From this discussion of the universal problem... fatigue and time pressure... what related concepts do wives most wish their husbands understood? It is my belief that feminine depression associated with the hustle and bustle of living could be reduced significantly if men comprehended and accepted the three ideas which follow:
1. For some strange reason, human beings (and particularly women), tolerate stresses and pressure much more easily if at least one other person knows they are enduring it. This principle is filed under the category of "human understanding," and it is highly relevant to housewives. The frustrations of raising small children and handling domestic duties would be much more manageable if their husbands acted like they comprehended it all. Even if a man does nothing to change the situation, simply his awareness that his wife did an admirable job today will make it easier for her to repeat the assignment tomorrow. Instead, the opposite usually occurs. At least eight million husbands will stumble into the same unforgivable question tonight: "What did you do all day, Dear?" The very nature of the question implies that the little woman has been sitting on her rear-end watching television and drinking coffee since arising at noon! The little woman could kill him for saying it.
Everyone needs to know that he is respected for the way he meets his responsibilities. Husbands get this emotional nurture through job promotions, raises in pay, annual evaluations, and incidental praise during the work day. Women at home get it from their husbands--if they get it at all. The most unhappy wives and mothers are often those who handle their fatigue and time pressure in solitude, and their men are never very sure why they always act so tired.
2. Most women will agree that the daily tasks of running a household can be managed; it is the accumulating projects that break their backs. Periodically, someone has to clean the stove and refrigerator, and replace the shelf paper, and wax the floors and clean the windows. These kinds of cyclical responsibilities are always waiting in line for the attention of a busy mother, and prevent her from ever feeling "caught up." It is my belief that most families can afford to hire outside help to handle these projects, and the money would be well spent for such a purpose.
The suggestion of hiring domestic help may seem highly impractical in this inflationary economy where everyone has too much "month" left at the end of the money. However, I am merely recommending that each family reevaluate how it spends its resources. This matter was first discussed in Hide or Seek, and at the risk of redundance, I am again quoting from that remarkable volume:
Most Americans maintain a "priority list" of things to purchase when enough money has been saved for that purpose. They plan ahead to reupholster the sofa or carpet the dining-room floor or buy a newer car. However, it is my conviction that domestic help for the mother of small children should appear on that priority list too. Without it, she is sentenced to the same responsibility day in and day out, seven days a week. For several years, she is unable to escape the unending burden of dirty diapers, runny noses, and unwashed dishes. It is my belief that she will do a more efficient job in those tasks and be a better mother if she can share the load with someone else occasionally. More explicitly, I feel she should get out of the house completely for one day a week, doing something for sheer enjoyment. This seems more important to the happiness of the home than buying new drapes or a power saw for Dad.
But how can middle-class families afford house-cleaning and baby-sitting services in these inflationary days? It can best be accomplished by using competent high-school students instead of older adults. I would suggest that a call be placed to the counseling office of the nearest senior high school. Tell the counselor that you need a mature, third-year student to do some cleaning. Do not reveal that you're looking for a regular employee. When the referred girl arrives, try her out for a day and see how she handles responsibility. If she's very efficient, offer her a weekly job. If she is slow and flighty, thank her for coming and call for another student that following week. There is a remarkable difference in maturity level between high-school girls, and you'll eventually find one who works like an adult.
Incidentally, if your husband is saving for that new power saw, it might be better to eliminate one of your own priority items the first time around. Either way, don't tell him I sent you!
3. Husbands and wives should constantly guard against the scourge of overcommitment. Even worthwhile and enjoyable activities become damaging when they consume the last ounce of energy or the remaining free moments in the day. Though it is rarely possible for a busy family, everyone needs to waste some time every now and then--to walk along kicking rocks and thinking pleasant thoughts. Men need time to putter in the garage and women need to pluck their eyebrows and do the girlish things again. But as I have described, the whole world seems to conspire against such reconstructive activities. Even our vacations are hectic: "We have to reach St. Louis by sundown or we'll lose our reservations."
I can provide a simple prescription for a happier, healthier life, but it must be implemented by the individual family. You must resolve to slow your pace; you must learn to say "no" gracefully; you must resist the temptation to chase after more pleasures, more hobbies, more social entanglements; you must "hold the line" with the tenacity of a tackle for a professional football team. In essence, three questions should be asked about every new activity which presents itself: Is it worthy of our time? What will be eliminated if it is added? What will be its impact on our family life? My suspicion is that most of the items in our busy day would score rather poorly on this three-item test.
You'll have to excuse me now; I'm late for an appointment...
By Dr. James Dobson