THE demands of keeping a job, raising children and running a home are driving more working moms in South Africa to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
This is according to a recently-released poll by a leading pharmaceutical firm specialising in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Wilmi Hudsonberg, spokesperson of Pharma Dynamics, said the company conducted the survey to determine the extent to which additional burdens, such as career demands, have on the mental well-being of working mothers in the country.
“Being a mother is the hardest job you can have, but being a working mother, particularly in today’s society, is much harder,” said Hudsonberg.
“Between the stress of work, traffic, job advancement, motherhood, keeping a house, preparing meals, taking care of children and sometimes elderly parents too, there is often no reserve left for mothers on the job,” she explained.
The Pharma Dynamics survey, which polled 900 working moms in the country between the ages of 25 and 55, found that 38% are frequently stretched to breaking point.
Many spend up to 80 hours a week on work and home responsibilities.
Some 60% have to regularly catch up on work at night or over weekends.
While more than half of working moms (55%) indicated that their employers offered at least one family-friendly perk, such as flexible scheduling, they said the following would make their lives significantly easier as a working parent:
- An employer that focuses on being more output-based than having you sit behind a desk for eight hours (51%).) Working from home on some days, which means you gain hours by not having to commute to and from work (40%).) Better part-time or half-day work opportunities (40%).) More help with household chores (37%).) More help with children (24%).
Hudsonberg pointed out that most jobs were made for people who have no caregiving responsibilities, which inevitably meant that working moms did most of the accommodating.
With the impossible schedules modern mothers manage, something inevitably has to give in and the price they pay is often their health.
Since becoming a working mom, most respondents said they had suffered from at least one health problem.
These include headaches (56%), chronic fatigue (47%), unhealthy weight loss or gain (47%), anxiety (45%), insomnia (34%), being more prone to colds and flu (33%) and depression (31%).
High ongoing stress levels have been linked to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
It can also lead to substance abuse or becoming suicidal, which is what the prevention-minded pharmaceutical company wants to curb.
While the overwhelming majority of working moms (69%) said they worked solely because they needed the income, almost one-third said they also did so for mental stimulation and enjoyment.
The reality is that our economy has adjusted to double-income families, which means being a stay-at-home mom is increasingly becoming a luxury.
Hudsonberg said working moms were often riddled with guilt and spent nights awake worrying about how they could succeed at the office and at home, and whether their children would resent them for their decisions.
They want solutions to the anxiety they feel.
“While employers still have some way to go in providing benefits and options to make a working mother’s life easier, it’s important for moms that find themselves in this situation to redefine the concept of ‘doing it all’ by asking for help and to stop comparing themselves to other mothers who seemingly have it all.
“Also, be honest with your employer about your needs and be prepared to meet them half way.
“Bear in mind that not every company will be able to accommodate your needs – the industry and type of job you do largely determines the kind of family-friendly benefits companies are able to offer,” she said. According to the survey, working moms also find it tough to set aside time to take care of themselves and their own health, with most spending less than an hour a day on themselves.
To ease mothers’ sense of stress and emotional burden, Hudsonberg encourages partners to become more involved in the domestic sphere and take more responsibility for family care where possible.
Of the moms who participated in the survey, most are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, 93% work full-time, 29% are single parents and most have either one or two children.
Working moms who are overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness, constant fatigue, insomnia or suicidal thoughts should consult their doctor or contact the Pharma Dynamics toll-free helpline on 080-020-5026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 08:00 to 20:00, seven days a week.