Q. I’m in my early 40s with a great career and two awesome kids. My husband is supportive and we work well as a team. I just can’t stop the feeling of being constantly overwhelmed. No matter how much I try to get organized and simplify my life, more stuff crops up. We run around like crazy during the week with the kids’ activities, and then on the weekend, instead of getting quality time, it’s all about housework, errands and more kids’ activities. How can we ever make changes? —On a Treadmill
Pathological busy-ness seems all too common among families with children. But let’s take the “more stuff keeps cropping up” metaphor to its conclusion: If obligations keep blooming, you must stop planting their seeds.
Lots of people say they feel overwhelmed but are not ready to commit to saying no, which does involve occasionally disappointing people and accepting that your kids might fall “behind” in soccer dribbling skills. I hear you — things pile up. But you must be aggressive and unrelenting in sweeping them away.
You simply can’t do everything and have everything, and that’s often what trips people up when they’re trying to make changes. They want relaxing times of board games and baking desserts with their children, but they would also rather avoid being assertive with their boss about weekend email expectations, and they want their kids to play three sports and go to every birthday party they’re invited to. Something has to give. It’s up to you as to what it will be — and whether you want change enough to actually give it up.
Dad’s in a funk. What can I do?
Q. My divorced dad has lived on his own for 20 years, while my mother has remarried. My father is now retired and I think showing several signs of depression. He does not do much during the day, and has stopped having any social contact with any of the buddies he at least used to hang out with from work. I don’t know how to broach this with him but am concerned, as he seems to be living a sad and hermit-like existence. —Concerned Daughter
Retirement can be a tough transition, often removing decades of built-in daily structure, goals and social interaction — things people can feel lost without. “Talk to him” is clearly the answer here, and depending on your relationship, anything from “Dad, I’m concerned about you” to “Hey, Dad, what’s up? Talk to me” to “How have you been feeling lately? You don’t seem to be yourself” to “Dad, have you been feeling down?” can all be openers.
Demographically speaking, single retired men are not known for busting down the doors of therapists’ offices, so at some point your biggest challenge will be getting him to understand that maybe talking to someone could help. And you could help him search out a therapist (there are lots of listings online) whom he would best relate to. In the meantime, see if you can help him add some activity and structure to his day to get him going a bit.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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