Balancing Two Roles: Career Woman & Mother
Many working parents, including working mothers, may struggle to find a healthy work-life balance. While it may be challenging, balancing the roles of a mother and a career woman is not impossible.
As a young woman professional, you might feel that it’s your responsibility to raise your children and earn enough money to support your family by yourself. However, if you are married or have a partner, they may also be able to support the family.
Helping with childcare and, if you’re both working, financial and domestic responsibilities are some ways your partner may support you. Regardless of how your partner contributes, try to communicate regularly about splitting the responsibilities at home if you feel overwhelmed.
Many women face a unique set of challenges when they’re a single parent and a full-time member of the labor force. In addition to their responsibilities, some single parents may feel extra pressure to be the “perfect” parent. The reasons for these feelings can be diverse and may stem from the circumstances surrounding how they became a single parent, pressures from family, societal pressures, and more.
There are many parenting styles influenced by variables such as cultural or religious beliefs, moral beliefs, and a parent’s childhood experiences. In many of these cases, women are expected to be leaders in domestic labor in the home, no matter what their career looks like. Consider that your parenting style may change with time and within different circumstances, and holding yourself to unrealistic standards might cause more harm than benefits.
Single parents, married women, or raising children with other individuals, whichever the case may be, self-care may be necessary to function at your best and provide the best care for your family.
Finding Balance For Working Mothers
Societal attitudes about women working outside of the home are gradually shifting. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 30% of Americans said women should return to their traditional societal roles, while 66% disagreed with this statement. In a recent study, data showed that only 19% agree that women should return to traditional roles, while 75% disagree.
In the years before the equal rights and equal pay movements, professional women faced all the challenges that today’s women face, but with the addition of less protections against male colleagues, less leadership roles, and less pay. In some labor markets, only single women were hired. It can be tempting to think that because some of these issues have been ameliorated, that young women today don’t have problems. However, this is far from the case.
Regardless of shifting societal attitudes, mothers in the workplace may feel pressure to be successful at work and in parenthood. The pressure may include accommodating special requests from coworkers and children, such as working longer hours, involvement in school organizations, or participation in the children’s extracurricular activities. This can be especially difficult for women of color, as there can be less opportunities available for leadership roles in many professions (despite equal skills) in comparison to white women. And yet these women are expected to do all of the same work/life balancing as women whose safety net is systemically much larger.
A 2017 study from the Australian Journal of Social Issues states that “employed mothers endure high levels of time pressure related to time poverty (insufficient time for necessary or discretionary activities), time intensity (multi-tasking and merging work and home boundaries) and time density (familial emotion and [organization] work).”
The desire to “do it all” may overwhelm some working mothers, resulting in feelings of a lack of control in their lives and “parental burnout.” If you’re experiencing these feelings, there are ways that you can cultivate a balance between your home and work life.
Establish Your Priorities And Honor Them
In the case of work/life balance, balance does not necessarily mean half and half. Different women have different priorities, and that’s okay. Defining what you need vs. what you want can be the first step toward balancing your home and your working life. Once you’ve determined those, think about which should remain constant and which are open to flexibility.
For instance, a primary need could be strong communication between you and your family. In that case, scheduling time to talk without interruption could be a priority. Likewise, a vacation abroad may qualify as a “want” but not necessarily a “need.” Planning that vacation may not require as much urgency.
Integrate Time Management Practices Into Your Daily Routine
Many working families keep a calendar listing the dates and times of activities and appointments. Some working women choose to keep a more detailed personal calendar to manage their time in conjunction with the family calendar.
Regardless of your preferred method, keeping track of how you spend your time for the day, week, and month may be valuable. In addition, some integrate small time-saving habits into their daily lives, such as preparing lunches and laying out the next day’s clothing the night before a work/school day.
Some individuals find it beneficial to plan meals and shop for groceries over the weekend to prepare for mealtimes during the week.
Reach Out For Support When Needed
Whether you have a partner or support system, working while raising a child may require outside help. Friends and family could fill that role, or you may find support from your coworkers, your child’s teachers, or your community as well.
Asking for help from the people you trust in your life may be a way for you to cultivate a balance between home and work life.
Taking care of your physical health and well-being is often part of practicing self-care. Try to eat well, get plenty of exercise, and see your physician regularly for check-ups.
Self-care may also involve taking personal time to do things you enjoy. Some women enjoy time to do hobbies, while others may love socializing with friends. It’s all about what brings people joy when not on their companies time. Studies show that an activity such as expressive writing through journaling may also benefit your mental health. Create time in your schedule to do the things you love to do.
Connect With A Therapist To Discuss Your Feelings
Some working mothers find it beneficial to meet regularly with a therapist to discuss their challenges when managing their work and home lives simultaneously.
The feelings of stress that working mothers may encounter while attempting to find this balance could develop into chronic stress. Defined by the American Psychological Association as “constant and persist[ing] over an extended period,” chronic stress may lead to anxiety and depression when unaddressed.
An experienced therapist may provide working women with suggestions for managing their job and home challenges to avoid chronic stress and mental burnout later. If you feel that you are already experiencing symptoms of chronic stress, consider speaking to a professional to prevent worsening symptoms.
A work/life balance doesn’t necessarily mean an even division. Your priorities may change with time and circumstance, and putting pressure on yourself to maintain an ideal standard could contribute to feelings of stress instead of helping to relieve them.
Know There May Be Long-Term Benefits For The Children Of Working Moms
Some women experience guilt associated with working while raising children because they think it may be detrimental to the child’s development. However, a 2015 study by Kathleen McGinn of the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School suggests that there may be long-term benefits for children of working mothers.
Findings indicate that children raised by mothers who work outside the home may be more likely to hold jobs in a supervisory capacity and earn higher wages. The study also reveals that men raised by working mothers are often involved with caring for their families and contribute more to household chores. This kind of balance can lead to a better division of domestic labor and professional labor in future generations.
How Online Therapy Can Help Career Women
Despite its effectiveness, some working mothers feel that the challenges of speaking with a therapist outweigh the benefits. For instance, some women feel they cannot make time for the appointment and the commute to and from the therapist’s office. Some working women don’t feel they can relax and focus on a conversation with their therapist until later in the evenings after office hours.
Online therapy can be a valuable alternative course to in-person counseling for career women because it removes many of these barriers to treatment. Studies show that online therapy is often more affordable than in-person therapy. Also, research suggests that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for treating depression, anxiety, and trauma.
Working mothers may face circumstances that cause stress or other mental health concerns. Searching through the network of caring therapists on an online platform such as BetterHelp can put you in touch with a licensed professional who may understand the struggles of being a career-minded woman and can assist you in coping with those struggles so you can cultivate a better work-life balance in your world.
Frequently Asked Questions
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