Despite the current modern times, the lion’s share of domestic responsibility still sits on the woman’s shoulder. Many work to supplement the family’s income. While many others have toiled hard to reap professional success that they enjoy today. Some may be the sole breadwinners of the family. Is it right to expect a woman to give up her professional aspirations in the wake of motherhood?
Quiz any mother around, or consider yourself if you are one and one thing pokes icily at us: motherhood is a juggernaut, which calls for major emotional, financial and professional overhaul. Failing any and we are haunted with stress and devastating levels of depression that cascade over our surroundings.
Work-life balance is another fingerprint equation; the ideality of which has been widely debated all over the globe. Some believe it is a myth; others say that we need to disconnect one from the other in order to be effective. While such decisions are a matter of strict personal choice and no two cases of motherhood are alike, they are undoubtedly high stress inducing situations.
Various studies point out that lower the income group, higher the stress factor. A high prevalence of mental health disorders has been recorded in young women in that group, especially in India. According to WHO estimates, mental health disorders account for 12 percent of the global burden of non-communicable chronic disease. While most efforts are currently focused on managing CVD, diabetes, cancers, AIDS etc, matters of mental health are still on the backburner.
In developed countries, the law duly recognizes the need to support the working mother. Back home, traditionally joint family systems, grandparents; other non-working members in the family and easy access to domestic assistance have replaced the law. However, none of the above in any which way defines or defies the mental health problems that plague a working mother.
So, what should we really do?
Stress is second skin for people like us. If not handled well, it brings about a host of problems like indigestion, physical and emotional illnesses, premature aging, weight gain, depression, sleep issues and more.
Here’s a broad checklist that should help you, if you too, are an overstressed working mother. Should you feel overwhelmed with your conditions, please consult a mental health practitioner.
Prioritize: Motherhood brings about a lot of readjustments to our life. That includes ambition too. This shift only aspires us to work smarter, for which priorities are mandatory. One simple way is to draw up an everyday list and focus on the first five points and virtually strike out everything else. It might seem an uphill journey, but it is totally worth the effort.
Be flexible: One cannot be a 100 percent mother and 100 percent professional. If you wish to nurture a career and motherhood both, please understand that there will be days (and late evenings) that will be absorbed at work chasing deadlines. Also, there will be extended time that will be devoted to your children. As long as you are not overly rigid with your schedules, you should breeze through this one.
Be honest with in yourself: We need not be a Mayer or a Nooyi to be a supermom. Some of our mothers have also managed a career and nurtured a family; there are plenty of success stories around us. You may miss your child’s culmination event or decline an invitation to a business dinner. But that’s okay. When in doubt, feel free to approach other working mothers for suggestions and assistance, you may benefit out of their experience.
Get journaling: Silly as it may sound, a study by an American University has established that people who journal for 20 minutes a day, three times a week, have better immune systems! Besides, it also helps you de-clutter and organize your thoughts and life.
Be a choosy eater: Be a slave to healthy food habits, it will do you good in the long run. Simple nutritional adjustments in your breakfast will keep you agile and alert through most of your workday. And no, lunch does not include the mayo-smeared burger and greasy fries. Wise up!
Exercise: When you exercise before the start of your workday, it sets the tone for a productive, efficient time. Post workday workout alleviates stress and helps you calm down and sleep better.
Understand your company culture: The good news is that most corporate houses are welcoming working mothers with open arms and work policies tailored to their benefit. Make use of that. Check with your companies (if you are working, or soon going to be employed) about the support that working mothers receive. Is your company kid-friendly? Do they have flexible working hours? Do they allow extended leave in cases of domestic emergency or a work-from-home policy? Ask your HR if you don’t already know.
Have an objective outlook at work: Working mothers have a multitude of roles to play. And stress is often a result of discontentment and a lack of happiness. Surround yourself with positive influences – this will help you build up your immune system and make work an enjoyable experience.
Switch off: Exactly. Being constantly in the productive zone can have damaging effects on our health. Nothing rejuvenates us like a good night’s sleep. It is important to keep our work at work and switch off when we hit the pillow. And companies that support the work-life culture understand your priorities and respect that.
A woman can be all that she aspires to be – a woman, a mother and an achiever. We all have our oats to sow, and we battle odds to prove the same. Despite all that, we live our lives our way and in the bargain, set an ideal example for our growing kids that a happy family is actually a huge contributor to our professional achievements. Long live motherhood!