Marguerite Kelly
Family Almanac

Family Almanac: Helping a moody mom

Q. I am the working mother of two lovely little girls, 21 / 2 years and 11 months old, and the wife of a wonderful man who is patient, caring, responsible and an excellent father. He helps me care for our girls although most of the shopping, bill-paying and cooking falls on my shoulders. I’m okay with that because my husband sometimes has to work long hours while my own time is much more predictable.

Parenthood may be overwhelming me, however. My husband and I were married less than two years when I became pregnant — our kids are only 21 months apart — and now I’m afraid that my marriage is falling apart. Even though I want to spend the rest of my life with my husband, I have somehow forgotten how to be a good wife and partner. We spend weeknights and weekends bickering, arguing and being unhappy, and I think it’s mostly my fault. My temper is short and my children usually drain my patience, leaving none for my husband.

(Hadley Hooper/for The Washington Post)

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He encourages me to get away and to spend time by myself, and I do that every so often, but only to run errands. We also go out together occasionally, which is great, although we don’t do it much because I feel selfish for keeping him all to myself when I know that he wants to spend time with the children, too. Also, the glow from our time together wears off quickly, and then I revert to my moody self.

My father was also very moody when I was growing up, and I don’t want my children to fear me the way I feared him. How can I snap out of this?

A. You can snap out of your moodiness, but you have to find the right way.

First of all, stop being so tough on yourself. You’re just fussing at your husband because your babies are too young for you to fuss at them and because you are so, so tired. Two babies younger than 3 would wear out the most patient mother, whether she was working or not.

You need a respite. Can you cut back on your hours at work? Can you work longer hours for three or four days and then be off for the rest of the week? Or can you quit your job until the baby is in pre-K? If not, can you hire a housekeeper for one day a week? Clean laundry, clean sheets and clean floors should improve your mood but you still need to ask your husband out to dinner or for a long walk one night a week and without feeling guilty about it. He married you, not the children.

It’s equally important that the two of you leave your babies with a friend and get away for a night or two every season, if just to a bed and breakfast. This will keep your marriage alive and lively but expect to make the arrangements yourself. Men do the courting before marriage; women do it afterwards.

If you’re still feeling moody, try meditation at home; take a yoga class or follow the wisdom you’ll find in “Screamfree Marriage” by marriage and family therapist Hal Edward Runkel,

with Jenny Runkel (Crown; $24). All of these things should help, but if they don’t, you and your husband should see a marriage counselor. The health of your marriage matters just as much as your own health.

And if none of this works? Look into your biochemistry, especially since your dad had the same problem that you do. Moodiness can be inherited as much as blue eyes.

You could ask your doctor for a TSH test to check your thyroid, since a low thyroid could be making you moody, but it would be more efficient, and undoubtedly cheaper, to test a number of possibilities at once.

Begin by reading some of the groundbreaking work on www.walshresearchinstitute.org, which spotlights the work done by William Walsh, who invented the lithium battery and then switched fields and started looking into depression, violence, schizophrenia, anxiety, ADHD, postpartum depression and Alzheimer’s. When he did, he found that many of these problems can be caused by an excess — or a shortage — of certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids or essential fatty acids — and that they can usually be corrected too.

According to Walsh, at least three U.S. clinics can identify and treat these problems, including the medical school at the University of Kansas (integrativemedicine.kumc.edu); Wyndgate Health in St. Paul, Minn. (www.wyndgatehealth.com); and Mensah Medical in Naperville, Ill., at www.mensahmedical.com, where the tests are around $500; the treatments cost less than a drug, and the patients can sometimes be tested without ever leaving home.

Questions? Send them to advice@margueritekelly.com.

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