I’m still going through your wonderful responses to the survey and hope to post the results next week. Here’s sneak peek at the data:
81% of people who took the survey said they worry about burning out.
81 percent! Are you as astonished by that number as I am? In the words of one parent who took the survey:
Burnout isn’t a question of if, but when!
This is out of 560 respondents who live in households where all adults work. (Most of them are married and have a partner who works; a small percentage are single parents.)
Another thing that came out of the survey:
The number one hardest thing about being a working parent is GUILT.
Specifically “Guilt that I can’t do everything well.” This surpassed lack of time with kids, with one’s partner, and lack of time alone.
I have to think these two things are related: the overwhelming number of people who fear they will burn out, and their guilt that whatever they do is not good enough.
So I’ve been thinking about stress relief, guilt relief. What are some things we can do for ourselves to slow down, just a little? It’s bad enough that the world is demanding we do two impossible jobs, but so much worse when we beat ourselves up for not doing it perfectly. How can we give ourselves a break?
A friend sent me a link this morning (thanks, Kim!) about postpartum “confinement centers” where women are sequestered in a warm cocoon of care for the first month after giving birth. This may sound strange to Western ears, but when I think back to the other-worldly, unbearable lightness of being state I was in the first few weeks after giving birth, it sounds wonderful to me:
To Western ears, confinement sounds like something out of a Victorian novel, but in some traditional Asian cultures, women still spend the month after a baby’s birth in pampered seclusion. Typically, a woman’s relatives would care for her, but more recently, the practice has been outsourced to postpartum doulas and confinement centers, like the one Ms. Lu operates. In the United States, they cater to middle-class immigrant women separated from their families. Business is steady enough in New York City to support at least four postpartum centers, tucked away in the heavily Asian-immigrant neighborhoods of Flushing and Bayside, Queens.
The story made me think we need to develop new traditions to help us cope with the busyness of our modern working parent lives. What would they look like?
- Saturday morning “confinement centers” for exhausted stressed out moms and dads to catch up on sleep? (Hmm…I know some stay-at-home parents who could use this, too.)
- Neighborhood potlucks or meal exchanges to share the responsibility of cooking on work days?
- Workplace “interventions” or quarterly audits where unreasonable managers get called on the carpet by employees for not allowing more flexibility?
- “Adopt-a-grandparent clearinghouses” where you get matched with an extended family when you don’t have one?
What new traditions would make your life better?
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