By Leslie Baker Kimmons, PhD
For the last five decades, women have been told that they can “have it all!” What is this “having it all?” It is the juggling act women engage in to find that elusive balance between career and family. It’s that sweet spot between maintaining a demanding work schedule in order to enjoy the trappings of a successful career, and being a dutiful wife and mother, where one is engaged just enough not to experience overwhelming guilt. The problem is that this balance is rarely found.
With all the progress women have made toward equality the family is still considered to be a woman’s primary responsibility. From expensive childcare, two parent working households, and a school days structured around the non-worker – “having it all” is a tall order. Wanting and pursuing a career and a family is not the problem. It’s the distance between women’s expectations and their reality that can lead to significant emotional stress. Being socialized to be independent and to want it all, but not being advised of the consequences of these choices which often lead to frustration, resentment, anxiety, and depression.
Frustration. The fact that society is not structured to support the career mother can be frustrating. Most high powered occupations are still an all boys club. No matter how hard you may “lean in” you still have to figure out how can you make an after hours client meeting, and make it in time for kid’s dance recital. A work environment that still operates from a traditional framework leave many career mothers struggling to meet the demands of work and home.
Resentment. The frustration that stems from the burden of managing career and home can lead to resentment. This is a feeling of dissatisfaction that occurs due to the conflict one experiences by not being capable to fulfill the time demands needed to be fully successful at work or at home.
Anxiety. The amount of time and energy that is required to satisfy the demands of one’s career and home can be overwhelming. From needing to work 12 hour days but can only be productive for 8. To having to be in control of children’s needs such as: homework, doctor appointments, and after school activities, not to mention making time to have a quality relationship with your life partner. The amount of mental energy required to maintain this level of productivity and organization can trigger worry, fear and anxiety to the point that you aren’t productive at all.
Stress. The feeling of life being a constant struggle to manage can be stressful. The feeling of that “to do” list never getting done can make a person feel powerless, and if these feelings are not managed they could lead to depression.
Solutions…. “I need a wife!” Career moms must first recognize the enormity of their life choices in order to better manage their expectations. Women should feel secure in their choices of needing to create their own supportive spaces to help manage career and family, and surrender the belief that they can do it all – by themselves.
Ask your partner for help! The label of superwoman comes from trying to accomplish all things alone. Communication of all your needs with your partner goes a long way in not feeling alone. As a couple consider constructing a family calendar where tasks can be divided on a weekly if not monthly basis. Communicating your needs with your partner can lead to feeling less isolated which is key to alleviating resentment and frustration.
Self Care. Get plenty of rest and exercise to manage your stress level. Carving out time for oneself may seem like a distant dream, however it is necessary to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Little changes like taking the stairs to maintain a healthy diet goes a long way to accomplishing a healthier mind, body, and spirit.