How burden of being a mother is 'damaging the mental health of women'

The burden of round-the-clock responsibilities of being a mother and the emotional responsibilities of raising children is damaging women’s mental health, a new study has found.

The research, which was published in the journal ‘Sex Roles’, found that while more men do housework and childcare than used to in the past, women are continuing to manage the household – even when they are employed.

Researchers from Arizona State University and Oklahoma State University in the US looked at how so-called “invisible labour” was linked to feelings of being overwhelmed and a sense of emptiness in women’s day-to-day lives.

Almost nine in 10 women said they felt solely responsible for organising schedules of the family.

Professor Suniya Luthar, one of the report’s authors, said this is an “extremely large” percentage given the fact 65pc of the women were employed.

At least seven in 10 women said they were also responsible for other areas of family routines such as maintaining standards for routines and assigning household chores.

A large proportion of the women also felt it was chiefly them who was responsible for monitoring their children’s well-being and emotional states.

Almost eight in 10 said they were the one who knew the children’s school teachers, and two-thirds indicated they were the person who was attentive to the children’s emotional needs.

The invisible labour of ensuring the well-being of children showed “strong, unique links” with women’s distress.

Prof Luthar said the category “clearly predicted” feelings of emptiness in the women.

It was also associated with low satisfaction levels about life overall and with the marriage or partnership.

“Research in developmental science indicates that mothers are first responders to children’s distress,” she said.

“That is a very weighty job; it can be terrifying that you are making decisions, flying solo, that might actually worsen rather than improve things for your children’s happiness.”

The researchers surveyed 393 women with children under 18 who were married or in a committed partnership.

The sample included women predominantly from upper middle-class homes who were highly educated.

The women who were in charge of the household reported they felt overwhelmed with their role as parents, had little time for themselves and felt exhausted.

The study’s findings suggest women who feel overly responsible for household management and parenting are less satisfied with both their lives and partnerships. (© Independent News Service)

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