An excerpt from Motherhood Without Guild
by Debra Gilbert Rosenberg
Question and Answer from the section
Motherhood and Marriage
My husband misses how I used to care for him. I feel guilty that he is neglected, but what can I do when I feel too "nurtured out" myself?
Some women do not realize how often they are the giver in their lives until they have children. Before kids, you may have been a fabulous listener, always interested in the social exploits of your best friends. Or maybe you were one of those workaholics, a worker who gave everything to her job and then some. Maybe you expected that once you became a mother, you would still work as hard to be a good friend, spouse, daughter, and worker while also making your home gorgeous, cooking fantastic meals, and helping the kids with homework. If you weren’t exhausted from all that giving before, mothering can put you over the edge. When you give everyone else everything you have, there’s nothing left over for you and your husband.
Tell your husband! It seems obvious to most moms, but often husbands really don’t know how much of their wives’ days focuses on taking care of others. I hear this all the time, as mothers take care of the home, the kids, their jobs, their aging relatives, and their friends. Often there is just nothing remaining to give to your husband at the end of each day. Believing that your husband and your marriage can handle what amounts to neglect, you put you and your husband last and no longer nurture your relationship.
So tell your husband when you feel all used up. Explain that you spent the day listening to the woes of your sister-in-law or solving a major problem at work. Share with him how many emails you answered, diapers you changed, carpools you drove, reports you filed, or calls you made about your mother’s doctor bills. Tell him you feel all “nurtured out,” and assure him that you love him, but feel depleted.
In addition to trying to make sure your husband understands the nature of your daily nurturing activities, you may also need to make some adjustments. If you feel “nurtured out” most of the time, something is out of balance. Either you are doing too much, expecting too much of yourself, or your husband or others are expecting too much of you. Get help, either at work or at home, or limit or eliminate some of your more draining activities or relationships.
Also, take care of yourself. You deserve to have some discretionary emotional giving and to be nurtured yourself. Start to examine which friendships still give you pleasure and which ones seem too demanding. Reconsider your priorities. I would never suggest that you do less than a good job at whatever you undertake, but you might be working so hard to fill everyone else’s needs that you have put your own and your husband’s needs aside. By reassessing what you honestly value, what gives you satisfaction and what has become an unnecessary chore, you have the opportunity to make better choices and free up some of that emotional energy. When you nurture people and projects you genuinely care about, you will not feel so overextended and you will be able to focus, at least occasionally, on your husband as well. And if you are neglecting your husband mostly because you are feeling so emotionally overdrawn, taking care of yourself will take care of him—and you will both feel better.