The truth about working mums according to research: Working mums are more stressed than other people because they have to find ways to combine housework, care work, and their paid work.
For most women, the first time they have kids is life-changing. All they have known throughout their lives is how to be a daughter, how to be a girlfriend, then wife. But after giving birth, women have to learn to be mothers for the first time ever. Not to mention that they have to do this on top of everything else in their lives – like juggling a career. So it is understandable that working mum stress kicks in.
I remember the day I met my firstborn. The day we took him home and I realised that now, my world was not just about taking care of myself, but about him too. And I also had to think about going back to work soon after giving birth.
Everything changedOnce my confinement period was over, it was time to go back to work. But I was still so new at being a mother. I was still learning the ropes. In new jobs, you’re given at least a three-month probation for you to settle into your role comfortably. Some roles even require you to go through a six-month probation period.
Having only two months to adjust to being a mother, we’re thrown back into another cycle of balancing being a new mum and a career woman.
I struggled to find the balance because I constantly stressed to figure out which one came first. If I focus on work, I had to neglect my child. If I focus on my child, I could not complete my work.
It was a constant battle in my head and an emotionally draining too. I wish I had known or had expected how big the impact would be. But honestly, no stories or shared experiences could really define it until you’re in it.
Worse still, you don’t know HOW much stress it actually is on yourself!
Working mum stress now measurableHowever, university research has shown that a working mum’s stress is now measurable. In fact, the results show that working mums are 18 per cent more stressed than other people.
Researchers from Manchester University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University in the UK found that working mothers of two children record 40 per cent higher stress levels. They looked at 11 indicators of chronic stress, including blood pressure and hormones, in 6025 women.
“The survey absolutely aligns with what we know about the context of Australian working mums,” says Rae Cooper, Professor of Gender, Work and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney.
“Motherhood is challenging for all women, but there’s a higher layer of complexity for working mothers.”
The survey also mentioned that mothers who work from home or those with flexible hours didn’t feel any less stressed.
“It’s good to feel grateful for the job you have. But we have to be really vigilant that women who are working at particular flexible hours are not doing unpaid labour.”
A mother’s struggle“I know my boss watches me when I get my lunch every day. But if she ever confronted me, it would be a great excuse to tell her that I’ve been working full time on a part-time wage for a year now.” says Zoe, 41, a mother of two who works three days a week in a public relations firm.
“I work part-time, but if I really stuck to my hours, nothing would get done, so I have to go in on weekends, and log back on after my kids are asleep. I know my kids are resentful, but they don’t pressure my husband to ‘get off the computer’ the way they do me.”
Nicole, 44, a counsellor with three kids, describes her arrival from work to home like “walking into a crime scene”. “The house is a mess, the kids are crazy, I’m exhausted, but then it’s somehow my job to organise dinner.”
Dr. Inga Lass, a research fellow of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne surveyed nearly 20,000 households over 16 years.
The results found that after the first child is born, women do far more housework than men, and as the children grow up, the dynamic only worsens.
Working mothers have higher stress levels than other people“Women have to find ways to combine housework, care work, and their paid work, whereas men can be much more focused on their employment. I think this is directly related to women feeling more stressed” says Dr. Lass.
Women are under more pressure to be a “good mother” than any other generation while still trying to work as hard as they would if they didn’t have kids.
Mummies, if you’re a working mum and doing your best to find balance for your family, you’re a SUPERMUM! You truly are a great role model to your children.
Love yourself. Be more kind to yourself. Take breaks when you need to, and it is totally okay to feel overwhelmed at times. Discuss some options/responsibilities with your spouse so you can come to an understanding and that the tasks are equally shared.
This article originally appeared on TheAsianParent.com.