Stephanie Schacher, Psy.D. Providing assessment and psychotherapy services in Westport, CT
It seems like more is asked of women as parents than ever before, and being a mom calls upon many resources. Managing a household and keeping up on all of your kids' needs - - in fact all of the living beings' needs in your household - - is like being a master mechanic who keeps a complex machine running. We take personal responsibility for our children's well-being and happiness. This puts a great deal of pressure on women. I have heard moms say "It shouldn't be this hard".
I often hear moms call themselves controlling, or that they are told so by their partners. Well, yes, yes we are, and it's out of necessity. We need to have structures in place to maintain the control and functionality of this complex machinery called family. We won't let our family break down. But moms run into trouble delegating responsibility to others, whether to our partners, parents, relatives, or paid caretakers, especially if these individuals have their own way of doing things. Moms come to me needing help in balancing their lives, decreasing stress, and learning to relinquish some control in order to pass responsibilities to others. No, they probably won't do it exactly as you would, but that's ok. And if not, I will help you learn how to let that be ok.
While some moms have others who willingly assist, (albeit in not the same way as we would do it), other moms do not. There may be no family close by to lend a hand. Or your partner may be a reluctant participant. Negotiating co-parenting even in intact couples can be a daunting and stressful daily endeavor. It is easy for moms to forget about themselves, or to back-burner their needs. An occasional "girls' night" out, while lovely, is not enough to refresh and refuel.
Working moms - and by this I mean moms who have paid employment in or outside of the home - face the daily juggle of getting the kids off to school, getting themselves off to work, keeping tabs on daily childcare arrangements and kids' activities, and thinking ahead about that's night's dinner, homework, and baths. Working moms also generally manage the household's social calendar. They do this all while engaging in the work of their jobs. Arlie Hochschild, PhD, a prominent sociologist at UC Berkeley, identified the pressures of the working mom and coined the term the "second shift". The first shift of work is at our place of paid employment, and the second shift of work is when we come home. In her 1989 book titled "The Second Shift", Dr. Hochschild described her research findings on the gendered division of labor in the home and the uneven sharing of the burden of responsibilities with male partners. While the uneven division of labor has lessened over the years, it still exists. It makes women feel that they have to be superwomen just to get by. The result is that working moms may feel that they are doing a sub-optimal job both at work and at home, and struggle with feelings of stress, guilt, and inadequacy.
Stay at home moms - and by that I mean unpaid working moms - play an elaborate chess game daily, They manage all the needs of the individuals in the household in a way that is similar to being a personal assistant to a VIP. And though these daily challenges can be taxing, there may be little recognition from others of all the behind the scenes planning and work involved. Have you been described before as a woman who "doesn't work"? Have you even said this of yourself?
We are pretty good at getting down on ourselves. Working moms may feel inadequate and guilty because they feel they don't spend enough time with their children or because they have outsourced some of this job. Stay at home moms may feel inadequate and guilty because they are not contributing to the family income, not using all the skills they were trained in, or not providing a role model to their kids of an ambitious career woman.
And let me not forget to acknowledge single moms. The awe and respect I have for these women... need I say more?