YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Little Sympathy for Tired Dad

October 19, 1998|ELAINE ST. JAMES | Elaine St. James is the author of "Simplify Your Life" and "Simplify Your Life With Kids

Stress is a major factor in many of our health-related problems. A key way to reduce stress is to simplify. If you reduce clutter, commitments, tasks and expenses, your life will streamline into the Stress Free Zone. Elaine St. James tells us how.

The letter from "Tired in America," the man who felt his family's life was too stressful, but couldn't get his wife to simplify, sparked a surprising reaction from women who were less than sympathetic to his complaints.

Here are some of their comments:

From Los Angeles: Forgive me for not being too sympathetic toward "Tired." It's been common for women to have shouldered more than one task at once (have and care for a baby, feed folks in their Conestoga, plant gardens, can food, get the kids to school, bake bread, handle the farm finances). The tasks are different today, but equal in number. He whines because he is in a position that involves multiple tasking, and his wife is the one doing a single job in a day.

From Denver: "Tired's" day sounds like a dream to most working mothers. The mother-in-law cares for the youngest daughter, and either she or the sister-in-law makes dinner for both girls. So he doesn't cook (or clean, or do yardwork). Presumably, he also does not do grocery shopping, nor probably clothing or gift shopping. He does care for two children, one of them school-age, until his wife arrives home about 7:15 p.m. Poor baby! He needs to stop feeling sorry for himself, become a full participant in the raising of his daughters and develop some interests of his own. "Tired" seems to have a terminal case of self-pity. I think that's what he needs to work on to eliminate his stress.

From New York City: Who is really tired in this family? The wife who puts in a 12-hour day at work, or the husband who has the help of a mother-in-law, sister-in-law, maid service and yard service? It sounds as if his wife doesn't have a single minute to herself, since she arrives home just as it's time to bathe and put the kids to bed. Maybe she would be more open to talking about making changes if she walked in the door and found a hot meal waiting for her, or the kids bathed and in their pajamas.

Your suggestions were good, but I think simplification has to start with an attitude of cooperation, not complaining. And if "Tired" wants time to smell the roses, maybe he should do the yardwork himself instead of hiring gardeners.

As I read these letters, it became obvious that sometimes the most stressful thing of all for couples is the lack of a common vision of what you want your life to be like. One reader wrote that she and her husband raised five daughters while he worked during the day and she worked five evenings a week as a nurse. Their lives were very busy, but everyone pitched in and made it work. They viewed their lives as an adventure.

But I have to confess I was startled by the unsympathetic response to "Tired's" letter. Given the stress in our lives today, the complaints he made could have been made by Anyman or Anywoman. We've all suffered from the complicated lives we lead. We're all exhausted because we're working too hard and doing too much. I have to wonder whether women are ahead of the game because they're working full time and doing all these other things as well, or men are ahead because they're working full time and, like "Tired," mostly balk at doing all these other things? Is anyone winning in this equation?

One of the biggest challenges in simplifying your life is knowing where to draw the line. But based on my own experience and on the letters I get from readers who have done so, we can all benefit by living, as I suggested to "Tired," in smaller, easier-to-maintain homes, minimizing the financial stress, eliminating torturous commutes, cutting back on the number of hours we work and saying no to many of the activities that take us away from ourselves, our kids and our spouses. Yes, that might mean we would miss out on a few activities. But considering the vast improvement simplifying brings to the quality of our lives, the real question is, would it matter?


* Elaine St. James is the author of "Simplify Your Life" and "Simplify Your Life With Kids." For questions or comments, write to her in care of Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111, or e-mail her at

Los Angeles Times Articles