The Social Implications of Working Motherhood on our Health. So which one are you… Good or Bad?
By Dr Ali Young
As working mums, we are thrust into determining how we fit into this paradigm of good vs bad? The concept of being either a good working mum or a bad working mum can be arguably embedded in our psyche as we move into the working mum world. Yet who decides what is good and what is bad?
As a society, one that is edging very slowly towards gender diversity in the workplace, there is still a discord, in my belief, in the expectations placed on working mothers. “Good mums” can work as if they don’t have children, and parent as if they don’t have a job.
If we are able to compartmentalise ourselves in the workforce, without kids interfering with the way we perform our profession, then we are doing good in society.
“Bad Mums” find themselves at times in that messy middle, having moments where we need to finish early, or god-forbid, alter our work hours so we can parent and work effectively.
What we aren’t exploring in depth as a society is how the stress of juggling both of these separate elements in our life is impacting our health. How does being in this constant framework of flux impact on the way our brain perceives our health? And how does it contribute to the mental load of mothering and home life that we are working within daily?
Our amazing brain is designed to handle stress. We have systems in our body that keep us safe when we need to respond to get away from predators, or think hyper-focused when in a tricky situation. The thing with this amazing part of our brain is that it isn’t supposed to be on ‘alert’ all the time. The last two years have primed our brains to be on high alert. Add in to this navigating the stressors of mornings, getting kids where they need to go, showing up in your workplace without vomit on your pants from your baby and with a focus on the job at hand… to only realise you need to pump at lunchtime, try and eat, and not take too long so you can have a shorter day and get the kids before the sun goes down. It’s a chronic form of low grade stress that is impacting on our health.
We know that stress affects everyone differently, yet if you look down this list, how does stress show up for you? And is this stress causing you to have more of those “I’m a bad mum” thoughts?
- Pain, including back pain
- Upset stomach
- Lack of energy
- Lack of focus
- Overeating or not eating enough
- Easy to anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
I speak with 100’s of mum’s each month, and they are commonly struggling with figuring out how to dial down stress responses so they can be calmer in their day, more connected with both their peers and their families, and find some joy again. The hot tips that I give them are pretty simple, yet if we can master one or two of these, it can go a long way to dialling down our stress response, and allow our health and self to restore again.
- Move your body (even for 10 minutes in the morning whilst the kids watch bluey), to wake up your brain and get your synapses firing.
- Drink more water (and maybe a bit less of that sweet nectar of the gods – coffee).
- Write that next day list before you go to bed… it can gift you a better quality sleep (and whilst you’re at it, hit the hay 30 minutes earlier).
- Connect with a friend.
- Call in support – partner, professional – however you can get it.
For society as a whole to allow working mothers to thrive within their family units and support the next generation, honouring how we can de-stress this generation of mothers, without the mum-guilt, is where the magic lies for all of us.
Dr Ali Young is a chiropractor and author of Work.Mama.Life. She works with women in her online courses, and is passionate about supporting working mum’s to reclaim their health, find their self and have ripple effects on the next generation of humans inheriting our planet.