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Mad at Dad

NEEDED: A BREATHER

50% of moms tell us their husbands get more time for themselves. Brandi Morgan, a mother of two boys in Bandera, TX, feels her anger spike "when I've had sleepless nights staying up nursing the baby, and I'm up early cleaning after last night's dinner and trying to have a moment to breathe by myself, and my husband, by his own choice, gets up early and spends a lot of time at the gym," she says.

Jessica, a stay-at-home mom of two who lives in New Jersey, is angry that her husband, a mortgage broker who works 11-hour days, manages to carve out one weekend day for his passion -- his work as an independent music producer. The other day is "family day." If Jessica is lucky, she gets an hour or two off a week. "I sometimes want to get in the car and just drive and not have to worry about the kids," she says.

The lack of time off is a huge issue for the moms carrying the most anger. Over 60 percent of the moms who get mad weekly -- and almost three-quarters of those who are angry every day -- feel this way.

One thing that can complicate it is the different ways some moms and dads choose to spend their time. Moms tend not to let themselves slack off when there are chores to be done.

Erin Martin of Seattle remembers the Saturday morning she spent rushing making football-shaped sandwiches for her son's sixth-birthday party. Her husband, meanwhile, was goofing around on the computer, oblivious that he could be pitching in.

This sort of thing happens all the time -- she's taking care of the kids or the house or something else for the family, and he's taking care of himself. "I used to think he did it on purpose and it would make me much angrier," she says. "Now, I think it doesn't dawn on him. Guys are just better at compartmentalizing."

Over time, all these feelings -- from annoyance to outright rage -- can be hard on a marriage.

"Anger is corrosive," says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., the mother of two grown children and a University of Washington sociologist who's studied couples' dynamics for decades. "It's like a termite that starts to reproduce more termites. If you never get rid of the termites, one day you're going to lean on a wall and it's going to crumble underneath your weight."

Anger can also erupt in unexpected ways, Schwartz says. A mom might blow her stack because her husband forgot to turn off the light switch. He'll think she's crazy because it's just a light switch. But it means so much more.

Lucy King, the former executive who gave it up to be a full-time mom, was so mad she couldn't even talk to her husband because of...a coffeepot.

"I said something might be wrong with the coffeepot. He gave me this funny look like, 'You're crazy.'?" What set her off was the look, which felt like a failure of her husband to support her.

"I used to manage 400 employees," she says. "I have a master's degree. I was a pretty high-ranking executive. And he questions me about this little stuff! It's hard."

Anger is worth paying attention to.

If you're chronically at the boiling point, it could be damaging to your health.

When you're mad, your body floods with adrenaline. If you're often angry, you might lose your ability to produce a hormone that blunts adrenaline's worst effects. You can also weaken your heart, harden your arteries, raise your cholesterol, damage your kidneys and liver, and put yourself at risk for depression or anxiety. It's no wonder that some scientists consider chronic anger more likely to kill you prematurely than smoking or obesity.

Redford Williams, M.D., director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, is blunt about it. "Anger kills," he says. "It's not just that it can damage your heart -- which it does -- but it's also been found in epidemiological studies to identify people who are more likely to have a heart attack or drop dead from any cause." Great. We're not only mad because we're carrying our family's weight, it's going to kill us.

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