Monday, November 26, 2012

Insecurities and the Vacuum Cleaner Gene

This post is part of a continuing series entitled The Hunt for the Vacuum Cleaner Gene. Earlier posts include such topics as How Not to Ask Your Husband for Help, which looks at some of the natural tendencies people have when they try to ask for help from their spouse, and the follow-up post How to State a Request for Help, which examines several subtle variations of stating requests for help. This includes the hidden messages you should avoid delivering.

Today I look at how our personal insecurities can affect our willingness to ask our partners for help when we need it.

We’re all human, so we all have times when our personal insecurities bubble to the surface. Those are the instances when that inner voice speaks up and reminds us why we’re inadequate, unattractive, likely to fail – you can substitute your own worries and doubts here. We all have them in some form or other.

It doesn’t matter that the inner voice is one of the world’s greatest and most persistent liars. We still tend to listen from time to time because that voice is a crafty one. That is our scared and lonely inner child talking. She (or he) pipes up exactly when we’re least able to resist. Our insecurities start churning around in our mind precisely when we’re tired, anxious, under tremendous stress – in other words, when we are least able to resist the insidious message that we’re unworthy and somehow deserving of all the turmoil we’re going through.

Take as an example the exhausted stay-at-home mom who has just spent a whirlwind day trying to keep up with a toddler and a five-year-old, and now has to deal with hubby arriving home and wondering out loud why the lunch dishes aren’t washed and dinner isn’t ready yet. Or consider the working mother who feels pulled in five directions at once when she picks up the kids from their after-school daycare. She arrives home to face dinner preparation, homework, soccer practice, violin lessons, piano lessons, kitchen cleanup, and lunch preparation for the next day.

Every ... single ... day.

Tired? Check. Anxious? You betcha. Under tremendous stress? Please.

It’s only natural that this type of pressure is hard on a person’s self esteem. It can be difficult to feel good about yourself when you spend more time washing spit-up carrots from bibs than seeing your friends or going to the gym like you used to do. You feel isolated and you can’t seem to summon up the extra energy to do much about it.
Now ask yourself this. Do you feel worthy of a fair deal when it comes to asking for help around the house from your man? Or is your inner voice telling you that you’re lucky he even chose to be with you in the first place?

“I shouldn’t stir the pot,” you might say to yourself, “in case it causes trouble and I end up losing him. After all, it’s not so bad doing the work myself. I’ve been handling it so far. I can keep on going.”

Many new mothers give up their careers and their youthful figures, and now have an infant to support. This can translate into an unfamiliar and possibly terrifying feeling of vulnerability. Where would you and your baby be if he left you? You might feel like you’re in a weak position to negotiate. And if the two of you are among the many who’ve fought over housework, this could be exactly the type of touchy topic you feel the least like bringing up.

In other words, there are many ways that basic human nature and life circumstances conspire to make wives and mothers feel unworthy of a better deal. The truth is, though, you make an amazing contribution to your family. You are as deserving as every other person on the planet when it comes to being supported, appreciated, and cherished. There is no need for your insecurities to prevent you and your husband from enjoying a mutually supportive relationship.

Let’s talk about feeling vulnerable for a moment, because I’ve mentioned issues that can be huge in some relationships. Specifically I mean the mother who is seriously worried her husband might leave if she pushes for a better deal. If it’s true that asking your husband to be supportive will be enough for him to leave, your issues may be larger than can be dealt with by any series of online articles. You might need help of a different nature, such as marriage counseling.

And by the way, when a man is the sole provider for a mother and children, in my books he has absolutely no business holding that over her head when it comes to getting his way. I consider that to be abusive. Addressing that sort of behavior is also beyond the scope of an article like this.

In many cases, though, self esteem issues can get in the way of open and honest communication even when the couple’s respective fears are completely unfounded. After all, most husbands with a SAHM are working hard at their careers specifically to support their family, so their children can have the best care possible. Part of providing that care and support is for him to pitch in around the house too, not just at his job.

The approach suggested in this related post is designed specifically with these types of insecurities in mind. Rather than needing to raise tensions by pushing aggressively for change, you and your partner can create low-stress opportunities to make each other feel good about helping and being helped. One of the best ways to feel less vulnerable is strengthen your relationship. You can begin the process of achieving this by offering him opportunities to help, and then letting him know how much you appreciate him as your support hero.

You can have a fair workload sharing arrangement in your home, and don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you otherwise. Future posts will continue to provide ideas for how to achieve this.

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