Sex & Life
Sex & Life August 12, 2016
Being a mother in today’s culture can be quite the challenge. Unlike women in previous generations, women today want and are expected to have children, have a spouse and have a career. Thankfully for them, that is completely possible.
Women like Gloria Estefan and Olivia Wilde are shining examples of women who have it all and still have time for themselves. Unfortunately, most women do not have the same help or luxuries that celebrity women have. Most women cannot afford the time it takes to “have it all.”
In her and her husband’s annual open letter to the world , Melinda Gates propounds, “Globally, women spend an average of 4.5 hours a day on unpaid work. Men spend less than half that much time.” Unpaid work refers to the work done by women in the home such as cooking, child rearing and maintaining a relationship with her spouse. With all this time being used towards household responsibilities alone, is it really possible to have everything?
Part of the problem stems from women having more unpaid work to do than men. It’s been this way for centuries and, as Mrs. Gates puts it, it’s not likely to change anytime soon because, “Girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility.”
This isn’t just true in America; in every part of the world, women do more unpaid work than men. In fact, women do the least amount of unpaid work in America compared to women in other cultures in the Middle East or North Africa.
But, even in the midst of this “victory,” women here are still expected to do the brunt of the work. If any given woman works a 9-5 job, gets home at around 5:30 p.m. and then completes an average 4.5 extra hours of work, she won’t be done until 10 p.m – assuming she has done nothing but unpaid work. This time does not account for any time she might make for herself or any potential time with her spouse.
Getting help from her partner definitely helps ease the load. The Atlantic explores the importance of having a mutual understanding of who does which chore in the household. The article states, “Spouses who appeared to have a clear and respectful understanding of one another’s roles and tasks, in contrast, did not spend as much time negotiating responsibilities; their daily lives seemed to flow more smoothly.”
Delegating responsibilities doesn’t just help save time, it also helps with family relations in the home. Everyday Health says that women who don’t get enough sleep – or in this case, have more unpaid work – aren’t as chipper or willing to cooperate with their spouses. According to Everyday Health, “When University of Pittsburgh researchers observed the sleep patterns of 35 married couples for 10 nights, they found that wives who snagged a bad night’s sleep were more likely to snap at their husbands the next day, which could create a negative environment that leads to marital strife.” Being unrested can also lead to mothers getting snappy with their children.
Women who do get enough sleep are not only in better moods, Science Magazine states they also have better cognitive abilities. If a woman’s cognitive abilities are at maximum efficiency, then they will be able to focus and concentrate on their kids and family. But this can only be done if there are less responsibilities on her plate.
Though sleep is an essential part of motherhood, maintaining one’s sanity involves self-care. According to Jaime L. Kurts, PhD, of Psychology Today, having hobbies can help cope with stress. Kurts says, “Activities are more than merely distracting. They remind you that there are many facets to your self-concept.”
Hobbies are also perfect for getting social with other adults. As mothers, it can be difficult to get away from all the kid shows, the sippy cups and the diapers. Making time for a hobby you enjoy can put you in touch with other adults who share your passions. According to Kurts, “Countless studies have found that social connection is a key component of happiness and a meaningful life, and hobbies have the potential to create precious new ties.”
So, can a woman have it all? She certainly can. But, if she wants to have it all, some serious adjustments need to be made. First and foremost, health should be prioritized. If your unpaid labor is reaching disproportionate capacities, then it’s time to start handing some work off to your partner. And if the children are old enough, they can and should take some on themselves. The Wall Street Journal says that “giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance.”
In an interview with Entity, a mother, Ester Stephens, gave this advice for future young mothers: “When you get home, give yourself 30 minutes. Just 30 minutes. No kids, no nothing. Lock yourself in your room and breathe. Then when the 30 minutes are done, you get to work.” Regardless of how your free time is spent, it is imperative that you rest. No woman can do it all if she doesn’t do things for herself.
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