Is overachieving leading you to undervalue your own health? In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen examines the healthy impact that doing a little less can provide.
As the stay at home working mother of a two-year old, I often feel as though I have the job (or shall I say, jobs) that never end, and in many ways, it’s true. I run my writing business while my son sleeps, care for my child full-time, teach yoga classes on evenings and weekends, and tend to the obligatory household chores whenever the opportunity presents itself. Confirming my feelings, a study published in the American Sociological Review examined the multitasking behavior and stress levels of working mothers and fathers. While both genders multi-tasked, researchers found that working mothers actually spent an average of 10.5 more hours a week multitasking compared with working fathers. Further, they found that working moms are more impacted by the stress of multi-tasking, because common "mom tasks" like helping kids with homework, housekeeping and cooking, are visible and scrutinized, by others. Studies continually prove that stress can ultimately lead to major health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. If you’re nagged by feelings that your role as a stay at home working mom never ends, consider the benefits doing just one less thing each day—for you, and your family.
Take a look at your task list each day, and highlight only things that have to get done—meaning there is a finite deadline (not imposed by you), and missing it has consequences. It’s possible that more than half of your list will be highlighted-- but if you're honest, not all of it is urgent. Take the same approach to your kids tasks and to do’s. This simple exercise can eliminate the stress that you have to conquer everything at once, and allow you some personal freedom and control over how you divide your time.
Studies that have considered the impact of biology and stress find that your perceived stress level over a task dictates how negatively your body will react from a physiological standpoint. In other words, the more you perceive a task to be unpleasant, the more negative stress you feel towards it. Have each family member identify one thing on their task list that they really despise doing, and swap chores around, so that someone else takes that one loathesome task—which may not be so unpleasant to him or her.
Every two weeks or month, eliminate one weekend chore from your task list and devote it to quality time with your family instead. (Try to keep it geared toward interaction, and free of technology). Take a bike ride, go on a nature walk, play a board game, or cook together. Instead of beating yourself up for not having the perfect backyard or cleanest house, consider the time an investment in your relationship with your family, and reduced stress for those you love--including yourself!
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one. Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.
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