My husband works from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a transportation company. We have two toddlers, and I have a 13-year-old from a previous relationship. I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I work three nights a week at a hospital, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., so our girls don't have to go to day care. My husband doesn't appreciate how hard it is for me to live like this. When I bring up how little I've slept, he takes it personally, as if I'm attacking his character. When he watches the kids, he does make comments like, "I don't know how you do it," but I think he says that because it sounds good. How do I get him to see how hard this lifestyle is for me, without him taking it as a personal attack? -D.C., 32, Boston
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First things first: Are you, by any chance, talking about being overwhelmed in a way that sounds like a personal attack? Sometimes I think I'm just "telling" my guy something when, in fact, I'm also implying that he's somehow responsible for the situation I'm telling him about. So ask yourself if you feel he somehow is responsible, that he's falling down on the job by making you live this way.
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If so, the next time you broach the subject, come clean about any snarled feelings of blame you're harboring. People tend to be more open to discussing tough subjects when there are no hidden feelings or agendas lurking beneath the issue. Start with, "Hon, I don't mean to make you feel as if I'm attacking you, even though I do feel some disappointment at how things have worked out. Let's see if we can come up with some alternatives."
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What would those alternatives be? Be open to all ideas. Could you get a different job? Or change your schedule to a swing shift? If you found a part-time job, perhaps you could put the girls in day care for a day or two? The theme of this talk is that your feeling of being overwhelmed and lack of sleep is a scheduling problem you two share. You're on the same side - and in that spirit, next time he says he doesn't know how you do it, take him at his word. There's no reason he wouldn't be telling the truth - it's a wonder you've managed this schedule for as long as you have!
Karen Karbo is an award-winning writer and author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman. She's also a mom, a writing teacher, and a horse owner. Check out more advice from Karen.
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