycare may be a major help, but unless they receive some kind of aid, that is usually out of reach for women with bad jobs that don’t pay well.”

Here’s a solution, though a controversial one: Give up. Find a segment of your life that’s expendable and chuck it overboard. Obviously, it can’t be kids or work, so what else is left?

For some, it’s cooking, though that’s not possible here due to food allergies. For most, though, a deli chicken and bag of salad make a perfectly healthful meal that’s still going to land in the same price range as fast food.

For others, it’s events. Really, cupcakes and ice cream with family and a few friends are a dandy birthday celebration.

For me, it’s clutter. I’ve always had a high tolerance anyway, and of late I’ve totally let it go after months of telling myself if I could just get on top of it once, it would stay that way. News flash: There is not going to be a chunk of time to “get on top of it.” Not with work and kids and no one at all to help with the latter.

I had two options this afternoon: Ride herd on the guys for an hour of griping while we made a dent in the Island of Misfit Toys we call a TV room – it really is that bad – or plop my butt on the couch and watch a movie.

“Hotel for Dogs” won. I thought Don Cheadle was better in “Crash,” but Big Guy seemed frighteningly inspired by the little brother’s inventiveness in “Hotel for Dogs.”

Occasionally as we watched I heard the voices. Of neighbors who gripe about the shrubs being unruly. Of other moms who crow about how much they can accomplish. Of friends who complain that I never come by for coffee. Of all the people who ask why I can’t make time to do something.

Yes, I could have been doing any of that instead of watching a sappy PG movie that’s drawing a five on rottentomatoes.com.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past five years, though, it’s that you can’t make time. Everyone gets 24 hours in a day. There are no extensions. What you have to do instead is make choices.

“Can you turn that up a little bit?” I asked Big Guy, who looked funny because I’m usually carping at him to turn the TV down.

This time, though, I wanted to drown out the voices.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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