My friend is a super mum. She juggles family, home and work commitments. She is a taxi driver for her kids and ferries them around for drama, sports, piano lessons and play dates. This ‘super mum’ cleans, cooks and tries to keep ahead of the laundry day in, day out. Before going to work, she cooks a healthy meal for her family to avoid them resorting to eating bread or frozen meals for dinner. Maria is brilliant at her job and has recently embarked on an online course to keep abreast of the latest developments in her chosen career.
I met Maria last week for a chat over coffee. She looked exhausted, deflated and burnt out. She confessed that it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to give 100% in all areas of her life. Every day at 9pm she flops down onto the sofa with a warm drink in hand and drags herself off to bed shortly afterwards since she
has would start ed to doze off. Weekends are usually a whirlwind of activities and cleaning, and then Monday she is back to work. She does not have time to indulge in hobbies or restful activities and feels that her relationship with her husband is suffering because they hardly have time to talk. She wishes she could run away from it all to regain her energy and strength.
According to sociologist Caitlyn Collins, who studied parenthood in four wealthy western countries, women want to combine work and family commitments in a way that they are not disadvantaged in any of the two contexts. However, her research indicated that rather than establishing ‘work-life balance’ most women experience ‘work-life conflict’. Working mothers are faced with a double edged sword, where they can be seen as inefficient workers if they don’t give their all at work, and ineffective mothers if they invest too much in their careers, to the detriment of their family. So it is in effect a ‘no win’ situation. Moreover, society tends to emphasise the importance of women as carers and putting the needs of their families first in all situations. The importance of self-care for women like Maria seems to be neglected by society.
So is their ever a possibility of enhancing work-life balance for working mothers? Here are some thoughts about this…
- Remove your cape. We all need to carve out pockets of rest on a daily basis. Start running, read a book, watch a TV series, pause for a cup of tea, take a nap. It is difficult to go through the day, week after week, on empty.
- Plan regular holidays. Take time out every few weeks. Visit the countryside or the sea for an afternoon, visit a museum, plan a weekend break. We all need time away from work and daily routine.
- Delegate chores. Take a step back and let your family do their part in the running of the household. Get a paid helper to help in cleaning. Rope in help from friends or car pool to ferry kids to and from extracurricular activities.
- ● Invest in your treasured relationships. Invest in spending time with your partner and enjoy each other’s company on a weekly date night. Make time for meaningful friendships and plan fun activities together. Life becomes meaningful when we are at peace, surrounded by those we love. When we feel that we are enough…
Collins, Caitlyn. (2019) Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.