Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Are you still wearing your mask?  Do they really work?  Do you still have to wear one after getting the vaccine? 

a woman wearing a cloth face mask

We all want to get rid of these masks. So, do they really help? Sanja IIic, OSU Associate Professor and food safety state specialist, did some research with Case Western Reserve University to see if mask wearing made a difference.  IIic said the research was done to “demonstrate the droplet transmission and serve as an educational tool on how the viruses are transmitted and how we can prevent them in the community.”  

They tested single-layer and double-layer masks made of different materials. 

  • Most effective masks –  double-layer cotton, which was similar in effectiveness to surgical masks
  • Least effective – single layered polyester masks

These experiments showed that wearing a face mask is an effective way to prevent the transmission of droplets. But, masks need to be worn correctly to be effective.  Masks must:

  • Completely cover the nose and mouth
  • Fit snuggly against the sides of your face without gaps
  • Be two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • Ideally have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask

Masks help people not to touch their nose or mouth, limiting the spread of the virus. But it is also important to follow social distancing guidelines of staying six feet apart, so droplet transmission is less likely if someone sneezes or coughs. Be sure to wash your masks after use and wash your hands before and after putting on or removing a mask. 

Do you need to wear a mask if you have had the vaccine?  Yes, experts recommend you wear a mask after you have had the vaccine. 

  • The pandemic is not controlled until around 50%-70% of the population become immune due to the vaccine or having the virus. 
  • The vaccine was tested on preventing COVID-19 but not on whether a person could be a carrier of the virus. 

Thus, to help keep everyone safe, please wear a mask and practice social distancing until many more people have been vaccinated. Please consider getting the vaccine as soon as you are eligible.

Infographic available from cdc.gov/coronavirus.  "It's a two-way street. Masks protect you & me. When we all wear masks, we take care of each other.  Wear masks, avoid crowds, stay 6 feet apart, and wash your hands. Take all four steps for the most protection.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer:  Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Sources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021).  Your Guide to Masks https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html   

Landino, K. (2021). Dispelling the myths:  Face Masks Work to Prevent COVID-19. College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences News, The Ohio State University,  https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/dispelling-the-myths-face-masks-work-prevent-covid-19

Ohio State Insights. (2021).  Are These Coronavirus Vaccines Safe?  An Expert Weighs in”  https://insights.osu.edu/health/covid-19-vaccine-safety

Throughout the years, plastics have made our lives easier and more convenient, goods and services cheaper. We use them and dispose of them easily. I’m in debt to King Plastic. Having type 1 diabetes, plastics basically keep me alive; my insulin pump uses disposable plastic supplies that I throw away every three days. The car I drive and some of the clothes I wear have plastic which I dispose of eventually too. My keyboard and computer is made up of plastic, of which I have to trade in periodically. I’m not sure what becomes of them. My kids have benefited from plastics- they have had probably three times as many Legos, dolls, and electronics than I had growing up. We’ve been getting rid of these too recently. My dog chews on a plastic bone. The many choices of food I have at the store are thanks to plastic packaging. Hail to King Plastic!

You may have heard that there are three giant patches of plastics floating in the Pacific Ocean. You may have noticed more litter in state and national parks or in streams, rivers, beaches and lakes. Landfills are getting larger and larger. The uncomfortable truth of our convenient throw-away culture is that plastics are everywhere and we are starting to drown in them- literally. Plastics are showing up in our foods and the air we breath. Research suggests that we consume about 5 grams a year- the equivalent of credit card’s worth of plastics! Seafood often has small amounts of plastic because of all the ocean trash that they consume. If we prepare food with plastics, it can leach into our food. We breath plastic especially if we use a clothes dryer. We don’t know all of the health implications but some studies are raising some red flags. Plastic consumption is associated with reproductive, behavioral problems in children, and a host of endocrine problems.

For the sake of our health and the environment- we should quit worshipping King Plastic so much. But how? Consider these small behavior changes to keep plastic out of your body and out of the natural environment. Most plastics aren’t recycled either- so focus on reducing or reusing plastics. Although small, they really add up over a month, year, etc. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Limit single use plastics in the kitchen such as sandwich bags, wrap, etc. Use beeswax and reusable storage containers.

Avoid heating your food or beverages up in plastic storage containers or styrofoam.

Use reusable water bottles- avoid single use bottles.

Bring your own cotton reusable bags to the grocery or recycle your plastic bags.

Use laundry tabs or soap berries instead of laundry detergent in a plastic jug or better yet make your own!

Use wool balls for static reduction instead of dryer sheets.

Install a microfiber filter on your washing machine.

Shop for reused cloths.

Check the ingredients for all body care products to see if they have polyethylene or polypropylene in them. Avoid products with these two ingredients.

Use a bar of soap instead of body wash in plastic bottles.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, MSPH, Field Specialist, Food Nutrition and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, M.Ed, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences

Sources

Jill Bartolotta. The Toll of Plastics. OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Inservice. February 18,2021. Zoom recording at https://osu.zoom.us/rec/share/CHNxkTyjQcymON8oUe_WN0MQHsln1KI3AzxbHbmNIeQIuM8N2-sT0CLyl12FO06c.hN44c5jppCbXdmw1

National Public Radio. Plastics- What’s Recycled, What Becomes Trash and Why? Access on 2/26/21 at Plastics: What’s Recyclable, What Becomes Trash — And Why (npr.org)

OSU Extension. Sustainable Action Through Video Engagement. Single Use Plastics. Accessed on 2/26/21 at Sustainability in the Kitchen: Single Use Plastics – YouTube

piggy bank

We can think of our relationship with our children as a bank account.  Just like a real bank account, we can make deposits and withdraws each day. We make “deposits” when we feed our relationship with love, hugs and kisses.  Spending time with your children, listening to them and showing encouragement all increase your balance. Unfortunately, as adults we also sometimes make “withdraws” out of our relationship account. This happens when we criticize, ignore, yell or break promises. As adults we need to make sure that our relationship accounts always have more deposits than withdraws.  Making more “deposits” serves as a proactive effort to ensure that the good times outweigh the bad.  A relationship with plenty of “deposits” also assists in building resiliency in kids.  Resiliency is the ability to handle stress and serves as an insulation to the inability to bounce back after adversity.

PAX Tools Manager Kathryn Tummino discusses Emotional Deposits in a short video that can be viewed here:  Emotional Deposits Pax Tools

“Researchers remind us that we need five positive interactions to every negative interaction to keep any relationship healthy. And since we spend so much time guiding — a.k.a. correcting, reminding, scolding, criticizing, nagging, and yelling — it’s important to make sure we spend five times as much time in positive connection.”


Dr. Laura Markham Ph.D., offers 10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship
1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day
2. Play
3. Turn off technology when you interact with your child
4. Connect before transitions
5. Make time for one on one time
6. Welcome emotion
7. Listen, and Empathize
8. Slow down and savor the moment
9. Bedtime snuggle and chat
10. Show up

Sources
Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/

Markham, Laura. “10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 June 2017, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201706/10-habits-strengthen-parent-child-relationship.

PAX Tools. PAXIS Institute 2020, http://www.paxis.org/pax-tools.

PAX Tools – Emotional Deposits, 18 May 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=I80VhmAT2fU&t=138s

Written by Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Butler County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Lately I have been feeling even more isolated and alone than I did at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have found myself retreating and not reaching out to others in the same ways that I did a year ago. But a couple weeks ago, some friends called and asked me to join them for a small girls’ night out dinner. We safely socially distanced from others, and the four of us enjoyed an evening at a hotel together. THAT event has changed my train of thought. I was feeling bad for myself and feeling very lonely, which is not easy as an extroverted person. But what I realized was that even if I cannot spend time with people physically, I do not have to wait for them to contact me. Connection is a two-way street. I can reach out even while staying “safe”.

Connection looks different in every relationship. Sometimes you have a connection because of chemistry with another. Sometimes it is a “forced” interaction because you are colleagues, in class together, or share a common interest. We communicate through verbal and non-verbal signals that can drive connection or cause disconnection. Social media is also a major form of connection for many of us.

YOU WERE MADE FOR CONNECTION. Even if you are an introverted person, I am sure you still have a small circle of people you trust and who are important to you. Interactions drive our daily lives. Connecting with others helps us remember that we matter. Our brains thrive from connection. 

We were also made to show connection through safe, physical touch. Hugging releases oxytocin* and dopamine* and directly impacts cortisol* levels. It is recommended that we should receive 10 second hugs– 8 a day for maintenance, 12 a day for growth, and upwards of 18 for optimal mental health.

  • Oxytocin promotes feeling of contentment, reduces stress, and promotes bonding.
  • Dopamine is linked to Parkinson’s disease (low levels) and Schizophrenia (high levels). Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. Lack of dopamine can lead to procrastination, self doubt, and lack of enthusiasm.
  • Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood and motivation.

In high stress states it feels like our body cannot contain emotion without someone to hold us. Touch is not a single sense. Having your back rubbed stimulates neurons that release oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol. Vicarious touch can help us to soothe ourselves. A hunger for touch means a need is not met.

We are also our own biggest barrier to connection. We tell ourselves we are okay. We tell ourselves that we can handle it. We tell ourselves we don’t want to bother anyone. I encourage you to please stop doing that to yourself. Think about how you feel when someone reaches out to you and wants to spend time with you. It makes you feel wanted and needed and important. 

Take control of your own well-being. Pick up the phone. Write a letter. Send a text. Make a list of who you miss and start putting “Connect with _____________________” on your to-do list every day. It will make a difference. I know it has for me.

Written by: Jami Dellifield, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Perry County

RESOURCES

Yahtzee, Yatzy, Play, Cube, Craps, Fun, Leisure, Tricky
Yachtzee-like game

This afternoon my daughter comes into the living room and asks, “Where is the Yahtzee?” I was a little miffed. Why would I be upset that my 17-yo wants to do something that doesn’t involve technology? Let me explain. My parents recently came home from Florida to get their COVID-19 vaccinations and for a couple medical appointments and they are staying with us. My mom likes to play Yahtzee, so the kids usually end up playing it with her. I was miffed because I would LOVE for my kids to play games with me! I have to basically beg or threaten them to get them to play a game. My “kids” are ages 23, 21, and 17.

Since my parents are usually in Florida during the winter, I am happy to have them here. As I listened to my older son, my daughter, and my mom laughing and hooting downstairs, I couldn’t help but smile. You see, it is moments like these that I realize, the little things really are the big things. As much as I wanted to go down and join in the fun, I didn’t want to interrupt this grandparent-grandchildren bonding time. So, I sat upstairs with a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart, listening to them play Yahtzee. I am very happy that my kids get to have the fun experiences they do with both sets of their grandparents.

Corona 19, Mask, Spring, In The Spring I'M Back, Family
Family with masks on

According to research by the American Psychological Association, happy memories from our childhood, especially of our parents, have been linked to better health later in life. I would never claim to be the best parent, but I hope that my children have more fond memories than not. That the times when I was or am frustrated with them or someone or something else are not overshadowed by the absolute love I have for them and incredible joy it has been and still is to be their mother.

I remember the day I brought each of my kids home. I could not believe that the hospital was just letting me walk out the door with this new life without some type of license or certification demonstrating some level of parenting proficiency. I mean, I can’t legally drive a car without a license. I had to take a class to learn how to save a life, but I was able to just walk right out the door with this tiny human.

When I hear parents of young children complaining or apologizing for their kid’s interruptions on Zoom meetings, I tell them that there is no need. When they are frustrated with their child, I remind them that it will pass. For those of us with grown children, we know all too well how quickly time passes. While you are wishing for them to sleep through the night, to say their first word, to become potty trained, etc. etc., you may be missing out on lots of little things. Little things that some day you will realize were the big things. As I read over this blog about mindful parenting that I wrote, I cannot believe it has been almost 3 years! Time ticks on.

As Bonnie Ware observed while working for hospice, the things people regret when they are faced with death, have little to do with the things we worry most about most of our life. When questioned about regrets patients had or things they would do differently, these were the five most common themes:

Pictures, Memories, Nostalgia, Saudade, Old Photos
Black & white pictures
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So, as we continue to endure this pandemic and all the challenges, try not to forget to embrace the people and the moments that you have, instead of focusing on when we will get back to “the way things were.” Because I guarantee you, there are little things happening right in front of you, that someday you will realize were the big things.

Written by: Misty Harmon, OSU Extension Educator, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Roseanne Scammahorn, OSU Extension Educator, Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

References:

American Psychological Association. (2018, November 5). Happy childhood memories linked to better health later in life. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2018/11/happy-childhood-memories

Harmon, M. (2018, March 30). Mindful parenting: Enjoy every moment. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/harmon-416osu-edu/mindful-parenting-enjoy-every-moment/

Meyer, M., & Kandic, A. (2017, October 30). Grandparenting in the United States. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6177109/

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. (n.d.). How the Covid-19 vaccine works. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/features/coronavirus/patient-care/covid-19-vaccine/how-the-covid-19-vaccine-works

Ware, B. (n.d.). Dying regrets, wise advice and life lessons. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.aarp.org/relationships/grief-loss/info-02-2012/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying.html

In our family we joke about our 2-year-old son having two belly buttons, when he has a feeding tube. When he was born, he struggled to learn how to breath, suck, and swallow a bottle due to a medical condition, and has had some sort of feeding tube since birth, and two years later he has what is called a G-Tube that is placed in his stomach to help supply him with nutritional foods.

Did you know that February is not only heart health month, but also feeding tube awareness month? There are almost 500,000 people that are on a feeding tube, and almost 200,000 of them are children in the United States. There are many medical complications that can lead to a person requiring a feeding tube, including ones that are often called “invisible illnesses” or ones that people cannot visibly see. In my son’s case it is his heart condition, that from birth caused him to struggle with learning to eat.

Common myths surrounding why children require feeding tubes:

  • They are picky eaters. Most children have had their feeding tube since birth.
  • If you wait long enough your child will eat. Many children will starve themselves due their complex medical condition before they learn to eat.
  • Your child looks too healthy for a feeding tube. The children with feeding tubes are healthy due to having a feeding tube providing them nutrition.

Education is key in raising awareness and support for those with feeding tubes. I often worry about my son’s future when his peers see him being fed through his feeding tube if he has it when he starts school. There are a few things one can do to support others.

  • Ask questions when you see someone using a feeding tube. As a mom to someone whose child has special needs. I wish more people would come up and ask questions instead of staring at us.
  • Research online more about the different types of feeding tubes like G-Tubes, NG Tubes, GJ Tubes, and J-Tubes, and understand how they work.
  • Be supportive and patient with friends and family who may have a tube fed child or family member. Learn more information about feeding tube awareness. It will mean the world to them.
  • Remember how important it is to instill kindness, love and support for others. Especially if someone has a disability or a feeding tube. We want the world to be a place where our child feels accepted in school so when tube fed children go to school, we are not worried about how others will perceive our child.

Written by: Bridget Britton, OSU Extension Educator, Carroll County, britton.191@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, OSU Extension Educator, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

References:

https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/invisible/

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-12-21/life-with-a-feeding-tube

Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.

In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.

Picture of a Barred Owl by Laura Stanton.
Barred Owl
Photo by Laura M. Stanton

Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.

The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:

  • Is a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
  • Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
  • Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
  • Prevents nature-deficit disorder, a phenomenon related to the growing disconnect between humans and the natural world. Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
  • Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
  • Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

If you are ready to reap the benefits of birdwatching, consider joining the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) this weekend. The GBBC is an opportunity to spend time in your favorite places watching and counting as many birds as you can find and reporting your findings. This year’s event starts February 12th and ends on the 15th. To learn how to join the GBBC, visit: www.birdcount.org

Sources
Carter, S. (2016). Nature deficit disorder. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/carter-413osu-edu/nature-deficit-disorder   

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.

Powers-Barker, P. (2016). Introduction to mindfulness. Ohioline. Retrieved from
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Noises off: The benefits of silence. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from
https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence

Written by Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

Reviewed by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Most people consume vegetables to reap the nutritional benefits.  While most vegetables are better raw, there are a few you should cook instead. Cooking releases nutrients that your body can more easily absorb.  Here are a few vegetables you may want to cook before you consume them.

  • Asparagus.  This springtime vegetable is full of cancer-fighting vitamins A, C and E.  Cooking asparagus  increases it levels of phenolic acid, which is associated with reduced risk of cancer.  Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and enjoy!
  • Carrots.  Our bodies seem to use more easily the beta carotene in cooked carrots than in raw ones.  Cut into rounds, steam, and serve with a little honey or cinnamon.
  • Mushrooms.  Microwaving or grilling can increase antioxidant activity.  After heating them up, slice and add to a salad or sauté and add to an omelet.
  • Tomatoes.  Lycopene is better absorbed when the food item is heated up. This may protect against cancer and heart disease.  Slow roasted in the oven at 200 degrees and added to a sandwich sounds delicious.
  • Spinach.  Oxalic acid may block the absorption of calcium and iron from raw spinach.  Heat is known to break it down.  Blanch spinach and served under grilled fish with salsa. 

Written by  Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by  Margaret Jenkins, OSU Extension Educator, Clermont County, jenkins.188@osu.edu

References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30983210/

https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-raw-cooked-veggie

When you hear the word caregiver, what image comes to mind? Maybe what you see is someone in your family, someone you work with, a friend, or even you.  The reality is approximately 25% of adults in the United States report being a caregiver to someone with a long-term illness or disability in the past 30 days. The caregiving role can look different for everyone. Some people feel that being a caregiver makes them feel good about themselves, has taught them new skills, and has strengthened their relationship with their loved one. However, many people find themselves in a caregiving role that has a negative impact on their financial health, physical health, and mental health. In fact, there is such a concern for caregivers that  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refer to caregiving as a public health priority.

.

In addition to the health of the caregiver, these negative impacts can affect the care that is being given as well. Caregivers who experience compassion fatigue can feel hopeless, resentful, less patient, and lose empathy. They develop a negative view of their caregiving role. To be a good caregiver, you first need to care for yourself. One way to take care of yourself is to have a respite plan. The term respite means to have consistent breaks from your caregiving responsibilities. Respite care can be provided by family, friends, or outside agencies, and the services can range widely. In the January episode of the Healthy Aging Network , Dr. Teresa Young shares the following tips to get started with making a respite plan.

  1. Focus on Strengths – What are the things that have helped you make it through to this point. Is it that you are organized? Is it a sense of humor? Are you flexible?
  2. Determine the needs – Once you know your strengths, the next step is to determine what help you really need. Is it transportation? Could you use help with household chores? Do you just need time away?
  3. Be specific – Make sure to be specific when expressing needs.

For some who are already overwhelmed with responsibilities, the idea of seeking respite or creating a plan can feel like one more task that is added to their plate. Caregivers often lack a respite plan because they simply don’t know where to start. The Ohio State University Extension’s Caregiver Support Network is offering two free webinars on February 17th, 2021. The workshops are open to anyone and will focus on creating a respite plan, sharing caregiving experiences, and sharing resources. To register for the workshop, go to go.osu.edu/caregiver2021. To learn more about the Caregiver Support Network, please contact Laura Akgerman at akgerman.4@osu.edu.

Writer: Kathy Tutt, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Emily Marrison, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Coshocton County, marrison.12@osu.edu

References:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) Caregiving for Family and Friends -A Public Health Issue https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/caregiver-brief.html accessed January 2021

Day, J., Anderson, R. Davis, L. (2014) Compassion Fatigue in Adult Daughter Caregivers of a Parent with Dementia, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, Vol 35, Issue 10

Schulz, R., Sherwood, P. (2008) Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving. American Journal of Nursing, Sep: Vol 108, Issue 9, pgs. 23-27

Two years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I did many things to prepare for his arrival. We took a childbirth class, set up a crib, decorated a nursery, and installed a car seat. What did we not know to do? Prepare for the changes that would come to our relationship during our transition to parenthood!

Did you know that most married couples experience a significant drop in relationship quality within three years of the birth of their first child? In her book All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers and the Myth of Equal Partnership, psychologist Darcy Lockman cites this research as she explores gender inequalities within unpaid work (e.g. parenting and chores) and how they impact relationships.

While most American men in relationships believe that equal division of unpaid labor is very important to a successful marriage, the actual division of this labor is hardly equal. Although the gender inequality gap narrowed from 1965 to 2003, it has remained stagnant at a 35/65 division of unpaid labor ever since.

A New York Times article on the division of labor within parenting relationships reads:

“Though there are lots of male partners who do their fair share, there’s an area of parental labor that remains frustratingly resistant to change for many couples: It’s called “worry work” or, colloquially, the mental load. Both terms describe a constant, thrumming, low-level anxiety over the health and well-being of your children, and women tend to do more of the worry work than men do. It’s an endless list of organizational tasks that runs through your head like ticker tape: We’re out of milk when do we need to apply for preschool is the baby outgrowing her onesies. According to the 2017 Bright Horizons Modern Family Index, working women are twice as likely to be managing the household and three times as likely to be managing their kids’ schedules as their male partners.”

“Worry work” has also been called “emotional labor”, and it refers to “the invisible and often undervalued work involved in keeping other people comfortable and happy”.  In All the Rage, Lockman states that most couples “intuitively, rather than consciously and explicitly, divide the work of planning and remembering… and intuitively, it mostly falls to women.” Consequently, because one partner is doing more than the other, resentment, bitterness and discord start to take hold.

If you feel affected by an imbalance in worry work in your household, the New York Times offers a helpful guide for dividing emotional labor. The first step suggested is to recognize and talk about the perceived imbalance. You and your partner should each express your desires, preferences and, goals – both as parents and individuals. When having this conversation, respect yourself and your partner by taking these desires seriously and expecting your partner to do the same. If the conversation gets heated, don’t be afraid to seek outside support. A therapist may be able to offer a neutral perspective and help you arrive on common ground.

When you and your partner feel like you have a shared understanding of the worry work problem in your relationship, work together to create a comprehensive list of emotional labor tasks, thinking through both individual and family needs. It may be hard to remember everything that should go on the list, but you can always add to it as needed! Some items to include are grocery shopping and meal preparation, laundry, household chores, managing bedtime and bath time routines, making sure bills are paid on time, and scheduling and taking children to appointments and extracurricular activities. As you create this list, you and your partner will divide tasks and agree upon what your new division of labor will look like.

If you’re like me, you may have experienced worry work personally but did not have a name for the issue prior to reading this article. Now that you can name and recognize a potential source of strife in your life, I encourage you to begin addressing the problem today!

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by: Bridget Britton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Carroll County

Sources:

de la Cretaz, B. (2019). How to Get Your Partner to Take On More Emotional Labor. The New York Times. https://parenting.nytimes.com/relationships/emotional-labor?te=1&nl=nyt-parenting&emc=edit_ptg_20190612?campaign_id=118&instance_id=10123&segment_id=14197&user_id=86dd6cac18c7ca41e6c8d433d5340d6c&regi_id=92717125

Grose, J. (2019). A Modest Proposal for Equalizing the Mental Load. New York Times Parenting. https://parenting.nytimes.com/work-money/mental-load?module=article-group&topic=Work%20And%20Money&rank=3&position=2

Lockman, D. (2019). All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers and the Myth of Equal Partnership. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062861443/all-the-rage/

The Gottman Institute: A Research-Based Approach to Relationships. Parenting. https://www.gottman.com/about/research/parenting/