I once gave a “Balancing Work and Home” program to a room of 200 working women — and one man who was a leader in the company. He stood up in the middle of the program and said, “I have no idea what you are talking about. My wife does everything for our family so I can just work. She never complains. She just does it.” (Thanks, wifey. For the women in that company, you didn’t do any favors with all of your enabling!)
Just why are we women so busy?
See if you’re falling into any of the traps.
1. Too Much To Do/Not Enough Help
Much research shows that working mothers put in a full month more work per year than their husbands because of all that is entailed in taking care of a family and a household. The females are putting in more mental and physical energy than their male counterparts. Read the Second Shift, or put it by your bed for a 5-minute perusal before passing out from your exhaustion.
And for some, there is really not enough help.
After all, many women are working too much for too little because they have no other choice. Millions of women live in poverty in the United States. I see them all around. Just down the street there is a low income day care where I see women stumbling out of city buses with strollers in snowstorms just to drop their kids off. They are on street corners in waitress uniforms or fast food outfits holding their kids hands at 6:00am. Nobody can live on minimum wage in this country and 70% of the workers who are trying to do it are women.
For those that aren’t struggling to just make ends meet, there are different challenges…
It can be hard to recognize a need for control, but a lot of women are stuck on “their” ways. We have high expectations for ourselves and anything affiliated with us. I have met more than my share of women kicking themselves in the butt to make sure what’s done is done their way, “the right way.”
3. Think Self-Value Comes From Productivity
My 5-year-old told me that he shouldn’t have to clean his room because “My God values me for who I am and not what I do.” OK. I still made him clean his room. He does have a point though.
We Americans come from a culture of immigrants. The idea that hard work equals success is ingrained in us. However, somehow we psychologically translate this to mean hard work equals we are good and valuable people. The truth is, our value is intrinsic, and there’s no need to prove our value, assembly-line style. Yet, that is our culture and it influences us greatly.
4. Over Responsibility
Women feel responsible for too much. This sense of over responsibility helps us say “yes” and to be the first to jump in and get things done. A lot of women churn away when they could delegate some of their responsibilities to others. I have heard copious stay-at-home moms report that they feel like they have to earn their right “not to work,” so they take on too much, feeling guilty that they don’t get a paycheck from an employer. Whether you are a career mom, stay-at-home mom, or a single career gal, I bet this sense of over responsibility affects you and the scope-creep of your workload.
5. People Pleasing
Women are raised to be caretakers and pleasers. Doing stuff for others can fall into this. Sometimes, one needs to do for others. However, if women are raised to believe that this is their primary purpose, they will take more on than is necessary. It just makes sense.
6. Shame and Guilt
Brene Brown has done research on women and how gender effects our feelings of shame and guilt. She says that women feel an overwhelming sense of shame about not overdoing and accomplishing. They feel they must “Do it all, do it perfectly, and never let them see you struggle.”
Don’t buy into the hype and social pressure that “being busy” is of such valuable worth.
Really reevaluate what you may be participating in in your busy life. Can some of it be shifted or reorganized? Think about the categories. Can you relate?
If you are reading this and sighing deeply with the idea that you are just too busy and none of this applies to you, please re-read.(LOL!)
I would love to hear your feedback. Do you or does anyone you know fall into any of the traps? What are other reasons you have seen, that keep women so busy? What can we do for ourselves? What can companies do? I would love to hear your suggestions.
Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago.
She also blogs about home, work, life and love