Haven't you ever wished you had a wife who would wash, clean, take care of the children, and have dinner on the table while she patiently listened to you complain what a tiring day you've had when you get back home?
You'd be surprised to know that more women than men answer 'yes' to this question! It is also known as the "I need a wife" Syndrome, commonly afflicting dual-career couples, where the woman might be working and earning. But unfortunately women can never have a "wife" waiting at home with warm food and tender care. For her when she gets back home after a full working day, it is only the beginning of the "second-shift"- she must now take up the duties of a wife, mother, homemaker and perhaps daughter or daughter-in-law.
In fact, when the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) were studied, it was found that the stress levels of men and non-mothers fall when they get back home from work. However, for working Moms, the cortisol levels shoot up when they get back home.
Even if you haven't experienced this, I am sure you can empathize with the situation of this woman who works two full-time jobs! Not an enviable position!
Women in such situations typically undergo what is known as "Multiple Role Stress", or opposing pressures and demands from the multiple roles they are trying to juggle.
Conditions of Multiple Role Stress
This is when there are just too many demands to fulfil. A common example would be, waking up early, making breakfast and sending the children off to school, making sure lunch is ready and then getting to work on time only to ensure all deadlines are met and reports completed and getting back home to cook and clean and prepare for the next day? It just never ends! Bottom line: she is just plain overworked, trying to do too many things. Juggling too many balls none of which she can drop even momentarily.
This occurs when the demands of the various roles are conflicting and she is forced to choose one or the other. For example, an important meeting at work coincides with Mom-in-Law's appointment with the doctor. In this situation, if one is more important than the other, the decision could have been simple but that rarely is the case. She is forced to choose between two important demands, both of which need to be fulfilled. Another form of role conflict is when the demands of one role are opposing the demands or expectations from the other. For example, a woman at work is not allowed to display any emotions or "tenderness", but as a mother and wife she must be loving, caring and sensitive- basically wear her emotions on her sleeve. So not only is she expected to fulfil two conflicting roles, but she must also change her personality just as she changes an outfit to get to work.
If you are not already empathizing with our lady, suffering under the pressure of having too many roles to play- and play them well- let us look deeper into how this affects her. 1to1 research proves that women in India too (much like working women in other parts of the world) feel guilty about not being able to spend time with the children, find housework too taxing, do not have enough time for their partners or for socialization and often put themselves on the back-burner. These effects are also seen the world over, in working women who also have other roles to fulfil.
The answer then would be to quit working and be a stay-at-home mother and wife, right? Wrong! Just like it would be wrong to categorically state that one must not have children or ever get married and only work.
The reason being, having more than one role is also highly advantageous. Multiple roles are like having more than one opportunity for satisfaction and success. It results in a full, multi-faceted life, rather than a one-dimensional existence.
Not only does it add to the fullness of life, having more than one role in life also buffers us from the occasional failures in one or the other role. After a long and particularly difficult day at work, haven't you felt rejuvenated after spending some time with family? Playing with your children? Or even a simple cup of coffee with your Mom? The reverse also applies- when things aren't going so well in your personal life, success at work could be something that sees you through the difficult times.
The "right" answer then, lies in building up our resources to cope with the multiple demands. (Of course, there might be times when you just need to stay away from the incessant demands and have some time by yourself, and that is healthy and rejuvenating).
In terms of building our resources, we are essentially strengthening ourselves or calling in for reinforcements. Here are some simple strategies for this.
Know what's important and when- Pick out tasks that are urgent as well as important first; next those that are important but not urgent; and quit doing tasks that are neither important nor urgent!
Set Yourself Up for Success Not Failure
If you expect yourself to be the perfect worker, the perfect daughter and the perfect wife, not to mention the perfect friend and daughter-in-law, you are setting yourself up for failure. Allow yourself a margin for error and be easy on yourself if you slip up once in a way.
Use strategies to derive maximum benefit from the least input - Learn multitasking and other skills such as time management. Use time spent on the long commute to catch up on your reading (or chatting with friends or even filing your nails)!
You do not have to do everything yourself. If the cook (or your Mom-in-Law) can prepare dinner, let her.
Develop and Use Networks
There might be many others struggling with the same issues like you- meet and learn from them. Use them in times of emergency- such as asking the children to wait with the neighbour if you are stuck in traffic unexpectedly. And if nothing else, you could get some moral support!
Almost every woman is conditioned to believe that unless she cooks and feeds her family, she is a failure. She might then choose to cook dinner everyday; not realizing that the time might be better spent playing with her children or spending some "couple time" with her husband. How often we all fall for choosing the mundane over the important. So give a lot of thought to priorities and then use external resources, strategies and networks to ensure that you are able to meet them. This also calls for a certain reduction in expectations from yourself. Otherwise you could drain out before the finish-line.
And while you try out all these strategies, do remember that you are important too. If you suffer, so will every thing else- your husband, children, family as well as work. And as someone has rightly said, one cannot outsource stress-management. So take care of yourself- physically as well as psychologically.