Question: Mental health?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009
Question: Mental health?
47
Fri, 07-10-2009 - 1:11pm

I know that different women have different strengths and weaknesses, and what works for one woman may not work for another. And this board has devoted lots of energy to what's best for the children. But what about what's best for the mother?


I'm asking this because it's been a major concern in our family lately. Our children will be fine regardless of where they end up, and it's always been my opinion that happy parents = happy children. That said, have there been any studies done on depression and mental illness in SAHMs vs. WOHMs? My DH says that when I was WOH, I was always WAY more stressed out than I am as a SAHM, but that I really seemed to greatly enjoy my work. So that made me wonder... which group is more prone to depression and so forth? The bored SAHM or the over-stressed WOHM? (Yes, I know those are stereotypes!)


And on a side note, would you rather be calm and relaxed (if a bit bored at times) or would you rather be always on-the-go (even if it led to more stress)?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009
Fri, 07-17-2009 - 10:26am

I wanted to add:


What sparked this discuss was a conversation my DH & I had about what would be better for me mentally and emotionally: WOH or SAH? As I explained to him, "You can be a WOHM who's staying home with the kids for a few years; you're just on sabbatical from work, but you're still a WOH because you plan to eventually return to work one day. You can also be a SAHM who has a job; lots of SAHMs have a part-time job or a blow-off job because they need to bring in a little extra money or pay off a bill or something. If you plan to eventually return to SAH full-time, you're a SAHM."


I don't think that just because you HTWOH, you're a WOHM--not if you're just counting down the days until you can quit and SAH again. And I don't think that if you HTSAH, you're necessarily a SAHM--you're a WOHM who just can't work at the moment. If our husbands lose their jobs, do they stop describing themselves as journalists, attorneys, etc.? No! They just say, "I'm a journalist but I'm unemployed at the moment. I've been looking for something new." Why do we expect our entire identity to change just because we gain or lose a job?


I've been a SAHM for about 6 years now, but that doesn't mean I've never held a job. I worked fast food a time or two and once worked part-time as a cook in a busy restaurant (that was fun!). I've done sewing and alterations out of my home for years, but I don't seriously pursue it as a WAH career. I've done temp admin work, usually whenever I get requested to do it; because of my government background I get calls from time to time to go do some disaster relief or something like that, and I'll take the gig if I can manage it. When I was working that fast-food job or doing that one-month contract assignment, I didn't consider myself a "WOHM"--I considered myself a SAHM who had a job.


Now that I'm working on educating myself so that I can have an actual "career", I'm starting more and more to see myself as a WOHM who simply doesn't have a job yet. So although I have to get a job in order to bring in more money for my family, I can do that without being a WOHM (by my definition). But if I'm going to be a SAHM with a job, I'm generally going to choose something that's a lot more flexible and a lot less career-oriented (like foodservice or retail or something like that). If I'm a WOHM, I'm going to choose something that will look good on my resume.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009
Fri, 07-17-2009 - 10:15am

His student teaching will only last him 12 weeks. Once he's done with that, he'll also be eligible for any teaching positions that might come available in the middle of the year. If none open up, we're going to look for him a teacher's aide position or something similar so that he can at least get some classroom experience and get some references in the education industry. When he's doing his clinical teaching, he'll have regular "teacher hours". Depending on what his sponsoring teacher says, it'll probably be 7-4 or 7:30-3:30. While he's doing his clinical teaching, we're trying to make it so that he doesn't have to work during that time. If I can get a decent job, he'll be able to just focus on that. A big part of his clinical teaching is stuff like observation reports, lesson plans, etc.--all stuff that he'll have to do at home in the evenings and on the weekends--so it'll be better for him if he isn't also trying to do a weekend job during that timeframe.


You are absolutely correct that this is just going to be a difficult hump we'll have to make it over. I'm also going to school for my Paralegal certification, and once I have that, I'll be able to to find better jobs. I've got about 18 months left on that.


We're going to make a few changes to the way that the school handles things. Many of the times I got called last year were, frankly, for things I didn't really need to be present for. So many times, the school would call me in so that we could together give my DS the "making good choices" speech and then send him back to class. Honestly, the principal could've done that just as well without me right there. I asked my MIL about how she handled it (My mom was a teacher, so she was always just down the hall!), and she said she wouldn't leave work to pick them up unless there was a medical emergency. She said that even if they got suspended, she'd have the school put them in ISS for the rest of the day rather than leaving work early. We're also going to see what impact new meds and their afterschool program has on their school behavior. I absolutely LOVE their afterschool program--it's a martial arts daycare. There's a lot of kids but a very large staff, and a lot of the staff consists of younger (20's and early 30's) men who are very good at managing rambunctious boys. I'm hoping that with some minor adjustments to their med regimen and the afterschool program, we can get them past the acting up in school. We'll see.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2009
Fri, 07-17-2009 - 9:37am
You've met me now!
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2009
Fri, 07-17-2009 - 9:30am
On top of that, I don't really have work aggravation and frustration.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-17-2007
Fri, 07-17-2009 - 7:42am

You are talking about re-entering the workforce and going into a high hour job when your DH has a high hour and AND is going to school. Plus you have three special needs children and one on the way. That is alot on one plate.

Now, you also need to be honest about the primary reason you are re-entering the workforce- for the money - not for the intellectual stimulation (you can get that elsewhere btw). Your DH needs to reduce his income so that he can get his certification to teach. Very good medium term goal. You need someone in the household to be earning money. When he is doing his student teaching, how many hours a week will he be gone?

After your DH is done with his first year of teaching, his job will be excellent for having dual wohps. It sounds like you need to get over this hump.

Both of you also need to establish who will be the primary contact person at the school. IME, the first year on any job gives very little flexibility to be able to do that - it is difficult to get jobs now and employers don't like new employees leaving during day on a weekly or semi-weekly basis. You need to set up your contingency plans NOW. Can the in-laws be the primary emergency pick up persons?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-06-2009
Fri, 07-17-2009 - 4:27am

Good point. I think it can be hard for people to admit that their kids make them nuts sometimes.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009
Thu, 07-16-2009 - 10:55pm

DH & I both have pretty short commutes (thankfully!).


A part of the reason I'm considering going back to work is that my DH has been going to school to be a high school English teacher. He had the option of serving a one-year paid internship this school year, but hasn't been able to find a job; we've been told that his best shot for getting a teaching job is to serve a 12-week unpaid clinical teaching gig--after that, he'll be completely certified and shouldn't have trouble finding work in a teaching gig. But his current job is in retail, and he'll probably end up having to take an LOA from his current job to do the clinical, which means we won't have any of his income during that time. It just made sense that perhaps it's a good time for me to look at going back to work.


Finishing the last school year with our three kids was difficult. Our younger two boys both have ADHD and were only diagnosed in about November, so we've been experimenting with various treatments all year, which has made it difficult. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with depression and anxiety this year, so we've also been dealing with HER medical issues and working through a lot of that. And we haven't had the newborn yet, so we don't yet know whether s/he will be prone to getting sick or not. My older children were always very healthy, but with a newborn, you never really know what you're going to get until you get it!


I've actually been a SAHP most of the time for the past 6 years (with occassional part-time jobs from time to time, but nothing serious), but I do have to admit that sometimes I do get a bit bored with it. Especially now that my children are all in school for the entire day (youngest DS had a half-day last year), sometimes I really miss the mental stimulation that I got from WOH. I've tried WAH businesses, but they never work out very well for me, nor do they hold my interest very well. And my training and experience is as an admin assistant, although I'm majoring in Paralegal Studies and would like to transfer to the legal field. Admin work tends to be M-F, 8-5 or 9-6; that's just the way it works. Hopefully DH can finish his clinical teaching and find a teaching job--that would at least free him up to be home in the evenings to help out with the family activities. We're also very fortunate in that our eldest is now in middle school and our youngest ones are in 1st and 2nd grade, so at least we no longer have teeny tiny ones (at least until February!).


In the end, it's a combination of CTWOH and HTWOH. I CTWOH because I do miss the stimulation and socialization of the workplace, and I HTWOH to support the family while my DH finishes his training so that he can get his final teacher certification and get into a better, more stable career. I should also point out that we are very fortunate in that his mother and father live in town (and I absolutely LOVE my MIL) as does his sister and her family (and I get along great with my SIL, although we're not as close as me & my MIL). As far as childcare, I think we're going to go with an after-school program for the older kids that we've used before for part-time and occassional baby-sitting. It's a martial arts program that the kids always enjoyed, and my boys at least have benefited greatly from it. They're very fair but also very strict, and the kids always have enjoyed it and asked to go back.


I guess what I'm trying to say (if you've read this far) is that despite my fears, we do have some help in the form of our in-laws and a really great after-school program that they're already comfortable with and familiar with. Not everyone has the option of having a SAHP--sometimes financial or life circumstances get in the way, even when you have four kids. Of course I'm still afraid--I haven't done the "career" thing in years. I don't know whether my fear is just a normal part of getting ready to re-enter the workforce or a premonition of bad things to come, but at this point I'm going to have to hope for the best and make the most of it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-06-2007
Thu, 07-16-2009 - 9:41pm
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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-17-2007
Thu, 07-16-2009 - 8:29pm

I am a little confused. I thought that you were a sahp who was having some trouble adapting to being a sahp. Now you are talking about being a dual wohp.

To be frank, I only know of one family that are dual ftwohps that have 4 kids. The family had a live in nanny to help during the younger years and now has an au pair since the youngest are entering 5th grade. They also have a housekeeper once a week. Their jobs have far more flexibility than your DH's or your proposed job. The rest are woh/sah families or woh and very ptwoh families.

The job you are considering along with your DH's current job requirements sound like a recipe for disaster with 4 young children (who are prone to being sick and in trouble at school and one a newborn) and no outside help. Both parents being gone 11 hours a day is tough (I assume your DH has a commute).

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009
Thu, 07-16-2009 - 6:41pm

I have two fears that keep me up at night worrying: 1)that my children are going to get into lots of trouble in school again and I'll end up getting fired because I get called by the school three times a week to deal with yet another "crisis", or 2)being overwhelmed in the evenings while DH is working.


There's no way around the first, but with three kids in school (and pregnant with another), it's a major concern. If each kid gets in trouble once a week, that's three times a week I'll get called up to the school. When you add in my own doctor's appointments from the pregnancy at once a month, that's quite a bit. Then after the baby comes, it'll be in daycare while I'm working, so then I have to worry about getting phone calls from the daycare. I'm honestly worried that I won't be able to keep a job because the schools have a habit of calling me down there at every minor hiccup, which means that I've spent a LOT of time at the school.


Then the second issue is also a major concern. The job I'm looking at would be 9-6, so by the time I get everyone picked up from after-school care and get everyone back home, it'll be 7. I know I can't trust my kiddos to do their homework at daycare, so I'll have to go over the homework. Last year, it wasn't at all uncommon for my middle child (then in 1st grade) to have to spend 2 hours a night on his homework, but I'll go with his average of an hour. So that means dinner won't be served until 8 and probably everything all cleaned up by 9. Then it's baths and bedtime rituals, which means the kids won't get into bed until 10, if everything goes according to plan (which it won't--it never does). All of that sounds manageable (if a bit frightening) until the new baby comes. Then all of that will be interrupted by a fussy baby wanting to nurse, be held, be walked, or whatever. Plus I'll have to add in the work associated with emptying and storing my breastmilk for the day and getting all the baby's bottles and diapers ready for daycare the following morning. By the time that's all done, I'll be lucky to get in bed by midnight, and of course with a newborn, there's no way I'll be able to actually sleep for that time. Which means I'll probably be waking up at 3 to nurse and then at 6 to nurse and start getting ready and getting everyone ready. Yes, DH can do some cleaning, taking out the trash, etc., but he won't be able to help me during crunch time when I'm trying to check everyone's homework and backpacks, inspecting everyone's clothes for the next day, getting baths for everyone, making sure teeth are brushed and hair is combed, packing lunches (or supervising the lunches that they pack to make sure they do it right), organizing backpacks and diaper bags and pumping bags, etc. That's what has me terrified. How will I find the time to do all of those things by myself? All of those things now (with three children and no daycare stuff to worry about) take me about five hours each night! And it takes a lot longer when my kids don't cooperate with me (which they seldom do)! I'm afraid that if I'm working, I won't be able to get it all done.


My DH helps out now that I'm home, but he just helps out. Since I'm the SAHM, I'm the one primarily responsible for keeping the household running smoothly. DH & I have talked about it, and he's all for helping out as much as possible whenever he can, especially when I go back to work. He's going to specify a preference for the day shifts (8-5) whenever possible, although it might mean that he loses hours at work. He's also a really good cook, so I feel no fear about having him do dinner whenever he can. We've decided that whoever gets off earlier (i.e., if he has a day off or works 8-5, he'll be the early one; if he's working late, I'll be the early one) will be the one to pick up the kids and do dinner, and the three kids will be assigned to clear the table, rinse the dishes, and load the dishwasher on a rotating basis. When we get the "emergency" calls from the school or daycare, I'll take off work to go deal with them unless it's on his day off or his lunch break or something--he's not allowed to leave work unless someone's bleeding--but that if it's a sick child that needs to be out of school/daycare for more than a day, he'll take off work to be home with the child the second day.

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