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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Stop expecting moms to be superwomen

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

For children and college students, there must be nothing more fun than summer vacation. While school kids might have summer homework and older children and college students might be busy at their summer jobs and job hunting, it's nice just to get away from everyday classes. If they have special plans like going out to a beach or attending sports events, summer vacation is even more fun.

    However, summer vacations are not always fun for everyone. There are women who come to my clinic saying that they are feeling blue about the summer break. For mothers, "summer vacation stress" can be pretty serious.

    First of all, when their children are home, the mothers have to prepare their breakfast, lunch and dinner. "That's not even the worst part," one woman told me about cooking three meals for her kids, and continued, "My husband is off from work for the week. He has shut himself in his room telling me that he wanted to relax and read at home. I don't mind that, but he comes out of his room around lunch time and says, 'What's for lunch?'"

    The woman says when there are only her children in the house, she can just cook simple dishes like cold noodles, but her husband wants to "enjoy his meals" when it's his summer break because he "can't normally get enough time to eat lunch" and she says she needs to cook elaborate meals for him. She also said that while she understands where her husband is coming from, she bites back the desire to tell him, "Why don't you put yourself in my shoes?"

    And I wondered, why doesn't this husband tell his wife, "I usually rush to eat my beef bowls (for lunch) and since it's my summer vacation, I want to go out for lunch with you"? Rather than telling her to cook him a meal, by asking her out the woman could enjoy the summer vacation with her husband. Or, if the husband and kids could tell her, "We'll cook lunch today mom, you rest," the mother's summer vacation stress can be further reduced.

    When I listen to stories by women who come to see me -- especially the mothers -- I cannot help but wonder, "Do the husbands and kids think 'moms don't get tired or weak,' or 'they'll do anything for us family'?" Indeed, when I was little, I might have thought that my mother was a superwoman. But that's a huge misunderstanding.

    Let's give mothers a summer break if possible. If someone feels they can't afford it to happen, I want to ask men to pay more consideration to women so that they would not be worn out by summer vacation stress. Don't forget to tell moms, "I'll take care of it today," or "Let's go out," and I hope everyone makes fun summer memories with their families. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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