Learning to handle parental stress

Professional Moms provides support to women

March 29, 2009|By Lindsay Kalter | Lindsay Kalter,lindsay.kalter@baltsun.com

A group of women with expertise in fields ranging from marketing and teaching to law and finance gathered recently to learn about a skill that cannot be acquired through schooling or textbooks: coping with parental stress.

Professional Moms at Home, an organization of about 100 local women who have traded their full-time working world to being at least part-time stay-at-home moms, was host to a spring open house at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis that included a lecture on "Stress, Moms and Children."

Dr. Matthew Yeazel, an assistant professor at the hospital and psychotherapist, spoke about stress management and took questions from a group of about 25 mothers.

"I lost it with my 7-year-old the other night," one woman said. "I acknowledged to him that mommies and daddies weren't perfect and said I was sorry for yelling ... but now I'm walking around with a lot of guilt."

Yeazel assured the audience that "not everything that happens in your day-to-day interactions with your child is going to affect them for the rest of their life."

He also commended the mother for setting a good example for her child with a thorough apology.

"We're all teaching [children] that we're humans," he said. "And one of the lessons you taught him at that time was, 'Guess what, I'm human and I made a mistake, and I'm OK admitting that I made a mistake, and I'm going to model for you what we do when we make mistakes.' "

Yeazel also discussed ways in which stay-at-home moms can shield their children from the stress they might feel on a daily basis.

If an upsetting event occurs, the parents should first acknowledge to themselves that it might be a difficult day, rather than trying to repress it, he said. They should then focus on the events of the day and stay with their schedule instead of dwelling on the aggravating experience.

Yeazel stressed the importance of adult interaction to mental well-being and suggested arranging play dates with other moms or regular nights out with friends to fulfill that need.

"A lot of times we're spending time with people during the day that are not developmentally at the same place we are. So, therefore, we can't have a conversation about, you know, the economic stimulus plan," he said. "Talking to adults is an essential piece."

PMAH, a 13-year-old Anne Arundel-based group, exists in part to serve that purpose. Debora Hartnett, of Harwood, is co-chair of the publicity committee and a former employee of USAir. She said the regular group activities provide much-needed adult contact.

"It's nice to be able to talk to an adult and not have to ask them if they wet their pants," she said.

PMAH President Jessica Sunder, a former art therapist and mother of two from Hanover, said the group provides opportunities for play groups and allows her to socialize with women who share common interests. When she joined the organization five years ago, she said she was "desperately looking for support. The days sometimes seem very long," she said.

"I did part-time for a year with my first [child], and then I stopped. Trying the part-time was hard, so it made sense to stop. It was a good choice."

Emily Luna, of Crownsville and the chair of the hospitality committee who worked in the finance industry, said being a stay-at-home mom "can be isolating and lonely, and you really have to build a whole new network."

Though some mothers in attendance acknowledged they had a second income at home, some said they expected to return eventually to their careers.

Michele Lovell, a member who has a 3 1/2 -year-old daughter and 3-month-old twins, went from working full-time in construction accounting and office management to staying at her Ridgely home when her twins were born.

Before she and her husband found out they were having twins, they had planned for her to go back to work and rely on day care. But adding another baby into the mix would have increased their day care costs and would have been too expensive. She will probably go back to work eventually.

"I loved my job and I loved going to work every day, but I absolutely love being at home," she said. "I get to watch my kids grow up, and I don't have to worry about work and home. I can just worry about home."

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