Support the Women in Your Life Who Are Juggling Life and Career
The latest research from the Pew Research Center identifies some interesting trends in regards to motherhood and career:
Compared to 10 years ago, a woman is far more likely to become a mother than before.
Mothers are working more and more in the workforce compared to a few decades ago, but the demand on their time for childcare has also gone up.
Approximately 25% of working moms are solo parenting.
Women say they feel an exceeding amount of pressure to be hands-on, super involved moms.
“Seven-in-ten moms with kids younger than 18 were in the labor force in 2015, up from 47% in 1975,” summarizes the researchers at Pew. (1) “In fact, mothers are the primary breadwinners in four-in-ten U.S. families. In nearly half (46%) of households with a mother and father, both parents are employed full time, up from 31% in 1970. Working mothers (60%) are somewhat more likely than fathers (52%) to say balancing work and family is difficult. While a majority of parents from dual, full-time working households say certain household responsibilities are shared equally, about half (54%) say the mother does more when it comes to managing children’s schedules and activities.”
With so many working moms feeling overwhelmed and stressed by having to do it all, how can you - as a friend, a partner, a father, or a coworker - support them in their difficult journey? It all comes down to emotional support.
A new study was recently published in the research journal “Sex Roles.” (2) The study found that receiving emotional support, even if it’s from an outsider like her boss at work, can make a big difference in her emotional health, any guilt she may feel about being a working mom, and help her feel more balanced and supported.
And this is important because researchers say that moms, far more than dads, are more likely to report a sense of guilt about juggling job and family.
If you want to make a difference in the lives of the working moms around you, consider these tips.
Supporting Working Moms
1. Ask How She’s Doing
Simply opening up the conversation and showing that you’re paying attention and care for her can help her feel like the space she’s in, whether it’s the home or the office, is a place where she can open up about her struggles if she needs to. It’s an invitation into dialogue, and something she might not think you’re open to (especially if you’re a colleague or supervisor) until you open that door for her to speak.
2. Follow Her Lead
One day, she’s a driven, career-focused powerhouse. The next day, she’s frazzled and crying in the office bathroom. Being a mother is exhausting, emotional and full of variables (like whether or not the children slept well or not the night before). Don’t “mansplain.” Don’t pretend you didn’t notice. Don’t try and tell her how she should feel or what she should do (i.e. “Cheer up! It gets better!”)
Instead, follow her lead. When you check in with a friend, family member, partner or coworker, don’t expect that you know how she feels. If she’s feeling empowered, don’t give her reasons to self-doubt. If she’s feeling fragile and emotional, give her encouragement if she asks for it. Go with what she’s experiencing and what she requests from you.
3. Practice Empathy
Don’t assume what a working mother’s goals are. Some may want to work hard in order to get out of the workforce. Others might work because it’s an escape from their family. Still others...well, the list goes on.
Don’t make assumptions about what she wants, and once again, follow her lead. One way to encourage her, without telling her what she should or shouldn’t do, is simply speak from your own truth and your own experiences if you’ve gone through this yourself.
From a funny story to a recounting of how hard it was for you, it’s a way to share empathy and space without making her feel like you’re telling her what to do. Remember, this is emotional support. Not a bootcamp.
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