The Working Mother’s Conundrum

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A recent article discussing a survey of the Corporate Mothers Network has raised an issue they are calling “working mother’s conundrum.”

While the results of this particular survey are not yet finalised, it has again raised the issue that women are still taking on fairly traditional gender roles when it comes to parenting. Regardless of their working status, mothers tend to still be the ones thinking about their child’s care arrangements even after they move back into the workforce. This means that women never give up the role of primary caregiver.

We discuss some of the biggest issues this article raises below.

School holidays are always a problem

It’s a problem that comes up time and time again: there are about twelve weeks of school holidays each year and a working parent is typically only entitled to four weeks of leave. Even when sharing the load of holiday care with a partner, it still doesn’t stretch to cover the entire period.

Working parents are using holiday care arrangements more than ever before but there’s still a certain amount of guilt that comes in having to pay for care (as well as a financial burden to the family).

Some businesses are becoming more reasonable in their working arrangements to allow for some flexibility in working hours and location, but it’s clear we still have a way to go with this. Having organisations gift their employees with holiday care is a solution which has had some success, as well as allowing employees to work from home or work reduced hours during holiday periods.

Work-life balance

With smart phones and Wifi access, work can now creep into every area of our lives and it often does. After working all day, coming home, cooking dinner and getting children ready for bed, women are often working late into the night due to job-related anxiety or pressure to complete tasks. Working reduced hours in the office often translates to working more from home to get work done, even when these hours are not paid ones.

It’s clear we need to find a better way to separate work and family life and that means creating boundaries. Organisations in particular need to be clear on expectations, especially when it comes to part-time work, and help employees to reduce their stress.

Working mothers are certainly busy and it’s no wonder! Working, caring for children and the mental load of family life can be challenging. While there’s no quick fix for “The Working Mother’s Conundrum,” we think it’s important for parents and organisations alike to be working towards a better (and healthier) balance.

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