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Study Reveals Working Moms Experience More Stress than Dads on Family Matters

Although working mothers and fathers are almost as likely to think about family matters throughout the day, only for mothers is this type of mental labor associated with increased stress and negative emotions, according to new research to be presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“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.

depressionMuch has been written about the unequal division of household labor and childcare, but the overwhelming majority of studies in this field examine specific behaviors, Offer said. “These studies focus on the physical aspect of tasks and demands, which can be measured and quantified relatively easily,” she said. “However, 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.”

The study relies on data from the 500 Family Study, a multi-method investigation of how middle-class families balance family and work experiences. The 500 Family Study collected comprehensive information from 1999 to 2000 on families living in eight urban and suburban communities across the United States. Most parents in the 500 Family Study are highly educated, employed in professional occupations, and work, on average, longer hours and report higher earnings than do middle-class families in other, nationally representative samples. Although the 500 Family Study is not a representative sample of families in the U.S., it reflects one of the most time pressured segments of the population. Offer’s study uses a subsample from the 500 Family Study, consisting of 402 mothers and 291 fathers in dual-earner families who completed a survey and a time diary that collects information about the content and context of individuals’ daily experiences, as well as the emotions associated with them, in the course of a week.

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Parental Positive Instructions

Sharanya Dinesh

Approved ProvenTherapist

Sharanya Dinesh - ProvenTherapist Every Wednesday we have our group meditation. I have been in this practice (called Sahaj Marg) for the last four years and I am still trying to meditate in the real sense of the term. I go early, prepare myself to stay calm and try and treat thoughts like unwelcome guests; this is the instruction we are given. At times I pretend to be a spectator watching a wedding procession from my doorway. I keep telling my mind,”No, don’t gallop! No, don’t wander! No! No! No!” By the time I actually am able to calm myself the one hour meditation is over and I hear the hustle bustle of the others with me! 
An hour flew by with me saying, NO! NO! NO! To my cantering mind! The reins were never in my control and the mind kept saying, ”Neigh! Neigh! Neigh” In reply. It is absolutely disheartening, believe me. I am facing this situation everyday or at least 3-4 times a week definitely where all I do is tell my racing mind not behave as if Michael Schumacher is racing for his last trophy!This Wednesday also I was gallantly bracing myself when out of the blue a sense of calm prevailed over me. I was happy that the horses had decided to take rest and I would be peacefully at peace for the first time in four years. A sudden racket in the passageway jarred me out of my reverie! A mother shrieking, “No!, No!, Abhishek! You should not hit your elder sister!It is not correct! No! No!” I could hear the child guffawing, his shoes making the thumping sound and the didi (elder sister) crying out equally loud, “Ma, Ma See!, NO!!”

It was an eye opener for me! Every word I heard was underlined with no, no and no. The key instruction as to what the child should do was missing. It was a sequence of don’t do this; don’t do that and that and that too! The child did hit the sister and the mother shouted at her best pitch and volume, very callously oblivious to the vicinity, “Did I not say don’t do it! You should not hit your elder sister! How many times do I have to tell you? Why did you hit her? Tell me? Right now!”

I thought, “Hullo!, then tell the child what to do! If hitting is wrong why say it at all! Say what he/she is supposed to do, is it not simpler? Give the next instruction please, and do it soon, before I am forced to come out and speak my mind! ” It is like psyching the child, who is about to appear for an exam with, “Don’t you dare fail dear! Don’t you dare fail?” We are already pushing the child towards doomsday! Where is the need to introduce that word? It is better said, ‘Do well baby. All the best’ and the child is more confident. We send them to the battle field with a sense of failure and they come back with exactly that. Then we pile on to the child with,” failing was not an option! Did I not warn you beforehand itself! You never listen to me, you never sit and study and an endless stream of epithets ensue.” A string of ‘NO’ again! A mother warns her daughter who is about to go for her first party, “Don’t return after 9!” In case the poor girl is delayed, then? Should she run away? Never return home because the mother said so?

In a nut nutshell all I wish to say is, please give positive instruction or nothing at all. We simply confuse the child, the way I confuse my mind’s horses, asking them not to run. All I need to is, ‘Mind, stay, rest, sleep. I need to meditate and I wish to meditate, so please rest.’ And you parents tell your children what they should do! Instead of repeating what they should not do! Good luck to all of us.