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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Torn Between Work Needs and Home Needs

Written by  Dr. Louise Klein

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,

We are in our early 30s and will have been married ten years this coming June. In July '97 we had our first child. My wife took off two years (leave of absence) from work and subsequently resigned to raise our child. She was earning good wages, over $40K annually, but we were both happy with the decision. My job is somewhat stressful and makes demands on my time (whose doesn't?). I travel, on average, two to three days a week and initially that was not a problem or it wasn't apparent to me that it was. One of the reasons my wife was able to stay home was my employment situation. I earn in excess of $150K annually and with this income stream we have both become somewhat spoiled.

As the clock is nearing three years on my wife being home we have both talked about having a second child. Unfortunately, sometimes things come up where I'm not available to be home for that small monthly window of opportunity. I have also noticed over the last 12 to 18 months that we are growing apart. There is little to no physical or emotional intimacy and arguments have been on the rise.

My wife began a small consulting business on the side, out of the home, and that occupies about 20 hours per week. I don't know if our problems are with my wife being unhappy staying home or just being unhappy with me. Part of the situation is that I know my wife doesn't believe I understand how hard it is to be home with a child and part of it is I don't believe my wife understands how detailed my job is and the level of my responsibility. I have not been able to broach this subject in a constructive manner and fear I need to take another approach.

I don't know who is wrong, furthermore I don't know if there should be blame of any kind. I would very much like to enhance our relationship -- she is still the most important thing in my life.

Any thoughts?????

ADear "Any thoughts",

First, let me reassure you that the problems that you are experiencing are normal for a young couple with their first child. When you were both working full-time there was probably a more equal distribution of household chores or you paid someone else to take care of things for you. Maybe you had someone come in and clean, for example. But when you have a small child it means a constant reorganizing of priorities because children's needs must come first. Then it's easy to feel overwhelmed by a messy house, and it's just plain exhausting to never have a moment to yourself.

By the time you walk in from work your wife is probably ready for a break and you also would like some "down-time" to recover from your day. Instead it feels like you must go into high gear in order to cope with these demands for your time and attention. It's a lot so let's try to extract the real issues here.

You two need to call a truce to the contest of "who works harder." Both of you work hard and both of you are stressed by it. Maybe the underlying message in your arguments is some resentment on your part about being the major financial support of this family. If that 's the case then the two of you need to work out a way to get past it or make it feel more equitable. As for your travel schedule, I'm sure that your wife does understand that this is necessary for your job, but it felt different when she was on her own without responsibility for a child.

Perhaps your wife feels anxious when she is on her own with the baby while you're traveling. It's normal for her to worry that she might get sick and be unable to care for the baby, or that something may happen to the baby and she'll have to go to the emergency room on her own. Your discussions about having a second child may be adding to this anxiety. She may feel that she can cope with one child but how could she possibly manage two with your work schedule and her business? How much childcare do you do now? Even when you're home, are you still working on your computer or making phone calls?

As for the lack of physical closeness and sexual intimacy that you have been experiencing, that is also common for couples with a young child. It's hard to feel amorous when you're too tired or are interrupted by a crying baby. It's even difficult to have time for a real conversation. This lack of connection with each other has led to more disagreements. If there's anger or resentment in the air then neither of you are feeling particularly loving towards each other. You need to find a way to break this cycle.

All is not hopeless, but it will require some reorganizing of your lives. You need to make regular plans to get out and spend time together as a couple. Buy theater tickets or make dinner reservations in advance so that you are committed to going out. Develop a list of babysitters so that you have more options available. Call your local high school and talk to a home economics teacher to get some names of teens in your area. Have a mother's helper come in after school to give her a break. If you do this then your wife would probably feel less frantic when you walk in the door and not make immediate requests for you to help her out. Swap childcare time with another family. Have someone take your child out for an afternoon so that you can spend time making love without feeling pressured or fatigued.

You have to consciously make time for each other. If you wait until everything else is done, then you'll never find the time. And, if you continue to feel this tension in your marriage, have a few sessions with a marital therapist. This person will help you look honestly at the underlying issues here and help you two work out new solutions together.

Dr. Louise Klein

Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 18:29
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Dr. Louise Klein

Dr. Louise Klein

Louise Klein was born on the West Coast of Canada but lived for many years in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Widener University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Louise Klein is an experienced therapist in insight-oriented talk therapy. She has worked with individuals, couples and groups for many years. Her experience with families includes stepfamilies, adoptive families, nuclear families and families dealing with illness or death. Dr Klein is also trained in thought field therapy and regression therapy and has taught and worked internationally. Louise Klein lives in a rural community with her husband and St. Bernard and has a stepdaughter in college in New England.

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