The demands of keeping a job, raising children and running a home are driving more working moms in SA to the brink of a nervous breakdown according to a just-released poll by a leading pharmaceutical firm specialising in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Wilmi Hudsonberg, spokesperson of Pharma Dynamics said the company conducted the survey to determine the extent to which additional burdens, such as career demands have on the mental well-being of working mothers in the country.

“Being a mother is the hardest job you can have, but being a working mother, particularly in today’s society, is that much harder. Between the stresses of work, traffic, job advancement and motherhood – keeping a house, preparing meals, taking care of children and sometimes elderly parents too – there is often no reserve left for mothers on the job,” she says.

Pharma Dynamics’ survey, which polled 900 working moms in the country between the ages of 25 and 55 found that 38 % are frequently stretched to breaking point with many spending up to 80 hours a week on work and home responsibilities. Sixty percent have to regularly catch up on work at night or on weekends.

While more than half of working moms (55 %) indicated that their employers offered at least one family-friendly perk, such as flexible scheduling, they said the following would make their lives significantly easier as a working parent.

·        An employer that focuses on being more output-based than having you sit behind a desk for eight hours (51 %)
·        Working from home on some days, which means you gain hours by not having to commute to and from work (40 %)
·        Better part-time or half day work opportunities (40 %)
·        More help with household chores (37 %)
·        More help with children (24 %)
Hudsonberg points out that most jobs are made for people who have no caregiving responsibilities, which inevitably means that working moms do most of the accommodating. With the impossible schedules modern mothers manage, something inevitably has to give and the price they pay is often their health.

Since becoming a working mom, most respondents said they suffer from at least one health problem. Among these include headaches (56 %), chronic fatigue (47 %), unhealthy weight-loss or gain (47 %), anxiety (45 %), insomnia (34 %), being more prone to colds and flu (33 %) and depression (31 %).

High ongoing stress levels have been linked to mental illness such as depression and anxiety and can also lead to substance abuse or becoming suicidal, which is what the prevention-minded pharmaceutical wants to curb.

While the overwhelming majority of working moms (69 %) said they work solely because they need the income, almost a third said they also do so for mental stimulation and enjoyment. The reality is that our economy has adjusted to two-income families which means being a stay-at-home mom is increasingly becoming a luxury.

Hudsonberg says working moms are often riddled with guilt and spend nights awake worrying about how they can succeed at the office and at home, and whether their children will resent them for their decisions. They want solutions to the anxiety they feel.

“While employers still have some way to go in providing benefits and options to make a working mother’s life easier, it’s important for moms that find themselves in this situation to redefine the concept of ‘doing it all’ by asking for help and to stop comparing themselves to other mothers who seemingly have it all. Also be honest with your employer about your needs and be prepared to meet them half way. Bear in mind that not every company will be able to accommodate your needs – the industry and type of job you do largely determines the kind of family-friendly benefits companies are able to offer,” she says.

According to the survey, working moms also find it tough to set aside time to take care of themselves and their own health with most spending less than an hour a day on themselves. To ease mothers’ sense of stress and emotional burden, Hudsonberg encourages partners to get more involved in the domestic sphere and take more responsibility for family care where possible.

Of the moms who participated in the survey most are in their twenties, thirties, and forties, 93 % work full time, 29 % are single parents and most have either one or two children.

Working moms who are overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness, constant fatigue, insomnia or suicidal thoughts should consult their doctor or contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

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