Just in the past week there have been numerous articles and TV segments about women, stress, anxiety and the use of medication.
In a segment of the Today show this morning they referred to the statistic that one quarter of women report to use medication to deal with stress, anxiety and as a sleep aid calling this pill use "mother's new little helpers".
I would suspect that the number is higher than one quarter when you factor in the number of women who use alcohol to cope with stress. And in fact "mother's little helpers" is not all that new. I recall when I was a new mother in the early 1990's it was suggested by other mothers that a glass, or two, of wine at night and that on those out of control days a pill (usually something like Seconal) along with the wine was a good idea.
As a society we have long known that stress leads to all sorts of problems with physical health, changes in ones ability to function in daily life and overall emotional stability. I do not think that I would be going out on a limb to state that we all know and understand these facts. And while we all understand that high levels of stress are a bad thing I believe that we have accepted "being stressed" as a fact of life. It feels like a run away train that we can't get off of and so we look to medicate the stress through pills and or alcohol. And so we have begun to accept the use of pills to help us maintain the ability to function. For the vast majority of women the statement is the same; what else am I supposed to do? I have a husband, kids, a job, a home, bills to pay........ So while there are individual differences in terms of what constitutes each woman's list, the fact remains that there is a list, the list is long and the belief is that there is no way to eliminate items from "the list".
We have moved from the catch phrase of "having it all" to acknowledgement that we just want to be able to live with what we got. Women are warriors in that we do not give up, we do not admit defeat in the face of opposition, difficulty or fatigue, we fight on. As current statistics indicate; at least one in four women are looking for pharmaceutical help in staying in the fight.
We risk becoming increasingly medicated if we do not go old school. By old school I mean lets go back to looking at the set-up. And by set-up I mean the roles that women play in society today. I understand that this dates me to talk about women's roles in today society, but it is still an important conversation to be had.
Why is it that women are the decision makers? Statistics indicate that women make 80% of the daily decisions and with this role women face decision making fatigue and high amounts of stress that accompany the role of decider. It may go without saying but I will anyway, there are of course relationships that are an exception to the rule, but by and large women make the decisions about family life; what the family eats, the purchase of the groceries and items that it takes to run a household, who needs socks, who needs to go to the dentist or for a check up, what the house looks like inside and out and so on. The decisions today should be easier because we know more but knowing more has lead to more brain power to evaluate; does the water bottle the kids take to play soccer have the bad plastic that leaches chemicals? Should I be vaccinating the kids or not? In fact the more we know the more we realize we don't know which also increases the level of anxiety.
And we haven't begun to talk about relationships issues that need to be taken into account; date night, keeping the romance alive, keeping the lines of communication open.... One young working mother shared that date night means so much work for her in that she must find the sitter, make sure the kids have dinner, the home work is done, the bath, bed and reading for 20 min set with the sitter, as well as getting herself ready.......all while her husband watched the news. By the time this young mother walks out the door with her husband she is beat, and resentful but remembering her friends that are divorced brings her to think that she should feel fortunate that she has a husband who wants a date night.
And we haven't touched the aspect of keeping on top of her forward movement at work and staying competitive in the work place. If women are to excel in their careers they must do as their male counterparts do; stay ahead of new trends, network, socialize with those in their field and keep their resume updated.
No one would deny this is a lot. Though some would debate the necessity and most the fairness of it all. We are indeed in a bit of a fix in that given today's economy the need for 2 incomes, and all that comes with that, is a reality. Yet as a culture we still look to women to be the hearth and home. For the most part we look to women to be all things to all people in their lives; wife & mate, mother & parent, career woman & supermom.
For the most part we have stopped asking the questions such as; Why is it that the majority of women still work 2 full time jobs; one at work, and one at home? What happens within our society/culture that seeks to lessen men's stress while it seeks to educate women in terms of coping with existing stress?
Let's go old school in terms of resuming the discussion of women and the roles they play in society and family life. And take up the challenge of women being warriors in the battle of too much to do in too little time and their fight for quality of life, un-medicated.