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Is Being a Stay-at-Home-Mom Fair to your Husband?


sacred-cowFurthermore, is it fair to your children? The following is a comment from a former stay at home mom who disagrees with points I raise in Why your Wife’s Excuses for Not Working are Lame and The Real Reason your Wife Doesn’t Want to Work. Is being a mom “the toughest job there is?” Or, is it spin for women who could return to work, but have chosen not to do so?

Sacred cows make the best hamburger. – Mark Twain

Dr. T,

I’m a woman who enjoys reading your blogs, but have to disagree with you on this point. In my case, I was working when I became pregnant and fully intended on returning to work after the baby came. I couldn’t understand why some women gave up such high paying jobs to stay home. However, when my daughter was born I changed completely. I soon realized that my time with her was fleeting and wanted to relish every minute of it. . .

. . . I began to dread returning to work. Not because I didn’t like my job. I loved my job. I’m a teacher. I had good childcare planned for when I returned to work. My mother-in-law was going watch her. I was just consumed with guilt at the time. I couldn’t imagine someone else telling me about her first word, her first step. When she was upset, I wanted her to run to me for comfort. I wanted to be the main influence in her life.

We weren’t well off and I knew  quitting my job would put us in a bind financially, but at the time I felt that if I failed at being a mother I would’ve failed at everything. You can’t imagine how much I enjoyed each day with my daughter. When she was two I had another daughter. It was very stressful and my husband didn’t always understand that stress. He assumed I was playing all day. We did go to the park, the pool, have picnics, but when you have two toddlers every moment is filled with stress. I was exhausted when my husband would return home.

My daughters are now 15 and 13. I went back to teaching full time when my youngest started kindergarten. . . I’ve never regretted the decision to stay home when they were young, and am very thankful that I was able to do so. . . I understand the point you’re trying to get across in your blog, however there are many women who choose to stay home even after their children are in school and it’s not because they’re avoiding work or because they just want someone to take care of them.

My husband did not understand my desire to stay home with our daughter. He expressed his legitimate concern over finances and, although he didn’t verbalize it, I got the feeling he thought I was just “taking it easy.” I knew it would hurt us financially, but felt that we could cut back in many areas, and that the benefits of staying home with our daughter would be worth any sacrifices we made. . . He is no longer my husband. We divorced the year before my youngest was in kindergarten, so that was the main reason I went back to work. . .

. . . After I returned to work I tried to help out in their classrooms as much as possible and, fortunately, have many wonderful stay-at-home friends whom I relied heavily on to help take care of my daughters. It was very difficult for me as I have no family in town and, as a teacher, it’s not easy to take days off to drive children to dentists, dr. appointments, etc. . .

. . . I can’t imagine anyone enjoying their job as much as I enjoy mine.  However, if I hadn’t divorced I’m not sure if I’d have returned to work. I felt very needed at home. . . (Let me also express the gratitude that even though my ex-husband did not fully understand the desire I had to stay home, he supported my decision.)

I do understand the point you’re trying to make, Dr. T, but please be careful lumping all stay at home moms in the same category. It presents a stereotype that many women do not fit. And let me also state before I sign off that I find you insights and advice valuable! Thank you!

Mary

Hi Mary,

Thank you for the thoughtful comment. It appears that you’ve truly found your calling in teaching and caring for young children, which makes the vocation of kindergarten teacher a perfect fit for you.

I’m not lumping all stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) in the same category. As a mother, wanting to stay at home and bond with your kids is one of the most natural things in the world and an absolutely legitimate choice IF it was mutually agreed upon by a woman and her partner BEFORE having children. Many families can’t afford to have a child on just one income and only feel able to start a family because they’re a two-income household.

Furthermore, I don’t believe it’s fair to the husband to say after you’ve already given birth, “Oh, I changed my mind. I’m not going back to work now.” I’m sure there are many men who would love to stay at home with their kids and nurture their bond as fathers, too, but don’t because they’re honoring their responsibilities. In fact, I’m sure a lot of the men who find themselves in this situation feel duped, betrayed and excluded from the full parental bond.

I respectfully disagree with you about a woman’s “need” to stay home after the child/children are enrolled in school. Yes, kids need rides to appointments and emergencies come up, but it doesn’t require a 24-hour on-call mom taxi service. Non-emergency medical appointments can be scheduled for Saturdays. Some doctors have very early weekday or later evening hours. Or, you take an hour or two from work with advance notice for regular check-ups.

Staying at home after the children are enrolled in school, is a choice, not a necessity. Many women struggle with feelings of guilt at the thought of returning to work. That’s normal and shows what a loving mother you are. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings, discuss them with your partner, and remember that feelings aren’t facts. Mothers who struggle with feelings of guilt and the “need to be needed” need to work through these feelings—especially if it’s damaging their marriage.

I know many men, personally and professionally, who feel mighty resentful and angry about their partner’s refusal to return to work. These men don’t think their wives/partners are “staying at home and taking it easy.” However, they do feel, and rightly so, that they’re having to shoulder the entire financial burden and then have to hear complaints that they don’t do enough around the house or spend enough time with the children.

I wonder how most women would react if the roles were reversed and their husbands unilaterally decided that they were quitting their jobs to stay home with the kids because it’s the most fulfilling choice for them and told their wives that they expected them to carry the entire financial burden? It would be heaven on earth if we only had to the things we find most fulfilling in life. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that luxury. So you compromise and do what you need to do to survive and pay the bills for part of the time and do what’s most fulfilling to you the other part of the time. Being a mother doesn’t exempt you from this reality.

Being a mom is the toughest job there is” is a popular and sacred cow statement that’s almost reached dogmatic proportions. At the risk of unleashing the hounds of hell, I disagree. What about being a dad? You never hear anyone say, “being a dad the toughest job there is.” In some ways, I think it’s more difficult to be a father in our society.

Fathers don’t get to spend much time with their kids because they’re the ones who are often the main breadwinners while the wives get the glory for spending the money on the kids and physically buying them clothes, toys, etc. Moms get to be seen as the “givers” and “nurturers,” when it’s the dads who are providing them with the funds that enable them to do so.

When some marriages end in divorce, most dads don’t get full custody and get to spend even less time with their kids. And, in many situations, because their exes are angry with them about the demise of the relationship, moms trash the dads to their kids, which further strains the father-child relationship.

On talk shows and “news” programs, there’s a lot of focus on “the importance of being a father.” However, what society really means when they talk about “the importance of being a father” is paying child support on time and not being a deadbeat dad. Thanks for the sperm and the support checks. Now go away. It’s rare that media sources talk about the importance of a father in a child’s life. All in all, I think a lot of fathers get the short end of the stick.

Furthermore, being a parent isn’t a job; it’s a relationship. You put work and effort into relationships whether their platonic, familial, parental, romantic or collegial, but they’re not jobs. That’s spin for women who have made the choice not to return to work. You get to quit a job, change a job, get paid for a job, be promoted on a job and punch out at the end of a day.

I’ve always found women who view being a mother as a “job” to be defensive and over-identified with the role to the exclusion and detriment of everything else, including their grown-up relationships. Anyway, this is just my perspective. I don’t expect everyone to agree with it. In fact, I imagine some people will want to clobber me for it.

For the record, my mom worked part-time after I was born and returned to work full-time when I was in pre-school. I don’t remember feeling resentful or angry about this. Like you, we also didn’t have family locally to help. She relied on a network of friends, school programs, and neighbors for transportation, sitting, etc. Ideally, that’s how a community is supposed to work. It also teaches your children the importance of relationships and support networks instead of fostering the expectation that people should be at their beck and call and drop everything to cater to their needs.

I respect my mother and admire her for her choices. She was a great role model who has independently and successfully run her own business for the last 30 years. My point is, my mother behaved as if working was normal and nothing to be upset about and, as a child, I adopted her attitude. If kids sense that you feel bad or guilty about something, they’ll pick up on it and amplify those feelings back to you.

Thank you again for your comments, Mary. I enjoy the discourse, especially when it’s of differing viewpoints!

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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Workplace Bullying and Office Politics: What is Mobbing?


paranoidDo you feel like you’re being singled out or “ganged up on” at work? Do your co-workers suddenly stop talking when you enter the room? Do you notice co-workers and/your boss rolling their eyes or exchanging glances when you talk in a meeting? Do you feel like people at work are undermining you or out to get you? Do you wonder if you’re just imagining things or being paranoid?

If so, you may be the target of a form of workplace bullying called mobbing. Mobbing isn’t illegal and is a commonplace occurrence in office politics.

What is mobbing?

Mobbing is the impassioned psychological harassment of one individual by a group. The attack is usually instigated and led by one or two people who are typically in a position of authority or a peer leader. The instigator enlists his or her colleagues to engage in a form of group bullying.

The group victimization of a single target has several goals including: demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating, scapegoating, isolating and, ultimately, eliminating the targeted individual.

These behaviors typically manifest as petty harassment and bureaucratic hassles (Rosen, Katz & Morahan, 2007). Mobbing is a form of emotional abuse, which can negatively impact your health, career, family, and the organization that harbors bullies.

Organizational impact of mobbing.

Companies that condone individual bullying and mobbing are affected by hard and “soft” costs. Hard costs include high employee turnover, high absenteeism, “presenteeism” (employees show up, but they’re on “autopilot”—they exercise discretionary effort), decreased productivity, and a bad reputation in regard to taking care of employees. A bad company reputation reduces the ability to attract talented recruits. Soft costs include decreased job satisfaction, poor communication and information sharing, low morale, and a sense of betrayal by management. Eventually, the poor morale and reduced creativity trickles down to a poor customer experience.

Who is likely to mob?

Mobbing ringleaders are bullies who try to dominate and control others. These behaviors usually aren’t overt. Instead, mobbing employs the surreptitious use of rumor, innuendo, making inappropriate jokes, and public discrediting. One of the most stressful aspects for targets of this abuse is the covert nature of what’s going on and the lack of concrete evidence. It’s a form of gaslighting in which the target begins to doubt his or her experiences and/or sanity.

Namie and Namie (2000) describe individuals who instigate mobbing as, “inadequate, defective, and poorly developed people.” They’re generally angry, unpredictable, critical, jealous, and manipulative (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 1999; Namie and Namie, 2000). The emotionally abusive bullies who engage in mobbing revel in the excitement produced by their animosity. It produces a pleasurable buzz or rush in them. Westhues (2002) refers to this as “the euphoria of collective attack.”

Bullying and mobbing in any organization usually isn’t a one time occurrence. All bullies are “repeat offenders;” if they’ve bullied once and gotten away with it, they’ll most definitely bully again. Getting away with it is its own reward as is being able to manipulate and control both the target and management.

A bully always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs. After they force one target out of the system, they’ll move onto the next one within 2 hours to 2 weeks. Abusing others are how they derive a sense of power and control. A bully doesn’t stop bullying until someone with authority makes them stop and/or fires them.

Who is likely to become the target of mobbing?

Mobbing targets have certain characteristics in common. Typical targets include people who are:

  • average to high achievers
  • extremely competent
  • devoted
  • loyal
  • organized
  • cooperative
  • experienced

They become targets out of jealousy or because they’ve somehow put a co-worker or superior to shame. Creative people are also likely to be mobbed because they present new ideas that challenge others. Other likely targets include people who excel in some area, are different in some way (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity), dissent with certain organizational practices, or have knowledge of wrongdoing or a breach of ethics by someone with authority in the workplace.

If you believe you’re being bullied by a co-worker and/or are the target of mobbing, take the time to research your options. Find out what you can do to protect yourself and come up with a strategy to find away out of this toxic situation. It may require that you to transfer to another department or seek employment elsewhere. If your company condones bullying, you may have no other choice but to leave.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Paranoid on Francis-Emporium.

Rosen, S.E., Katz, J.K., & Morahan, P.S. (2007), Avoiding \’mobbing\’ in the workplace–and surviving if you are mobbed. Academic Physician & Scientist, Sept. 2007, pp. 4-6.

6 More Office Politics Personality Types: Bullies in the Workplace


evil-teganDo you have co-workers who constantly tell you how to do your job? Do they criticize your work while bragging about their performance, which is actually mediocre at best? Do they take credit for your ideas and usurp your authority? If so, you’re probably dealing with a workplace bully.

Romanticize humanity as much as you like, but we share certain characteristics with our furry quadruped counterparts. I have a friend who watches The Dog Whisperer for tips on managing his kids’ behavior instead of reading childcare books and you know what? It works.

We’re pack animals, just like dogs. Office bullies are basically dogs with behavioral problems that have been allowed to run amok. Understanding what’s at play can help you feel better and survive, if not thrive, in the doggy daycare of office politics.

The Basic Office Bully Personality Types

1) The Alpha Dog. One growl and other dogs respectfully back away. If they don’t, they get a set of jaws clamped onto to their necks and assume the submissive position.

Figure out who the alpha dog is in your office. It may not be “the boss.” It could be the assistant or the VP. Determine their ego needs–flattery, reliability, staying late–and give it to them. Although I hate to say it, if you can learn how to fake sincerity with these people, it’ll make your life easier.

2) The Lateral Land Grabber. Ever wonder why organizations have departments? Because different employees have different skills and dog peeingserve different functions? Yes, but there’s more to it.

Dogs are territorial creatures. They pee along the perimeters of their yard, neighborhood fire hydrants, and telephone poles. When other dogs encroach upon their territory, they get pissed.

We’re territorial, too. Do you have co-workers who tell you how to do your job? Do they offer unsolicited advice, even when they’re ignorant on the subject? It’s a lateral land grab. They’re marking your territory.

According to Franke James, inventor of the Office Politics Game, this is normal dog behavior. However, when taken to extremes, it’s an indication of territorial dominance, anxiety, and insecurity. There’s a difference between this highly aggressive bullying behavior and collaborative interdepartmental feedback, although the bully will tell you he’s “just trying to help.”

3) Mr. or Ms. Smoke and Mirrors. This person’s game is distraction through detraction. They trash you and tell you how you should be doing your job in order to draw attention away from their ineptitude and incompetence. This is a common tactic of the workplace bully. You know this is occurring when the facts don’t back up their allegations. Furthermore, when you challenge them with the facts, they make up the craziest BS to refute them.

I once worked with a guy who was a master of this technique. Unfortunately, it was the only thing he’d mastered. He made noisy, unfounded public disparaging pronouncements about my department, meanwhile, every business deal he made cost the company money instead of making it  money. Distraction through detraction.

4) The Control Freak. If you spend all your time worrying about and trying to control others, when do you get your work done? Do you really have that much time on your hands? The answer is, yes, they do have that much time on their hands because they’re not doing their work; they’re too busy telling you how to do your work. By spending every waking moment trying to control people and situations, they give the appearance of being busy without accomplishing anything of their own.

This type believes his or her way is the only way. They try to leave their thumbprint on everything so that they can take credit for everything. It’s another form of bullying that involves domination and micro-management. Eventually, this behavior undermines your confidence and causes physical and psychological symptoms from the stress of being under constant attacks and monitoring.

5) Doggie Wants your Bone. They’re after your job. This happens all the time, hence the expression, “Dog eat dog world.” Enough said.

chien-lunatique6) Mad Dog. They don’t want your job; they want you gone. This person is an uber-territorial, foaming at the mouth, pit bull. Watch your back. They prey on the vulnerable and anyone who isn’t a malleable sycophant. They also go after people who see through the facade that masks their mediocrity and vicious attack behaviors.

Deep down, they’re just the sickly, mewling runt of the litter. This is another bully behavior. Although their attacks and machinations feel personal, you’re just their target du jour. They seek and destroy others, particularly those who are smarter, more talented, more creative and more successful, in order to feel powerful and better about themselves. After, they force you out, they’ll move onto their next target within 2 hours to two weeks. This type always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs.

When an office has infighting, territory disputes, and withholds supplies and information, it’s a clear sign that it’s a workplace in which bullying is rampant and/or is tolerated by management. If you recognize any of the above personalities at your office, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with how bullies operate and how you can protect yourself. In fact, I’ll be writing more on this topic in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

Also see: How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credits:

Evil Tegan by Brendan Crawford, a friend.

Dog peeing unknown source.

Chien lunatique by liz du canada on flickr.