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Advice from a mental health specialist re women's roles

(84 Posts)
doobadodobedoey Mon 11-Dec-17 22:01:27

I visit a mental health specialist to help me keep things in check, usually addressing the every day things in life getting me down and finding new ways of perceiving them/planning for things.
Last time I saw her I explained my frustration at the role of women in the home. I'd been ill and found that when I slowed down, so did my DH, rather than taking on the things I couldn't do.
I've recently been to see her again and we discussed solutions, in an email, she confirmed the stance I ought to take. Acceptance.
she said that many women are the driving force of the home and when we slow down, it's natural that everyone else does. Therefore I need to accept this to be at peace with it.
I very much struggle to accept this. Why are women expected to be the driving force of the home when men are capable of filling their shoes when women are too ill to function? I don't get it.
Am I being unreasonable to refuse to accept this when I next meet with her?

Gacapa Mon 11-Dec-17 22:03:39

Fuck that.

I hope you're ok.

Dozer Mon 11-Dec-17 22:07:34

I have had a similar suggestion from a couple of (female) MH professionals.

One otherwise helpful counsellor suggested that I be more mindful and present while doing dull domestic tasks! At that moment I was mindful of wanting to tell her to F off!

I guess some MH professionals are not staunch feminists!

Or perhaps they were saying that reality is pretty crap and sometimes it’s easier - for oneself- to detach or accept (if you’re not going to end the relationship) than to fight “the man”/“the system”.

Dozer Mon 11-Dec-17 22:09:18

I didn’t challenge them on it, I just decided that they were not a good source of help on those kind of challenges. Few people in RL are IME, eg friends. MN and online is better for that kind of thing?

WhatWouldGenghisDo Mon 11-Dec-17 22:17:57

What Gapaca said.

The only good reason for accepting this situation would be if you felt that refusing to accept it would do you harm

Or at any rate more harm


doobadodobedoey Mon 11-Dec-17 22:26:26

I find it disappointing that women are still perceiving things this way in this day and age. My DH does his fair share generally, but it really dawned on me how much the mental load is down to me when I couldn't do it and DH just wanted to sit around with his head in the sand as of he was lost or something. I was shocked by it.
Surely there's a medium between acceptance and losing my shit/being single forever?

PricklyBall Mon 11-Dec-17 22:57:12

dooba - is this NHS funded, or paid for out of your own pocket? If you're paying, I'd suggest finding another counsellor. This one sounds shocking.

Haggisfish Mon 11-Dec-17 22:59:20

I agree with get another.

GuardianLions Mon 11-Dec-17 23:12:26

dooba being ground down by domestic drudgery when the other adult in the house doesn't pick up the slack -is worth being irate about. Injustice is infuriating, and if it doesn't infuriate you then your spirit has been snuffed.

On a practical level, there are only a tiny percentage of men who do their fair share, and being with a more common type of man - you can't really change them that much if they haven't had it instilled in them at an early age.

Perhaps you could book yourself into a travelodge or something for a few days while you are ill so you don't have to face the chaos, and summons the strength to fight a bit when you get back?

I hope you feel better soon flowers

doobadodobedoey Tue 12-Dec-17 06:56:05

Guardian- I suggested exactly this to her- perhaps I should get away when I'm ill. She responded that running away when you have 2 DCs is not an option and that I needed to learn to cope even when ill.

glow1984 Tue 12-Dec-17 07:00:51

Women shouldn’t be the driving force in the home, but it happens all the time. Even when both work full time, the woman ends up doing the bulk of the housework. And women are more likely to stay at home, as evidenced by mumsnet.

But we shouldn’t accept it, and telling you to is absolute bullshit.

Even more disappointing that this came from a woman too sad

doobadodobedoey Tue 12-Dec-17 07:03:37

I pay out of my own pocket, but have tried several private counsellors/ psychologists/coaches over the years and have found similar issues... because DH does his fair share in 'comparison' to some men, I should consider myself lucky even though IMO there are still big inequalities in our household.

IfyouseeRitaMoreno Tue 12-Dec-17 07:08:42

Even more disappointing that this came from a woman too

Not surprising though. Women have been telling themselves that they are have de facto power for centuries in order to save their mental health.

I always thought it’d be interesting to embrace the patriarchy and its roles for a month or so, as an experiment to see if it makes you feel better.

PricklyBall Tue 12-Dec-17 07:12:31

How about the possibility that a lot of women's mental health issues (in general - not necessarily yours - though do think about this as a possibility) is due to the enormous extra stress placed on them by being expected to carry a huge load of extra work and responsibility in the form of the double shift - going from paid employment to the vast bulk of the domestic drudge work with no down time at all, while being expected to put on a happy Doris Day fifties housewife face and demeanour while doing this. And at the same time watching your husband put in a desultory few hours a week cherry picking the easy bits of housework (bins, half-hearted attempt at hoovering the sitting room without actually bothering to take the kids' toys back to their room, putting half the dishes in the dishwasher while leaving the mugs in the inaccessible places for wifey to pick up later and leaving the counters covered in crumbs, "letting" the missus get a quiet two hours to do the hoovering by, gasp of awe, taking the children out for a couple of hours of fun in the swimming pool, but not washing the kids' socks. ensuring their lunch box is there for school, etc. - NAMALT, but most of them). Of course your mental health will suffer under these conditions.

Wifework is like a check-list of the most stressful workplace features imagineable. Enormous responsibility without any power to take control of the situation. Long, unrelenting hours in a job that is dull as shit. No recognition for the hard work you do - utterly undervalued by others as an activity even though it's vital to their comfort. Hardly any time off. Split shifts. Watching the "boss" swan around taking huge amounts of credit for the end result ("clean home, I'm the breadwinner who facilitates it all"), generally while he does very little of the actual work.

What about instead of you "learning to cope", your husband learns to genuinely do his bit instead of "slowing down" because you're too ill to do your normal lion's share of the shit work?

My suspicions are confirmed - you need a new counsellor, and fast. In fact, possibly no counsellor would be better than the one you have.

DoubleRamsey Tue 12-Dec-17 07:20:31

This is probably controversial but this is the very reason I think the current nuclear family set up doesn't work. I'm not sure why humans have adopted it to be honest! Patriarchal rubbish probably.

I feel like women are much better off in a community with other women when they have babies and get sick etc

But anyway I digress, sorry I know that's not particularly helpful, but in reality I'm not sure you can force someone to take the 'mental load' you either stop doing it and behave 'like a man' and see what the consequences are. A stance I have taken in my own life which has worked pretty well. Or you accept it. Trying to get a man (or anyone for that matter) to change is like chasing your tail. You will burn out and get more resentful with nothing to show for it. So I guess maybe that's what the counsellor meant about acceptance. That despite the injustice you can actually only control yourself.

PhilODox Tue 12-Dec-17 07:30:16

Fantastic post pricklyball.
What she said!

And I hope things improve for you OP flowers

Thermostatpolice Tue 12-Dec-17 08:05:38

PricklyBall couldn't agree more.

I have also heard professionals advise women who are buckling under the strain to try looking at their situation in a different way. Why?? OP and other women seem to be reacting in a perfectly rational way to an intolerable workload and responsibility. It's not healthy. No wonder it affects their health.

DoubleRamsey I get what you're saying. But when we don't take on the mental load the consequences are often felt by people who are our responsibility. E.g. if I don't spend time finding a responsible babysitter rather than the first teenager who comes to mind, the kids will suffer, not me or DH. It's not a task that I can responsibly drop from the mental load even if DH has. Times this by a zillion minor but important responsibilities over several children and the load feels overwhelming. Even when we both disregard tasks that will only have consequences for DH and me.

Anyway OP. I would change counsellor. Possibly one who can counsel both you and your DH so that he understands the importance of stepping up. Your suggestion of a break when you need it is very, very reasonable. Such a reasonable idea. Indeed so reasonable that it is standard healthcare practise in some countries (e.g. Germany, where women buckling under strain can be prescribed a three-week 'cure' that includes FT childcare).

ReanimatedSGB Tue 12-Dec-17 08:35:53

An awful lot of the therapy industry is still thoroughly misogynistic. Not least because much of it grew out of the need to find new ways of controlling women in the first place.
I think there have been a few recent studies done which show that a lot of what presents as MH problems in heterosexual women are purely and simply the result of a relationship with an abusive or selfish man (there's plenty of at least anecdotal evidence of this on MN) and they are not mentally 'ill' at all: their responses to being persistently mistreated are entirely rational.

But a therapist/counsellor whose advice is basically 'learn to eat shit and smile' is useless. It might be worth looking to see if there are any feminist therapists near you.

WhatWouldGenghisDo Tue 12-Dec-17 09:08:46

have tried several private counsellors/ psychologists/coaches over the years and have found similar issues...

I'm a bit horrified by this. My understanding was that counsellors and psychologists trained in most mainstream therapy models are explicitly taught not to impose their own cultural expectations on their clients. I agree with pps, dooba, keep looking til you find someone who knows how to do their job properly!

Ineedacupofteadesperately Tue 12-Dec-17 10:17:09

She responded that running away when you have 2 DCs is not an option and that I needed to learn to cope even when ill.

This is shocking. Your DCs would be with their other adult, healthy, parent. How insulting to your DH - she's acting like you're a single parent and he's completely incapable. I think getting away (not running away - you're delegating until you're well to the other responsible adult ffs) is exactly what you need to do - it's recuperation. And what if you simply can't cope? Why are women expected to keep going until they drop? Dump the therapist and spend the money you're saving on a longer hotel stay. At the very least, your DH will appreciate you more when you come back.

Totally agree with pricklyball and thermostat . There seems to be a lot of bullshit mindfulness spewed by the NHS to people who are miserable because of their situation. But it's never going to make you feel better is it, if the environment stays the same? Zero hours contract and can't pay the rent? Be mindful. Stuff that.

Ineedacupofteadesperately Tue 12-Dec-17 10:19:36

Thermostat Love the German rest cure. If only the NHS would do this they'd probably save a fortune in counsellors and anti-depressants!

Littlechocola Tue 12-Dec-17 10:23:56

She’s pushing her views on to you. You accept if you want to accept but I doubt it would help you or your family and it would be unhealthy for all.
I’m a MH professional, we’re not all like it.

Dozer Tue 12-Dec-17 12:11:27

The view that is the majority view IMO: I’ve heard it from friends

My friend, who is in a relat

Thermostatpolice Tue 12-Dec-17 13:38:00

Ineedacupofteadesperately they see it as a preventative measure which works out cheaper overall. Really sensible.

PuzzledOfPenzance Tue 12-Dec-17 16:25:34

An awful lot of the therapy industry is still thoroughly misogynistic. Not least because much of it grew out of the need to find new ways of controlling women in the first place.

Reanimated I haven't come across/realised this, are there any books/articles covering it?

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