The greatest cause of stress among housewives is……..Husband!! Every now and then my husband argues and challenges his boss and then as soon as he returns home gets a warning mail or call from the boss. And then I have to leave in between whatever (un)important work (like cooking dinner) I was doing and sit and prepare a fitting as well as humble reply for the boss! He dares his boss (whom I have neither seen nor ever talked to) and I have to handle the situation from the home front. And the next day he simply forgets everything and goes whistling to the office. And here I am at home imagining all day, may be he will come back fired from his job and from tomorrow he will be the homemaker (watching TV with his dear little son all day) and myself in the office thinking of all the work at home!!! Talk about stress with such daredevil husband!!
Well, this was a piece of humor about a serious topic. Luckily I and my husband can afford to laugh through such situations, but this is not the case with all housewives. Women suffer quietly, often not even realizing that they are stressed or depressed. People relate stress only with working men and women and tend to dismiss anything like that among housewives. This attitude is the cause of many cases of undetected stress slowly leading to depression and suicide among housewives. A couple of years back a housewife committed suicide, unable to cope with the stress of her daughter appearing for the Class XII board exams. It was found in a survey, that the highest number of people who committed suicide in Gujarat in 2008, was that of housewives.
Causes of stress
There are several social, economic and psychological causes of stress among women.
1. Relation with husband- In case of the less educated, middle class housewives, mostly the husband is too dominating and often abusive too. The women have to muster up courage to express their opinion, which may not go down well with the husband. Among the educated, there may be clash of attitude towards life, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, leading to a strained relationship.
2. Relation with other family members- Whether working or housewife, when a woman leaves her own parents’ home and comes to live with her in-laws, she expects love and respect from the family. Unfortunately, strained mother-in-law-daughter-in-law relation is a widespread universal phenomenon. However educated the new bride may be, she is made to feel inferior by the in-laws. If the husband is not able to speak up for her, it becomes an unending inner battle for the women. Dowry, infertility, desire for male child are some common causes of harassment of married women in India.
3. Economic factors- The housewife is the one who has to take care of the needs of the family within the familyincome. Uncertain or loss of source of income (job insecurity)of the husband causes stress as the future appears bleak. The type of Inflation we are witnessing these days can cause stress among the housewives with limited resources.
4. Social factors- In today’s competitive/consumerist world, we are always comparing ourselves with those who are upwardly mobile and rich. We are not satisfied with what we have. The comparison and unfulfilled desire of living a luxurious life, causes inferiority complex. Not just economic comparison, women also tend to compare their children’s educational and extra curricular capabilities with other kids. They want only their son to be always the best and feel stressed or go into depression even if he/she comes second.
5. Children’s education- Truly speaking, the stress of school syllabus is actually on the parents. The responsibility of taking care of the children’s studies mostly lies on the mother. Coping with the daily requirements of revision, homework, tests, extra-curricular activities, competition and projects, often become stressful, when one has to balance these with family and social demands like guests and other essential family or social functions to attend. The level of stress is more during the examination time and if there are more than one child to be taken care of. The dread of results of examinations is equal among students and children.
6. Feeling of worthlessness/lack of identity- Women are too busy with their kids till they are toddlers or in school, never ever thinking about one’s own needs, desires, wishes. Till total immersion in the daily household chores and responsibilities creates a void which is felt when the children become independent grown ups. Sometimes, housewives are looked down by the family members and the society as ‘inferior’, because she does not earn money. Often in families where there are two daughter-in-laws, the one who brings more dowry gets more respect, irrespective of the behavior or talents of the other one. In case of the educated housewives, a sense of worthlessness occurs when she misses having a career of her own.
7. Other factors- There can be several other factors like too much housework, the health of husband, children, parents or herself, aging parents living alone in another town, the daily stress of driving through traffic and bad roads to reach school on time, taking care of all house and outside responsibilities when husband is out of town etc.
Symptoms of stress
Irritability, lack of appetite, lethargy, talking less, gloomy or tensed expression, irregular periods are some of the common symptoms of stress.
Prevention and management of stress
Affording to be a housewife is a luxury in today’s world. But in such times of uncertainty everywhere, it is difficult to remain stress free always. Stress seems to creep in by hook or crook from all the unexpected corners of our daily life.
• Be calm and patient -Whether a housewife or a working person, the best way to manage stress is by practicing to be calm and patient in every situation. No problem in life is permanent. When you are calm, you are in a better position to think of the possible causes and ways to come out of the difficult situation.
• Look for the positives- When facing difficult times, look for other positive happenings around as you cope with the problem in hand. Think of all the happy things and times God has given you. Sometimes I do think – ‘I don’t have to go to the school or to the office. Then why do I have to get up early in the morning and slog all day?’ This feeling can slow me down and cause depression. But I perk up immediately when I tell myself that even my husband is not slogging in the office for himself, but for me and my son! He is happy and stress free because he doesn’t have to worry about his son. My son is emotionally happy and doing well in all activities. Earning money does not define one’s worth. We all balance and live for each other. No one can be worthless.
• Develop hobbies- Some hobbies like painting and reading are like meditation. It calms us and allows us to delve into ourselves. Hobby is something we love to do without caring for any monetary benefit. The passion for such activities diverts the mind from negative feelings by keeping us involved. And who knows you may someday gain fame and earn from your hobbies!
• Socialize- Leave the scheming, preaching, complicated world of the TV serials and come out into the world of real people. The more people you meet, know and understand, the better your understanding of the ways of life develop. Participate in voluntary social/charitable activities. These do not earn you money, but earn satisfaction, which is more important in life.
- Exercise and meditate- Exercise and meditation make one feel goos about oneself.
• Spirituality- Read books on spirituality. These are treasure troves of life’s knowledge. Have faith in the Almighty and know that God sends pain only that much that we can tolerate and all difficult times pass gradually.
• Face the challenge- Face the problem with all your resources and develop an attitude, something like – ‘ OK, lets see what happens.’ Seek for answers as you sail through the problems. Take up the challenge. There are many paths to one goal. Keep thinking and keep going. Every challenge you face will make you sharper and stronger.
• Learn to laugh at yourself- Develop your sense of humor by looking at the lighter/funnier side of different situations in life.