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What's Happening to Women? Part I

Last week I wrote an article about how modern men are struggling, knowing full well it would only be fair to follow up with a few comments on modern women as well. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my sister showed the first article to my dad, who wanted to chat with me on the phone so he could ask, "Gosh, why are you coming down so hard on men?" He was laughing good-naturedly as he said it, but his reaction convinced me I needed to state clearly that my intent was not and is not to criticize, shame, or belittle anyone, but to draw attention to a concerning problem that I feel like everyone must see with their eyes (you'd be blind not to), but not really see with their hearts and minds, if you know what I mean. It seems we are all so desensitized to alarming trends these days that it takes a little extra dose of pluck to jar people out of their distracted ambivalence and give due attention to the problems at hand. Because what is happening to men and women is alarming and we should take notice!

Since I am a woman, I feel I can comment more in depth on the problems women are facing, but as I sat to write this, I discovered I couldn't do the topic justice in just one single post. Therefore, I'll make this Part I and see how far I need to travel with this train of thought. I don't know that I've experienced all of the challenges (yet), but I've experienced most of them - and those I haven't tackled personally, I've seen other women confront - some already claiming victory on the other side, and others still fighting to keep their heads above water and survive another day.

So how are women struggling? Here is one thought for today.


Have you heard of it? If not, give this a listen and see if it doesn't describe someone you know. I haven't read the book yet, but I confess this condition describes me to a T most months of the year, though I am trying really hard not to fall into this dreadful pattern again when school starts up in the fall. I have seasons when I feel like I'm keeping this relentless monster under control, and other times when I'm completely its slave. The entire month of May was a rushing blur. June, so far, is behaving and staying in its lane. I'm proceeding into the rest of summer feeling cautiously optimistic.

RWS is not a medical diagnosis, by the way, but rather an informal yet appropriate moniker for those of us who wake up first thing in the morning already feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the day that lies ahead of us. Like me, you might face this condition seasonally. But it's also true that many women have adopted this as a longterm way of life, if it can be called living at all!

Symptoms that alert me to an oncoming bout of this syndrome include: unconsciously holding my breath or breathing shallowly, a tanking HRV (heart rate variability), clenching my fists, hunching my shoulders up to my ears, pursing my lips and tensing my jaw, rushing my children, fussing at my children, feeling irritated with my husband, sighing often in exasperation, ruminating obsessively over negative thoughts, and focusing unduly on the (real or imagined) injustices in my life. In other words, I'm self-absorbed, anxious, and discontent. A real joy to be around, as you can imagine!

I sometimes hide in bed, wishing to delay the early morning light, dreading the sound of little boys' bare feet padding around upstairs, and the telltale signs of another new day starting, because I know once the day officially begins, it is going to rage ahead ALL DAY LONG, mercilessly dragging me with it from one task to the next, until sometime late that night when I fall back into bed again wondering how I'm going to pull this off again the next day.

As soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning, I rush from one thing to the next - getting dressed, working in some exercise and quiet time and sunshine, preparing meals, educating my children, transporting my children, attending all the appointments and events and activities, keeping up with laundry/dishes/piles of clutter/phone calls/self-development/hobbies/friends and family, and trying to save some energy and contentment for my husband when he's home, because he's worn out, too - only in a different way. All this productivity, busy-ness, and low grade stress keeps me stuck in sympathetic (fight or flight) mode, which means my cortisol is constantly elevated and my other critical hormones and my sleep are paying the cost. It makes me irritable and distracted, short-tempered and anxious...none of the things I want to be.

I wish I could offer an easy solution for Rushing Woman Syndrome. The neat and tidy suggestion is JUST DO LESS, yet I understand as well as any of you that sometimes modern women are bound to responsibilities we can't just drop simply because they are inconvenient or draining. Sometimes saying NO isn't an option in this fast-paced world. I've got to get out of bed. My children need to eat. The house needs to be tidy, if not clean - because a disordered home just adds to my stress. And usually the things I could delete from my schedule are the very things that bring me a bit of innocent pleasure and remind me that I'm more than a wife and mom, but also an individual in my own right who has dreams and passions and hobbies. It just feels like everyone's expectations - including my own - are unreasonably demanding and often unattainable for us superhero-wanna-be's.

But a few things I am learning to do include these:

  1. Make daily alone time non-negotiable, even if it's just 10 minutes.

  2. Accept help when it's offered. Don't let your stubborn pride ruin you.

  3. Figure out what's most important and do those things first.

  4. Hire a babysitter on a regular basis. Sometimes it's great to leave her home with the kids so you can do errands solo. Other times, you might ask her to take the kids out for some fun activity in town so you can have the house to yourself. I guarantee everyone will benefit in this scenario!

  5. Ask your husband to take the kids out for a few hours several times during the week, or more often if that's possible. Kids need solo time with dad, too! Moms, it's okay if you're not involved in everything your kids do all the time, and I promise Dads can handle the job, or they will die trying!

  6. You've probably heard the saying, "If it's not a hell, yes! than it's a hard NO." Stop feeling guilty about declining opportunities that neither excite you nor play to your strengths.

  7. Oh boy, I'm preaching to myself here... insist that your children do as much for themselves as they are reasonably capable of doing. I am so guilty of handicapping my three kids by doing so much - too much - for them! Lots of reasons, no excuses. This is forefront on my radar right now and I am determined to do better (by doing less and delegating tasks instead).

  8. Work smarter, not harder. Can you arrange a carpool with some mom friends? Can you exercise at home rather than stealing time from your day traveling to and from a gym, or do a quick 20-minute HIIT workout instead of a 45 minute run? Can you batch cook? Can you turn off the television, delete your time-sucking social media apps, or write a schedule for the next day before going to bed 30 minutes earlier? Surely there are ways you and I can optimize our time and energy each day!

  9. Be more intentional with your calendar. Write things down where you can't forget them, and make every effort not to overbook yourself. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day, a week, and a weekend. There is nothing that excites my husband and me so much as a weekend with no obligations! A rare treat indeed!

  10. In that same vein, know your limits. We all have them, and we are happiest when we honor them.

More to come, for women's struggles certainly surpass a sense of constant urgency. If you feel like you're suffering with RWS, maybe there will be an appropriate opportunity to share this article with your significant other. Work together to develop a plan to simplify your home life so you can maximize your time loving on the people and developing the values that really matter.

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