Women working at home and women’s mental health

By the time we are out of Lockdown #3, predicted to be by June 2021, we will have been a year and a half into this new way of living. Hopefully, the chance of a normal(ish) existence will follow with the rollout and continuation of the vaccination programme across the UK. But it hasn’t been easy for some mums at home this time, especially being the winter months and not being able to get outside much for fresh air and exercise with the children. 

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for single mums in small apartments with their children and no garden. Mums under work pressures, or who are in a challenging relationship, mums trying to juggle their family commitments, homeschooling, and work, where some have not been able to furlough, and then there are the mums who have been the subject of abuse. 

A report recently from the BBC said that one in five offences reported to the police – more than a quarter of a million – recorded during and immediately after the first lockdown in England and Wales involved domestic abuse, according to the Office for National Statistics. That is a shocking statistic out of the 280,000 couples who still marry each year. 

A report from ONS also said that 3 in 4 mothers with dependent children are working in the UK, most of these will be school age and therefore needing homeschooling. A recent article by WorkingMums.co.uk said that children of working mums did better in life, reporting that women who were raised by a working mum spent more time with their own children.

But soon we will be able to go outside again with family and friends and this will make a massive difference to the mental health of all. It has been suggested that the social and emotional development of younger children might have been affected by the lack of interaction with their peers and adolescent young people may find relationships a challenge as a result of not having a peer to peer support and engagement of intimacy during this time. A psychological theory of Erik Erikson would support this too. Coined ‘the lost generation’, they will be the ones who didn’t take exams and have in effect been robbed of one part of their adolescence that prepared them for the structure and research needed for exams, that right of passage, and the development of resilience. 

The Government has said they will do all they can to support the mental health and resettling of children and young people when they return to school and college. Let’s not get started on University and fees! 

So what about our working Mums? 

They have been juggling the zoom calls on ‘mute’, homeschooling, googling, and watching Youtube to try and remember about algorithms and what is meant by a quadrilateral shape! Then there is the cat walking across the keyboard and lost documents. I spoke to a mum this week for a mentoring session who said that her job was effectively made redundant at the start of this lockdown, but her company had ‘made’ her a new role for the ‘time being’. She had the opportunity to apply for a more senior job at a competitor company but felt unable to make that positive contribution to an application because she didn’t have time because of childcare responsibilities and therefore had missed the deadline. 

Another had talked to me about how she had felt completely overwhelmed by her workload and just wanted half an hour during the day for herself, maybe time when the children could watch the TV or playing on gaming or on their telephones. She said the guilt was enormous and commented that even the bathroom was a war zone and there was nowhere to get any respite.  

WorkL.co, a business services company held a recent webinar which was a pleasure to attend. They had some fantastic up-to-date statistics from their research, which I found quite interesting. It was a survey about working from home which constantly came up with similar statistics for workers at home feeling anxious or depressed and also if they felt isolated. In all the categories women scored lower than men, usually around 63% of women and higher at 66% of men surveyed.  

Interestingly older-aged workers felt more isolated, up to 75% of those surveyed. The complete survey is available at www.Business.WorkL.co  More men than women were looking forward to getting back into their work environment but reading further around the working population and roles of men and women I thought this statement by Michelle Obama interesting, she said “Women are working more, men are understanding their value as caregivers, women are primary breadwinners — I mean, we could go on and on and on. Things are different. So we can’t keep operating like everything is the same, and that’s what many of us have done. And I think it’s up to us to change the conversation.”  

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