According to the U.S. Department of Labor there are 123 million women age 16 and over participating in the U.S. workforce. These women who are either looking for work or working comprise 47% of the total U.S. labor force. By 2018 this percentage is expected to grow to 51%.
More women are graduating from high school and attending college (including post graduate work) than men. As a matter of fact, in 2012 71% of female high school graduates enrolled in college compared to their male counterparts of 61%.
More than 40% of mothers are now the primary source of income for their household. In two-thirds of American families the working married woman contributes 44% of the entire family income. Between 30% and 40% of American businesses are owned and operated by women. Between 1997 and 2014, total U.S. businesses increased by 47% with the number of women owned businesses increasing by 68%.
These dramatic shifts represent a radical revolution that has occurred within the past fifty years. The drivers are clear. 1) Women no longer wish to be financially dependent on males. 2) A two household income is sometimes necessary to meet household financial obligations or to achieve a more comfortable lifestyle. 3) Women are driven to self actualize and to achieve more meaning in their life outside of maintaining a household.
However, with such a dramatic shift comes dramatic challenges. Social support has not kept pace with these economic shifts and some children have been negatively affected by the two income family. Empowerment of women in the workplace has, in some cases, resulted in disempowered in the home. Too many commitments and too little time have left households struggling with much of the pressure placed on the females. These women continue to carry the double role of career and a disproportionate share of duties at home.
According to the Economist, various countries around the world have provided solutions to address a two income household and parenting. The importance of young children spending time with their mothers is addressed in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Hungry as these countries provide up to three years of paid leave for mothers. The Scandinavian countries provide incentives for fathers to spend more time caring for children. However, the United States provides no statutory paid leave for mothers and only 12 weeks unpaid. The U.S. allows unpaid leave only for serious family illness. (It is interesting to note that the “Quality of Life Index” produced annually by Numbeo ranked Austria #1 and the U.S. #7.)
It is not surprising that many women struggle with work-life balance. While there is no “one size fits all solution” there are options and considerations. Below are just a few:
Make down-time, family time and personal time a priority. Treat these times as importantly as work time and integrate them into your schedule with as much commitment as you integrate work tasks.
Review your daily schedule. If there are tasks that you truly dislike, consider eliminating them. If resources permit, outsource these tasks. An example is grocery shopping. If you dislike grocery shopping, consider buying groceries online.
Exercise is magic. So is yoga. Both promote improved physical health and a sharper mind. Clear time in your schedule for exercise and or yoga. (Three times per week is a good goal.)
Integrate more breaks in your work periods. You will find these small respites actually promote higher productivity. If you work at home, integrate a refreshing short nap during the day.
Take more vacations. If extended expensive vacations are not possible, consider weekend get-aways.
In times of stress, remember to stay focused in the present. Worries about the past and fears about the future do nothing to improve crisis and stress.
If you are unable to manage the pressures of work and life on your own, consider seeing a trained professional therapist. He or she will guide you through stress management with the goal of developing a restructured life filled with more peace and happiness.
Polly Sykes, Registered Psychotherapist, MEd, RP, is a Toronto Psychotherapist with extensive post-graduate training and experience in the treatment of Trauma, and the use of Emotion-Focused Therapy for both Individuals and Couples. The support of an experienced and highly-skilled Psychotherapist can be a powerful tool to help you face the challenges of life with more hope, more self-acceptance, and stronger relational bonds.