A new study has revealed some alarming statistics about the health of working mothers and the hours they’re working.
Perhaps they’re stats you already know well yourself, especially if you’re attempting to balance part or full-time work with the full-time (including regular all-nighters) responsibilities that come with being a parent.
Now a study of 1009 women with children under 17 commissioned by the Cenovis Women’s Health Index offers a good explanation for why working mothers are so exhausted.
It found many are working up to 80 hour weeks when you factor in paid work and unpaid work at home. As Fairfax reports today, that’s more than the 58 hour weeks many CEOs are putting in.
The survey also found only around 5% of working mothers take time out for rest when they’re ill, but 70% take time off work to care for sick children. Meanwhile 34% pretend to be OK when they’re sick and almost half had gone to work when they should have stayed home ill because they’d used up all their leave entitlements.
It’s easy to see what quickly gets sacrificed when you’re exceptionally time-poor. Those gym visits you used to make after work? Gone. That time and money you would invest cooking super healthy meals? Gone. The extra hours of sleep you’d once get in over the weekend? Gone. That time for meditating, journaling, walking, reading, hanging upside down, daily goal setting (all the things that we’re told will aid wellbeing and help us ‘self improve’)? Gone once again.
This is the new working lifestyle we live. It’s making us sick and exhausted. Long hours, high pressure, all mixed in with the fact school hours don’t match regular work hours and childcare’s getting even more expensive.
Sadly, it’s making us sick even before the children come along. Today, Medibank Better Health Index also revealed almost 60 per cent of pregnant Australian women are obese or overweight. According to Jane Martin from the Obesity Policy Coalition, the increase is coming from cheap and fast foods, and limited time for exercise around work. Meanwhile, 23.9 per cent of pregnant women report suffering from anxiety, compared with only 8 per cent in 2010.
So what can be done?
The good majority of employed mothers can’t just stop working, nor would many of them want to. And those children can’t just look after themselves at home.
In a better, sensible and more sustainable world, working mothers wouldn’t just be told to “find time for themselves” when clearly there’s actually no more time to find. Instead, we’d have:
- Better flexible work options (including the ability to work from home when the kids are sick) that don’t see you having to park your career or brain at door
- More men accessing such flexible work, as a means to not only support their partners but also to contribute to a cultural shift in who such options are available for
- Employers encouraging their staff to take time for exercise, even during work hours
- A better division of labour at home — including sharing who does the ‘thinking’ regarding household logistics and operations
- Improved access to affordable, flexible and accessible childcare
- Simpler/cheaper access to healthier foods, even if those foods are ‘convenient’
- A paid parental leave scheme that better supports new mothers and gives them the option to take the time out from work they actually need without having to stress about a loss of income.
That’s just the start of what could be a very long list.
Add to that a little more love and appreciation for the mums in our lives, whether they’re in paid work or not.
(This video showing people interviewing for the ‘Director of Operations’ role — and candidates being told the role will see them constantly standing, up all night and available 365 days a years — sums it up perfectly.)