Working moms appear stressed to the point of nervous collapse, not just here in the U.S., but around the world. The languages and cultures may be different — but working mothers’ high stress level is a common global bond.
Pharmaceutical firm Pharma Dynamics recently surveyed 900 working moms between the ages of 25 and 55 in South Africa. They wanted to determine the extent to which additional burdens, such as career demands, have on the mental well-being of working mothers in that country.
They found that 38 percent of working moms are frequently stretched to the breaking point. Many spend up to 80 hours a week on work and home responsibilities. Some 60 percent have to regularly catch up on work at night or over weekends.
“Women now have to be super-career women, perfect parents, awesome community members, and on top of all that, a caring, understanding, sexy and gorgeous wife,” one California mom of two told LifeZette. “I tried that for years. Now, with prayer and a new set of friends, I’m just me — and everyone is happier.”
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Most respondents in the South African poll have suffered from at least one health problem, including headaches (56 percent), chronic fatigue (47 percent), unhealthy weight loss or gain (47 percent), anxiety (45 percent), insomnia (34 percent), colds and flu (33 percent), and depression (31 percent).
‘Women tend to take on their career; the kids and family events; aging parents; and a social life. Then they take on volunteer and other jobs as well. Madness!’
“I have to admit I found myself drinking too much, between my social life where wine was present, and my ‘down time’ where I would sit with a bottle of wine,” said one New York mother of three. “My husband brought it to my attention, thankfully. I realized that when ‘the girls’ were all out complaining in an almost proud way about our to-do lists, we were also drinking way too much. But it was acceptable — we were holding up the world for everyone.”
Ongoing elevated stress levels have been linked to depression and anxiety, and can lead to substance abuse or even becoming suicidal.
“I feel lucky that columnist Erma Bombeck and comedienne Phyllis Diller were very popular when I was raising children,” said Jean Purcell, a Maryland mother of two and grandmother of three.
“Women were being introduced to the idea of giving up on doing it all, after the perfect homemaking that was encouraged in the 1950s. Suddenly, Phyllis Diller was teaching you how to get out of housework and spend more time on yourself, and Erma was leading women to put down the mop and look for what is really important in life.”
There are action steps moms can take to de-stress their busy lives.
“My bit of advice to working moms would be to delegate as much as you possibly can,” Talane Miedaner, United Kingdom founder of Lifecoach.com and bestselling author of “Coach Yourself to Success,” told LifeZette. “Remember, men have one job — their job. Women tend to take on three jobs or more that they mentally own: their career; the kids and family events; aging parents; and a social life. Then some women even take on volunteer and other jobs as well on top of that. Absolute madness!”
Said Miedaner, “Hire that housecleaner even once a month to do the big clean; send out the laundry; and get a babysitter booked as a regular standing order so your date night with husband is automatic.”
Boston psychologist Rich Domenico weighed in on psychological practices that can change a busy working mother’s mindset and begin positive change.
“Create a ritual of periodically checking in on your life, almost like a mini-retreat,” said Domenico. “Re-evaluate your core values as a person, a parent, and a family. Then ask yourself, ‘Am I actually living aligned with these values? If not, what changes need to be made?'”
Regaining your own intuitiveness is also key. “Unplug from parenting books, blogs and social media for 60 days and observe what is different,” said Domenico. “Can you learn to trust your own instincts and common sense as a parent?”
Start a mindfulness practice of mediation or yoga to slow down and be responsive rather than reactive in your life, Domenico added.
“Importantly, align yourself with other parents who are parenting in a non-stressed and intentional way, too, in order to provide support and a sense of community for yourself and your family.”