A typical morning in the house of two working parents with young children starts with stress. The person who takes the responsibility of daily chores of everyone getting ready, packing food for the day, breakfast and reaching their destination is under stress. In any culture across the world mothers feel obligated to complete everything to perfection at the home front. In the case of working mothers, the additional demands of job responsibilities compound the day. It has been proven that working mothers are under stress due to these dual roles of homemaker and office employee (J.Williams, 1999). Such stresses lead to mental problems like obsessively worrying, headaches, depression, and loss of interest in daily activities. This paper tries to dwell into factors leading to women working full time and understand the conflict between the dual roles of an employee and a homemaker. The roles’ impact on women’s mental health and their consequences are also explored.
Until the mid of 19th century women have been primarily home makers, their job limited to home, marriage, child rearing and taking care of the elderly at home. By the advent of industrial revolution, women joined the work force as secretaries, typists, clerks, and factory workers contributing to the family income. Everyone was convinced about the advantages of dual income in a family and so women work force expanded. As time passed women were encouraged to compete with men at school and college level academics to lead to a successful career. In some countries, women are not treated on par with men in the job circles but they have high responsibilities at work. As long as women remain single, their focus stays on career development and job. Once they are married and have children their responsibilities double in number. They not only need to perform well at work, they are expected to be the primary care giver of children. Young children need a lot of attention like inculcating healthy food habits, hygiene and being safe and need periodic health checkups. Time management becomes a major challenge for mothers, as children need her full attention while the job has regular demands. Trying to juggle two full-time “jobs” women face multiple challenges. Any change in home front or work, throws the rhythm off-balance leading to excessive stress. Women are more prone to such stresses as they feel guilt and shame for not being able to complete their home responsibilities to their own satisfaction (J. Sutherland, 2010). Several women are not happy for not being able to spend more time with children yet continue to jobs in pursuit of better money and lifestyle.
Major factors that create stress in women are incapability to make personal relation, limited social visits and not having quality time with children and family (A.M. Sultana, 2012). For example, a sick child in the house happens very unexpectedly. Either of the parents needs to stay home to take care of the child. In many cases, taking a medical or sick leave from work requires prior permission from the supervisors. The conflict starts with whether mother or father would take the day off. Whoever takes the day off have to face the same situation next day, if the child continues to be sick? The work remains static and employee feels the pressure of not being able to perform the job. Unexpected absences affect important meetings, and deadlines at work. Sick child call from school or day care, maintenance problems in the house, groceries shopping, children’s after school activities and classes, and guests at home are some of the factors which increase the daily stresses on women. Office related travel, physical strain of working eight long hours, take a toll on women who run between both the roles.
Not many mothers have the option of working from home. In addition, those who do work from home need assistance in childcare, which is expensive and sometimes unreliable. One of the major concerns that we notice with working mothers is lack of flexibility and freedom to take time for them or ‘me-time.’ children and home responsibilities take the remaining time before and after office hours. Nucleated family structure, single parenting due to convenience or circumstances, lack of emotional and physical support from close family members drive women to dire straits. Relations with husband also suffer as women feel that the men do not share child rearing or home responsibilities equally. Women are more prone to stress related health problems because they feel that it is a mother’s responsibility to be available for all of the children’s or family needs. The same would not apply for men. Women’s mental health problems owing to such stress range from obsessive worrying and headaches to depression and agitated state. While these are ‘normal’ for most women, the severity is undermined by self-diagnosis and self-criticism. Society appreciates ‘superwomen’ or ‘good mom’ and women feel obligated to stay in such realm.
Work family conflicts are typically fall under three categories – time-based, strain-based and behavior based (Grzywacz et al., 2007). When any two of them occur at the same time, women’s stress levels increase and lead to problems like high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, perspiration, dizziness, and headaches. Mental problems will surface if the physical problems are disregarded. To counter such stresses many cultures adopt meditation, yoga, or book reading to calm the mind. It is advocated that women need to find an activity or hobby, which they like and spend at least few minutes on it every day. Family members taking the child care responsibility is one sure way of reducing stress in women. Since that is not always possible reliable, moderately priced childcare would lead to better time management. By discipline, hard work and discussing the problems with men in the family also aid in reducing the pressure on women. Child rearing responsibility if shared by husbands makes the career of women more meaningful and less stressful.
While there is, a lot of research on white women facing stresses due to work family conflicts there is very little information on minorities like Latinos, African Americans and the poor families. Dual incomes are a necessity for poor couples with children and their work family balance is at stake on a regular basis. Changes in jobs, irregular incomes, or work hours leave very little focus on children’s development. Labor census predicts increase number of minority women workers in the future labor force. Supporting these women goes a long way in future of the society. Unsupervised, under trained children grow up to be troublesome adults. Crime, drug abuse, petty thefts increase if future generation does not have the loving, and nurturing care of mother. It is imperative that working mothers have to be supported not only by the family, but also by the employers, neighbors, government, and social welfare associations. It goes beyond doubt that “the hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world.”
Williams, Joan (1999). Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What To Do About It. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=SxtNubyWAEMC&lpg=PP1&dq=work%20family%20conflict%20and%20women&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=work%20family%20conflict%20and%20women&f=false
Sutherland, Jean-Anne (2010). Mothering, Guilt and Shame. Sociology Compass 4/5 (2010): 310–32, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Retrieved from article from course reading.pdf
Sultana, A.M. (2012). A study on stress and Work Family conflict among Married women in their families. Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences, 6(8): 1319-1324, 2012. ISSN 1995-0772. Retrieved from Peer-reviewed article 1.pdf
Grzywacz, J.G. , Arcury, T. A. , Mar´ın, A., Carrillo, L., Centro, B.B., Coates M.L., & Quandt S.A., (2007). Work–Family Conflict: Experiences and Health Implications Among Immigrant Latinos. Journal of Applied Psychology Copyright 2007, by the American Psychological Association 2007, Vol. 92, No. 4, 1119–1130 Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/6201000_Work-family_conflict_experiences_and_health_implications_among_immigrant_Latinos/file/79e4150c6a14863580.pdf.