Buying into the ‘supermum’ myth can make working mothers depressed

22 Aug

If you find yourself frantically juggling your home and work life – spending sparkling time with your children, as well as shining your reputation at work – then the effort of being all things to all people can leave many women exhausted and depressed.

Are you buying into the myth of the supermum? (pic credit: istockphoto)

Even if the pressures are self-imposed – and many of us do have that in-built drive to be the absolute best at absolutely everything we do – we can find it unbearable if we end up dropping any of those many balls we’re juggling.

Maybe that’s not surprising for most working mothers, but the main finding of a report from the University of Washington, by researcher Katrina Leupp, is that working mothers who buy into the ‘supermum myth’ put themselves at risk of depression.

Her analysis of 1,600 married women round that those who worked were less likely to be depressed than women who stayed at home. But for the mums who do work, seeking to be a high achiever at work and a domestic goddess at home would lead only to frustration and depression. They feel guilty for not being brilliant at everything, and uncomfortable about making tradeoffs, such as leaving work early to pick up the kids.

The key to happiness, says the report, is making some sacrifices either in the workplace or at home. So, successful career women can’t always expect to attend sports day or recorder recital at their child’s school. Or a mother who seeks a more comfortable work-life balance may not put herself forward for a promotion that requires longer hours and nights away from home.

Leupp said: “Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities. In reality, juggling home and work lives requires some sacrifice, such as cutting back on work hours and getting husbands to help more.

“You can happily combine child rearing and a career, if you’re willing to let some things slide,” she added. “Employment is still ultimately good for women’s health. But for better mental health, working mothers should accept that they can’t do it all.”

Looks like new Dragon, Hilary Devey, might have been right all along.

Related article: Women can’t have it all, says new female dragon

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