Happy Mother’s Day To the ‘Working’ Mother Who Does It All
This Mother’s Day, take a look at a day in the life of a working woman and how the double work affects her health.
(This story is being republished on Mother’s Day 2020, as we celebrate the mothers in our lives.)
Her day starts at six in the morning. She showers and wears the clothes she had ironed the night before. Being his personal snooze alarm, she nudges her husband half an hour before he has to be up; and then rushes to the kitchen. Brewing tea with one hand and toasting bread with the other, she makes a visit every five minutes to her twelve-year-old daughter’s room to make sure she’s ready for school. Once the breakfast table is made, she drags them both to it and goes to her room while they eat. After adding some final touches to her makeup and combing all the bread crumbs off her hair, she takes a bite of her sandwich, gulps down her tea, and kisses her family goodbye.
Her evenings are almost the same; replacing breakfast with dinner and adding work brought from office. Once everybody is asleep, she turns the bedside lamp on, opens her laptop, completes her tasks, and finally, dozes off to sleep; not forgetting to put a morning alarm for six again.
This woman is no stranger to us. We have seen her in our mothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and in most of the other professionally working women we know.
The term used to describe this sort of a routine is ‘double burden’ or ‘second shift’. The latter was first used in Arlie Hochschild’s book ‘Working Parents and the Revolution at Home’.
Her definition describes what happens after a ‘working’ day, i.e. the endless household chores, childcare and elder care activities. It is the double burden of paid professional work with unpaid domestic work.
Enough studies and researches have been conducted to show that in a heterosexual couple, the responsibility of the household mostly falls upon the woman. For instance, a 2017 study found that younger women are working longer hours and are being paid more than before, but the burden of household work majorly still falls upon them. To quote numbers,
Only 19 percent of men did household work like cleaning and laundry, compared to 49 percent of women on an average day.
The reason for the persistence of this unequal distribution of work, besides the societal ascription of roles, is the simple failure to recognize household chores as actual ‘work’.
The point becomes clear when you realize that a homemaker is conventionally juxtaposed with a ‘working woman’, as if the former is not really ‘working’.
The reasons for this are, of course, all social. But the impact that such a division of work has on the mental, emotional and physical well-being of these women is too significant to be ignored.
Double Work = Double Stress
A research by the The UK Household Longitudinal Study, found that chronic stress was 40 percent higher among women who have two children and are working full-time jobs, in comparison to women who have no children and are also working full-time.
In a report in The Independent, the researchers were quoted as saying,
Work-family conflict is associated with increased psychological strain, with higher levels of stress and lower levels of well-being.
It’s a vicious cycle, you see. The double responsibility of housework and job leads to stress, which only makes things worse in both domains, thus adding more pressure on the woman.
No, Having a Job Doesn’t Make You a Bad Mother
A conversation on this topic with a working mother would reveal to you a looming regret in her mind: “Am I being fair to my children?”
According to a survey by Workingmother.com,
57 percent of respondents feel guilty every single day, while 31 percent feel guilty at least once a week.
Blame it on the internalisation and socialisation of females into believing that the workplace is not where they are ‘supposed’ to be; that instead, their life is to be centered around their kids and families.
Numerous studies have highlighted the baselessness of such worries. Here are a few facts:
- A Harvard study from 2015, found that the daughters of employed mothers often perform better in their eventual careers than the daughters of stay-at-home moms.
- Moms who work positively impact their sons, in that they are more likely to have gender neutral views and to marry partners who work.
- In the surveys, both daughters and sons were asked about their overall life satisfaction. Whether their moms stayed at home or worked, all reported being just as happy.
As study researcher and Harvard Business School Professor Kathleen McGinn put it,
People still have this belief that when moms are employed, it’s somehow detrimental to their children. As we gradually understand that our children aren’t suffering, I hope the guilt will go away.
Give Yourself a Break!
Seriously. Step back and think of all that you accomplish in one single day.
And then the next day.
Don’t forget to spare some time out for yourself amidst all this.
Go to the gym; read that book; take that nap; go for that walk; meet those friends; treat yourself. You deserve it all.
This Mother’s Day, we remind you:
That self-love isn’t selfishness.
That if you’re happy, your children are happy.
And that all that you do, is unbelievable, extraordinary, and worthy of all the gratitude and love that there is in the world.
Happy Mother’s Day!
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