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Are Must-Do Parents the Most Stressed?

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Forbes Magazine recently released a list of the 10 Most Stressful Jobs for 2016. It probably won't surprise anyone reading this, but most of them are Must-Do Parent-type jobs.

The story says that, to determine this list, the job search site CareerCast evaluated 200 professions against 11 stress factors, which included travel required, deadlines, working under public scrutiny, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards, risks to one's own life and interactions with the public.

So what are those jobs, you ask? Well, because I hate clicking through 10 pages of images just to see a top 10 list as much as you do, here's the whole list:

1.Enlisted Military Personnel
2.Firefighter
3.Airline Pilot
4.Police Officer
5.Event Coordinator
6.Public Relations Executive
7.Corporate Executive (Senior)
8.Broadcaster
9.Newspaper Reporter
10. Taxi Driver

And if, like me, you're now wondering what the least stressful jobs are -- because maybe now you're thinking of a career change for yourself or your partner -- well, they have a list for that too. Once again, it's in click-click-clicky format, so I'll make it easier on you:

1.Information Security Analyst
2.Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
3.University Professor (Tenured)
4.Hair Stylist
5.Medical Records Technician
6.Medical Laboratory Technician
7.Jeweler
8.Audiologist
9.Dietitian
10.Librarian

And, according to the two articles, many of those least stressful jobs actually pay more than the most stressful jobs. So there's that too. Sigh.

There isn't much explanation about what makes each specific job stressful or not stressful in the articles, besides that one sentence I mentioned above (travel, deadlines, public scrutiny, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards, risks to one's own life and interacting with the public).

There is a disclaimer that mentions that any job can be stressful at times, depending on what is going on and individual workplace cultures, so neither list is absolute. In fact, there are lots of other, plenty stressful, jobs that can put a family in a Must Have/Must Do situation.

To my thinking, all of those factors can be summed up as lack of control and lack of predictability.

Not being able to control one's environment or schedule; not being able to anticipate what the day might hold, or how long the day will last, that's what I see those top 10 most stressful jobs having in common -- and I know that there are at least 10 more jobs that didn't make the list but share those crazy-making qualities.

A Must-Do parent's job often means not being able to make commitments, or not knowing that he or she will be able to keep them. It means lots of "maybes" and lots of morning coffee time spent having no idea what the upcoming hours will hold. Sometimes it means saying goodbye to the family knowing that many bedtimes will pass before the family is together again. These are all things that can make life crazy-stressful for both the Must-Have and the Must-Do Parent.

Because when one parent is stressed out, that stress often comes home with them, no matter how hard they try to leave it at work. And when one partner is frequently unavailable, the other is bound to feel a little burdened and stressed in response.

I could post links here to the thousands -- seriously -- of articles online offering advice on how to manage stress at home and at work, and some of that advice is really good and well worth reading. But you're all grown-ups and you know how to Google, and only you will know what advice will work best for your situation.

Instead, I'll share my best advice. Just like I do when any of my electronics aren't functioning, I unplug them, wait a few minutes, and then try again.

In practice, this might mean I take a 10-minute walk -- alone -- around my neighborhood if my husband is home to stay with the kids. When he's not home, I might get the kids settled in with an iPad or a TV show and then take a long bath. Or I sit on the porch and read a book. Maybe I exercise for half an hour. Sometimes, I call one of my sisters, or a friend who can always make me laugh.

When I had infants, it meant feeding, burping and changing them and then putting them in the crib -- and walking away. Even if they were crying.

(Which is much easier to say than to do.)

The key is to step away, let the problem (and yourself!) breathe a bit, and then come back to it with relaxed shoulders and clear eyes.

What's your go-to for coping with stress?

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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