MomViews: Dealing With Family Stress
Moms often carry a heavy weight on their shoulders. From balancing daily tasks to meeting the needs of their family, moms are always quick to try and solve any issues that may arise. In this MomViews segment, Denise Rivera shares her thoughts on how she deals with family stress.
MomViews: Moms have it tough at times. We’re always trying to keep everything and everyone in order. We’ve all got a handle on our plate. How do you find the strength to get up every morning and do it again?
Denise Rivera: I am lucky that I have support from my family. My mother often picks up the kids when my husband and I work late, but that is not to say that there are no challenges. There are some ideas/ mantras that I find myself often revisiting. One, I learned from my experience as a singer: you can find a substantial amount of support from within when you take a moment to breathe deeply. Another, I learned from my dad who successfully summited Mt. Everest twice, which is, you move forward by simply focusing on your next step. Those ideas are foundational to me — from them, I can derive routine practices and artistic endeavors, all of which help reduce stress.
MV: You mentioned during our initial discussion that your husband suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. How have you been able to help him cope with everyday life?
DR: I would love to think I am a therapist, but I am not. However, I am available to him more hours of the day, which is clearly important. One of the manifestations of his PTSD is panic attacks, which surface rather spontaneously. I know that if he calls me during the day, it might be for nothing more than reassurance. Nonetheless, any small amount of time I spend talking with him goes a long way in securing his trust in me as an ally in his civilian life. Providing my full attention and reminding him of coping techniques (like deep breathing) for a couple of minutes also helps him cope when his own mechanisms are preoccupied and/or afflicted.
MV: How has all this impacted your son’s life?
DR: Children are such sponges. My oldest son has exhibited some anxious behaviors and has expressed some self-depreciating sentiments. However, he has an advantage in that we can recognize/ easily identify the behavior. As a result, he has had some preventative strategies for depression like self-affirmations, and he has learned some coping techniques like deep breathing, visualization meditations, and listening to calming music.
MV: What has been your biggest challenge to date with using music to help tame the beast, so to speak?
DR: My biggest challenge with using music to tame the beast is routine. Establishing a clear routine would be beneficial for my son because it provides some “certainties” in our world of uncertainty (for an anxious child), but a couple of minutes taken here and there to watch a show or play a game can throw off the schedule. He will start piano lessons again soon, and right now, it is difficult to fathom how we will fit in his practice. However, I tried to make it more convenient for him to practice (e.g. I have an extra keyboard, which I moved to the TV room). We will just make one or two extracurricular commitments during the school year and give those our all.
MV: What tips would you offer other moms in a similar situation?
DR: My advice to moms in a similar situation would be: let some things go. At my desk job, we have so much work that it is not possible to ever “be done.” Instead, we often function as fire extinguishers. To manage better, my colleagues and I attempt to address priority items first and other items routinely- in a balanced way. That approach also applies well to home tasks. For example, if I have woken up at 4:30am each morning for three weeks to work out before the kids wake up, but dishes are piling up, I will give myself a week off of working out to focus solely on playing piano and do dishes in the morning. Can’t it all just be perfect for one moment in time? No. But that’s humanity; that’s life.
Join me next week for another installment of MomViews, insights from moms like you.