Kate Hawkesby: The guilt's a killer for stressed working mums

Kate Hawkesby ,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 February 2019, 7:09AM
A study has found working mums 18 per cent more stressed than other people.
A study has found working mums 18 per cent more stressed than other people.


Pleasing to see this week there's finally an actual measure on how much working mums take on.

According to research, they are 18 per cent more stressed than other people - 18 per cent! As a working mum, I think that's low.

Some days it feels like 100 per cent more stressful. There are no days off for working mums.

Researchers from Manchester University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University in the UK looked at 11 indicators of chronic stress in more than 6000 women. These included blood pressure and hormones.

It found that working mothers with two children recorded 40 per cent higher levels of stress on those indicators.

For many women the knock-on effect of this seeps into every facet of their lives. But it also means that often times working mothers feel they're not achieving in either domain.

Work and home both seem to suffer in the inevitable juggle. Even those on flexi-time, or part-time work, are still juggling balls (and guilt). The guilt's a killer.

Did I do enough here? Am I doing enough there? How much more of me can I dice into little pieces to get across everyone?

Dr Inga Lass, a research fellow of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne, says women, even feminists, naturally end up doing more of the care work at home.

She was part of a team that conducted a household income and dynamics study in Australia. The largest of its kind, it followed 20,000 households over 16 years: "The results found that after the first child is born, women do far more housework work than men, and as the children grow up, the dynamic only worsens."

Lass believes working mums' attempts to combine everything is directly related to their feelings of stress, whereas men tend to be more employment-focused.

Then there's the gender pay gap - take that into account when you think about who's more likely to give up work time for the kids.

The saddest statistic of all was that working mothers reported very little joy. They have less personal time, less leisure time, less time for them.

So when's this going to change?

Well I think it slowly is, slowly being the key word - but at least by talking about it we're highlighting the issue; which maybe helps give working mums permission to feel less guilty about it, but more crucially, lets employers know that things have to change.

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