Every working man or woman thinks about the loved ones back home. Hope they are fine…hope the kids had food on time. A new study indicates that a working mother would worry more about her home affairs than a working father do.
Not that men care less about the family matters, women seem to stress about it a lot more.
“I assume that because mothers bear the major responsibility for childcare and family life, when they think about family matters, they tend to think about the less pleasant aspects of it—such as needing to pick up a child from daycare or having to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a sick kid—and are more likely to be worried,” said study author Shira Offer, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
She continued to explain, “Much of the work we do, both paid and unpaid, takes place in our mind. We are often preoccupied with the things we have to do; we often worry about them, and feel stressed not to forget to do them or to do them on time. These thoughts and concerns—mental labor—can impair our performance, make it difficult to focus on tasks, and even hurt our sleep. This mental labor is the focus of my study.”
Overall mothers and fathers indulge in 29 and 24 hours per week of mental labor, respectively. However, mothers and fathers both spent about 30 percent of the time they were engaged in mental labor thinking about family matters. “I expected the gender gap in mental labor, especially those aspects of it that are related to family, to be much larger,” Offer said. “What my research actually shows is that gender differences in mental labor are more a matter of quality than quantity.”
Offer believes societal expectations forces the role of household managers on mothers and that leads them to excessively worry about the less-pleasant aspects of family care. “What makes this type of mental labor an overall negative and stressful experience for mothers only is that they are the ones judged and held accountable for family-related matters,” she said.
One-fourth the time fathers engaged in job-specific mental labor, they did so when they were not at work, compared to 34 percent among mothers.
“We know that mothers are the ones who usually adjust their work schedule to meet family demands, such as staying home with a sick child,” Offer said. “Therefore, mothers may feel that they do not devote enough time to their job and have to ‘catch up,’ and, as a result, they are easily preoccupied with job-related matters outside the workplace. This illustrates the double burden — the pressure to be ‘good’ mothers and ‘good’ workers — that working moms experience.”
Fathers should be encouraged, rather than penalised, for taking more interest in domestic affairs, Offer said. “This encouragement should take place at the federal, state, and organizational levels by making it possible for fathers, for example, to leave work early, start work late, take time off from work, and take pauses during the work day to deal with family-related matters,” she said. “I think that if fathers were able to do this without the fear of being viewed as less committed workers, they would assume greater responsibility at home, which would lead to greater gender equality.”
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