I was a sociology major in college. Oh sure, that's probably one of those majors that you see in the top ten lists of what not to major in if you ever want to make any money. But to me, college was about expanding your mind and studying things that really interested you—where the money would come from and what I'd do with it wasn't exactly on the mind of my then 19-20 year old self.
My most memorable course was a seminar about women working while raising a family. We spent several weeks studying a book by Arlie Russell Hochschild called The Second Shift. (Read an excerpt of the The Second Shift.) This book was a study about dual-career households and how much work (childcare, housework, etc.) a woman actually does in addition to her paying job. In her research, Hochschild discovered that women worked 15 hours longer each week than their partners—thus the coining of the term "second shift" in how it related to dual-career families.
I understand that the book has been recently updated and revised, and though I have not read it, I imagine that there is still a disparity in the amount of work many women do at home compared to that of their male counterparts. In fact, a 2011 study by sociological researchers from the University of Michigan and Bar Ilan University found that "working women spend 10 hours more per week than working men multitasking housework and childcare."
The concept of a second shift has stuck with me for many years. I have known many working moms who feel stressed or overwhelmed by juggling their work with the duties required from being a mom. And, as a stay-at-home mom for many years, yes, I did take on most of the household and child-rearing responsibilities because that was my "job" for those years.
Now that I am working again, even though it is part-time, I continue to keep many of those responsibilities. That means my job starts at about 6:30 every morning (so I can get the kids up, fed and ready for school, go to my own job, come home and let the dogs out, go to the grocery, plan meals, do laundry and pick up the house, greet the kids after school, arrange and accompany kids to doctor appointments and haircuts, help with homework and activities, chauffeur kids around, make dinner and then usually enforce bedtime) until about 9:30 or so each day. I am not saying that my husband does not help with any of this, he is, in fact, pretty helpful. But the stress of working whether it is at my job or at home can be overwhelming some days. And, I imagine it is for many parents.
When you add to all of your parenting and work duties the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse and other everyday life issues, it's no wonder many of us feel stressed out.
The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a poll in 2007 that found three-quarters of Americans list work as a significant source of stress. And, the APA states, "The stress people are experiencing comes, in part, from the pressures of today's connected world. Because of email, cell phones and the Internet, Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to switch off from the stresses of the workplace and concentrate on their personal priorities — over half of respondents said that job demands interfered with family or home responsibilities."
Stress can adversely affect physical health. This article from ParentSavvy cites that frequent stress can make you feel irritated, worried, depressed, and cause headaches, backaches and upset stomach. The above referenced APA article also states that stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as comfort eating, over-consuming alcoholic drinks, and smoking.
So what are we supposed to do?
This ParentSavvy article discusses how flexible work schedules can help keep moms in the workplace and cites a study from Baylor University that found "when working moms are better able to control their work environment and adapt, work-related stress is less likely to become a family issue."
- Know yourself - be aware of your stress level and know what stresses you out
- Recognize how you deal with stress
- Turn off and tune in
- Keep a "To-Do" list
- Take short breaks
- Find healthy ways to manage stress
- Take care of yourself
- Ask for professional support
Brier Jirka, Sex Therapist from Methodist Health System, wrote in her blog "Everybody needs self-care…even me!" that she often asks patients to list their top five priorities and most of them never put themselves in the top five. She recommends to
- sit down and ask yourself what are your priorities (what is important to me?)
- ask yourself what can I do to bring change to my life?
- get your ducks in a row.
For me, I am and have always been a huge proponent of time to myself. I like being alone. Alone time refreshes and recharges me. Luckily, I have a husband who understands that I need me time. If that means hubby takes the kids with him for a Saturday afternoon errand or takes them on a weekend trip, that trickles down to maintaining happiness and patience in my everyday life. Give it a shot, try to carve time out of your schedule to find time for you.
Likewise, make sure to get some alone time with your partner. Whether it is a quick trip to the store or a date, time with your partner can strengthen your relationship and create a better unified front when dealing with the kids. (See my blog It's Date Time!)
Finally, I make sure to continually remind myself that everything does not have to be perfect. Do what you reasonably can do and the rest will fall into place. Your kids would rather have a happy parent than a perfectly organized playroom.
No one ever said this parenting thing (or life) was going to be easy; take things as they come and take them in stride. If you can manage it, the stress will subside.