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Published On: Sun, Aug 10th, 2014

Working mothers and challenges of motherhood

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By Musa Winifred

Work at-home mum  Career women in South Africa

The Elsevier Foundation Awards recognize excellence in research by women scientists in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America

“Give me good mothers and I will give you a good Nation.”-Napoleon

It is critical for us to fully understand the conditions under which working mothers work and the conflict between their roles. There is a need to consider working environment, job satisfaction, family support and number of working hours in the future. In order to attain in-depth understanding of one’s work and family life, researchers who study work–family roles should include multiple perspectives such as job stress, quality of life, mental health, and work demands. In addition, it is necessary to explore multiple waves of data collection over a longer period of time to better understand the changing nature of work family roles over time.

All women as we know, whether in our business lives or personal lives, are under stress to produce, abide by rules and to exist compatibly on the job and with others.  It is expected of us to interact with co-workers, supervisors, friends and relatives.  We are to do this without causing hardship to ourselves or others.  Each day brings new, stressful situations that we must deal with in our business lives and our personal lives (Brown & Harris, 1978).

Stress is not confined to upper management and the people that make the major decisions only.  Stress is found at all levels of life.  The anxiety of stress impacts on our lives negatively. What we need to do is teach ourselves how to stay positive about job and personal life situations.  We need to learn philosophies or strategies about stress management in order to prevent burn-out, depression, and anger that often lead to stress.

Adding to the pressures that workers face are new bosses, computer surveillance of production, fewer health and retirement benefits, traffic jams to and from work place, gender discrimination in terms of promotion and the feeling they have to work longer and harder just to maintain their current economic status.

Workers at every level are experiencing increased tension and uncertainty. Secretaries, waitresses, middle managers, police officers, editors and medical interns are among those with the most highly stressed occupations — marked by the need to respond to others’ demands and timetables, with little control over events.

Common to this job situation are complaints of too much responsibility and too little authority, unfair labour practices and inadequate job descriptions. Sometimes your work setting creates physical stress because of noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor temperature control or inadequate sanitary facilities. Settings where there is organizational confusion or an overly authoritarian, laissez faire or crisis-centered managerial style are all psychologically stressful. Types of Stress:


verwork has to deal with a lot of paperwork; long hours, deadlines, poor communication and inability to perform are all negative stressors.

Ambiguity: There are times when instructions and job functions become unclear and confused.  New procedures, new personnel, and new policies are many times the culprits that cause ambiguity. If you work in an environment that breeds confusion and uncertainty, it is your duty and you’re right to seek clarity prior to beginning a job function or procedure.  Confusion can cause stressful situations as well as injury.  Communicate feelings of ambiguity to your supervisor and get clarity about what is expected.

Work place Conflicts:

 Everyone has a bad day once in a while.  Supervisors can get a little over-bearing or co-workers don’t understand your responsibilities.  Have a little spat with your better-half and you may go to work stressed and may not even realize it.  In times of conflict, be a good listener.  Step back and try to see the situation from a different perspective.  When work conditions, equipment problems, scheduling problems or any problem that is management-correctable occurs, communicate the problem to management for action.  A little communication can go a long way in avoiding workplace conflicts.

The following signs can be noticed in women when stress occurs in their life: Occasional forgetfulness and/or inability to concentrate; Tired and fatigued for no reason; Procrastination and indecision; Social withdrawal with cynicism; Resentful, indifferent, defiant; Increased use of coffee, alcohol, tobacco, etc. While severe exhaustion stage includes: Chronic sadness or depression; Chronic stress related illness (headache, stomach ache, bowel problems etc.); and Isolation, withdrawal, self-destructive thoughts.

How to cope with stress Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same.

Be more assertive. Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them.

Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focussed. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.

Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favourite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.

Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.” Adjusting your attitude – how you think can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Eliminate words such as “always,” “never,” “should,” and “must.” These are tell-tale marks of self-defeating thoughts.

Musa Winifred is a staff in the Public Affairs Department of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA)

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