We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that working parents are stressed. 40% more stressed to be exact₁. There’s more to do; minimal down-time, and inner conflict about your multiple roles.
The most extensive survey of its kind, the UK Household Longitudinal Survey, involved more than 6,000 participants₁. It found that biomarkers indicative of stress, such as hormone levels and blood pressure, were 40% higher for working women with two children and 18% higher for working women with one child, compared to working women without children₁.
What does all that mean?
Well apart from the obvious of feeling more likely to explode or implode, it also means you’re more likely to suffer poor mental and physical health.
There’s no getting away from the fact that caring for children and working outside the home is a mammoth task. But for the majority of working parents, it’s a matter of necessity rather than choice. Indeed, part of a working parents’ stress derives from a feeling of helplessness to improve the situation. Add to that the inner conflict that arises from wanting to be the best parent and also wanting to do a great job at work, and it’s clear why working parents are particularly stressed.
So what’s to be done?
The good news is there are some steps you can take to improve your situation.
1) Create your own Boundaries
Start by saying ‘no’ more often. When asked to do the extras, bake cakes for the school charity, or volunteer with a friend at the weekend, say no sometimes. Create boundaries for yourself. Give yourself the space to understand what your responsibility is, and what definitely isn’t. Often this is changeable over time. When your children are sleeping through the night, for example, you may be able to extend the parameters of your boundary. Review your limits frequently, and set them comfortably for you.
2) Ask for Help
Find yourself a network of people to support you, and ask for help. I know that can be an uncomfortable concept for some. The first step is to acknowledge you can’t do it all. It’s too much for anyone. Pinpoint where you need the most help. Find your people: family, friends, neighbours, then ask them for help. Easier said than done, but so worth it.
Working parents need to be the most organised people of all. We’re sure you’ve already got weekends and a diary full of ‘organising’. But sometimes it’s the smaller things that get missed that have the most significant impact on the flow of your week.
Plan ahead as much as possible and delegate where you can, use online services, write it down, so you don’t have to keep 20 mental tabs open. It will free your mind from remembering all the things that need to be done and will save some much-needed time.
4) Be Present
Try as much as possible to stay on task. Be focused. When you’re at work there’s little you can do about your child, so don’t worry. Likewise, whilst spending time with your children, don’t stress about the new coding course your boss has enrolled you on, or the tax return you need to complete. Be where you are; you’ll save yourself a load of energy, and probably enjoy yourself more.
5) And relax
Taking care of yourself is key to you getting the best out of your work and home lives.
A lot of this depends on how you’re treating yourself, both physically and mentally. Where possible, give yourself a break each day, take some time out to do some exercise, walking or a hobby. Whilst the practicalities of life might mean that you don’t have the opportunity to do this every day, knowing you have some time in the week to focus on yourself and relax, will help to relieve stress and is crucial to maintaining a positive and healthy outlook on life.