Three weeks ago I handed in my resignation to a company I’ve been employed with for 6.5 years. The stress level felt as though it was taking a toll on my mental health and it was more than stretching into time with my family. My husband and I decided enough was enough and it was time to make a drastic move. A move that would mean a single income along with letting go of my healthcare benefits. Leading up to this moment, I have been applying and interviewing since 2011-and to no avail. Due to the painfully difficult task of landing a new job, I have toyed with the possibility of leaving the corporate world forever. This means we need to be okay with taking a reduction in pay and benefits. The allure of once climbing the ladder has completely lost it’s shimmer. A slower pace where my health is in good form, and life isn’t whipping past me like a freight train is the carrot calling my name now.
We all want to do our best. It’s just not possible to do it at a million miles an hour with a plate so full there’s no bottom in sight. It’s not abnormal for working parents to log on at night to wrap up tasks or respond to emails. Sadly, this has become the new norm. Additionally, many of us have said sayonara to the good old lunch break. Hence the “Take Back Lunch” campaigns cropping up everywhere. Lunchtime for us parents is the beautiful gift of an hour to get errands done that have to be done during business hours -or in some cases-our only break to do something for ourselves. Now that lunch has gone on the wayside, when are these errands getting done? Where is that hour of personal time to take a much deserved break?
Other than eating lunch at our desks and logging onto the computer to do work in the evenings, let’s think for a moment about the inability to shut the brain off from work. It creeps its way to the top of your mind conveniently right when your head hits the pillow. You’re on hyper alert that there is an email you didn’t respond to, or that looming deadline isn’t remotely possible to meet given the workload and short staff situation. Being in this constant state of fight or flight is never healthy as we all know, and it can wreak havoc on not only the mind, but the body (stomach aches, migraines, anxiety, depression).
Prior to 2008, things were a bit different. It would seem that now companies are running more lean than ever. As a result, workloads are heavy and stress levels are high. Of the existing workforce, plenty of companies employ working mothers. We are the group that leaves one job to go to our jobs as moms. But what about when the day job overshadows, hovers, or smothers the mom job? What then? Can we do both jobs at once and do them well? Who suffers as a result- the generation we’re raising, we moms, both, or society as a whole?
In a Facebook group I facilitate for working mothers, a survey was posted to capture answers to questions relating to what they need help with the most as working mothers. The idea was to hone in on how both their home life and work life could be modified to make life a bit more manageable. The results are fascinating, yet not surprising.
Out of the 213 respondents, there was a tie for first place in terms of what the most stressful time of day is. 27.8% said the morning was the most stressful as it consists of getting the kids ready while getting themselves ready. The other 27.8% said that homework/making dinner/and catching up on their kid’s day was equally as hectic. 9.9% said trying to pick up their kids after work, 4.7% said their list of chores to complete right after the kids go to bed, 3.7% said bath and bedtime, and 2.3% said their hours while on the job. Second place goes to all of the above with 23.5%.
When asked what was the one thing working moms were desperate for help with 37.5% said making and planning dinner, 22.75% chose someone to clean the house and 17% say they need organization in their life and home overall with prioritizing being difficult. Help with laundry got 7.5%, picking up the kids after school 9.9%, helping the kids with homework 4%, and 5% opted for “other” which consisted of carpooling options and care for when school is closed.
Marriage and partnership in terms of how much help is received in one specific area received the following responses: picking up and dropping off the kids 18.3%, housework and cleaning 16%, 15.9% bath and bed, 14% dinner, 12.6% said they get no help from their partner, 7% said they were single parents so do mostly everything during the week on their own, 4% chose lunches being made, and 10% said “other” with half the responses saying partner is a stay at home dad and does most if not all, and the other 5% saying it’s split evenly, and/or nanny helps a lot to divide and conquer.
Another question in the marriage and partnership bucket, was the question of how their partner responds to being asked to help. 52% said their partner would gladly help. 12% said the response would be similar to “you’re nagging me, but maybe”, 13% said their spouse would suggest hiring and paying someone to help, 8% reported that their partner would say “no” to helping. Most interestingly about this response was the “other” section which received 14%. 30 people responded with various comments; 7 ppl said their spouse would say yes and then not do or forget to do the task, while the remaining had a mix of responses.
Some of you may have heard of the term overwhelm. This next question addresses how often in a week working mothers experience overwhelm. 48.3% said half of the week, while 38.9% said every single day. 11.7% said once a week and 0.9% said they never feel overwhelmed.
When asked if there was an aspect of their job they would like to change in order to make life as a mom easier, they were given six options. The options included were more money, a flexible schedule, work from home options, more time off available, all of the above, and other. Most responded with all of the above at 28.6%. More money had 26.8%, 19.2% said flex schedule, 13% said more work from home, and 9% said more time off. 6% selected other which consisted several similar responses including shorter commute, a policy that enforces working hours instead of 24/7 availability, less working hours, a service to provide assistance with laundry and childcare, and lastly- an appropriate workload. Some respondents said they are very happy with all aspects of their company, but worry about job security.
Most people try to find ways to decompress after a stressful day on the job and evening with the kids. This next question sheds light on how most working moms (from this specific group of 213 surveyed) choose to unwind. The winner for ways to decompress in this group goes to drinking alcohol at 23%. 20% take yoga or exercise, 16.4% said they don’t know how to decompress, 15.4% go out with friends, 13.6% chose other which included reading, watching TV, taking a bath, music, or doing a hobby, 6% talk with their husband, 4% go on a vacation, and 0.4% meditate.
It is important to dream about what means the most to us, what motivates us, and what would bring us joy. The final question asks about daydreams.
I daydream what it would be like to…
Go at a slower pace in life (22%), work part-time (20.75%), work at a company that is flexible, has lots of paid time off, and is family friendly (19%), not have to work (12.2%), start over and go back to school (11%), have a supportive partner that helps more (6%), and “other” which was a wide variety of unique responses including having a live in nanny, being single, being wealthy, having the kids out of the house, and travel (7.5%).
It would seem the over arching learning from the group of working mothers surveyed is that half of their week they feel overloaded, they feel most overwhelmed in the morning and at night, only half of their spouses are true partners that will happily help with anything needed, all of them would like a family friendly work environment, a whopping 16% don’t know how to decompress or de-stress, and most day dream about going at a slower pace in life or working part-time.
So what’s the answer? Perhaps less hours and a more manageable workload is a start. Who came up with 9-5 anyway? And why is technology our new tyrant of a boss? Let’s start the conversation. I think we can all agree something has got to change.