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Under topic: divorce-stress

Many women have been forced into the position of head of household with little training and experience for the task. They are bound to make mistakes but mistakes are not failures. Mistakes should be viewed as opportunities for learning.

Women will remain vulnerable, however, unless they learn to function in what is essentially a male world.

Some women attempt to cope by passive behavior and reliance on the good will of others to come to their aid and to solve their problems. This strategy may work for a while but it is a risky way to function, especially if a family depends on it. The "dumb blond" is the name given to the classic stereotype of this behavior pattern.

Knowledge is power. It is best if women prepare themselves with knowledge and learn to deal with the world around them competently.

Daughters , as well as sons, should be taught to use tools and be able to make minor repairs to home and car.

The following are a few examples of ways by which women may learn to function better. The list is by no means exhaustive and everyone could add to it.

One thing women should establish is a credit rating.

Many times all of the credit cards in the family are in the man's name.

Although a woman can use these cards freely and may even be in charge of paying these bills, if the cards are not in her name, she has no rating.

Most families depend on having a reliable car. Women should learn how to maintain their car. They should also learn how to work with auto mechanics so that repair work is done to their satisfaction.

Daughters , as well as sons, should be taught to use tools and be able to make minor repairs to home and car.

Women should become knowledgeable about how to communicate with medical professionals. This skill is not only helpful to the patient, it also helps the doctor. It is important to keep good records not only on your family's health history, but also on insurance and expenses. Women should know what medicines are taken by members of the family and whether they have any allergies or sensitivities to food, drugs or chemicals. It is important that the doctor know what prescription and non- prescription medicines are being taken before any new drug is prescribed. If the doctor does not ask, tell him anyhow.

Other questions that should be asked about medicine are: Are there any effective alternatives to taking drugs and what would happen if the drug was not taken? What are the side effects?

Are there any foods, drinks, medicines or activities that should be avoided while taking the drug? There are similar questions for any other treatment but especially for surgery.

It is important to be able to describe symptoms accurately. There are many good books available at the library which describe the symptoms and treatment of many diseases. It takes two to communicate. Knowing which questions to ask the doctor, makes it possible for patients to make an informed decision.

Some women find it difficult dealing with authority figures most of whom are male. In some cases, it helps to have another adult along, not necessarily to contribute to the discussion, but to give support and to consult with later about what happened in the encounter. It also helps to be prepared by bringing notes to meetings and by taking notes during meetings. If papers are to be signed, it sometimes helps to take them home and look them over carefully or have someone else look them over before signing.

Women, if they are to function effectively, need to become knowledgeable consumers and not to play the role of innocent victims.

Women who take charge of their lives seem happier because they feel and act competently, and are less likely to experience disasters.

You owe it to your family to begin to follow such strategies and to feel the satisfaction that comes from being in control.

First published in 1996