Parent Health | Work/Life Balance

Mind + Body, January 2012

Are moms multitasking too much?Multitasking moms: Just say no!

A study published last month in American Sociological Review shows that middle-class working mothers multitask more than their male partners (10 hours more per week) — and they’re not happy about it.

Author Shira Offer, assistant sociology and anthropology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and co-author Barbara Schneider, education and sociology professor at Michigan State University, found that the mothers in the study performed more household- and childcare-related tasks than their partners. And — what a surprise — they felt stressed and pressured.

“At home and in public are the environments in which most household and childcare-related tasks take place, and mothers’ activities in these settings are highly visible to other people,” said Schneider. “Their ability to fulfill their role as good mothers can be easily judged and criticized when they multitask in these contexts, making it a more negative experience for them than for fathers.”

Translation: High visibility plus high social expectations equals unhappy working moms juggling childcare, laundry and a constantly open laptop.

What can be done to relieve the pressure on moms? Offer and Schneider called for dads to step up and share their partners’ tasks more equally, but noted that workplace cultures would have to change to allow fathers to take an even more active role in family life. —Kris Collingridge

January’s List

5 ways women can get a little R+R
So multitasking is getting us way down, and real change to the work/life balance isn’t coming anytime soon. If a day at the spa isn’t on the agenda, try these easy (and free!) stress busters.

1. Meditate: Any soothing, repetitive activity will do, not just formal meditation. Walking, swimming or knitting for a few minutes daily can lower your stress levels, as long as you keep your mind on what you’re doing and not on your to-do list.

2. Breathe: When you’re stressed, you take short, shallow breaths. Focus on breathing deeply: Exhale, then inhale so that your belly, sides and back expand. Repeat 10 times.

3. Be Mindful: Focus on the here and now, and on one activity at a time, instead of trying to multitask. Staying in the present reduces stress.

4. Interact: Instead of allowing yourself to become isolated with your list of chores, reach out to others: talk to a friend on the phone, or spend non-task-oriented time with your child or other family member. Social interaction fosters better thinking, according to experts, which means that we can solve problems more effectively when we do get back to our jobs.

5. Listen to Music: According to experts, listening to classical music for half an hour can produce the same calming effect as taking 10 mg of Valium.


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