As Spring Break winds down for many families, fatigued parents eye their children’s impeding return to school longingly. Two weeks away from the usual routine can send many households into a tail spin. Between hunting down child care, and coping with youngsters completely out-of-sync with their normal routines, week two of this marathon finds parents dragging themselves over the finish line.
And unfortunately, the brunt of the chaos is borne by women, leaving them to juggle work and a much expanded second-shift especially during this time of year.
Spring Break chaos can be hard to manage here are some strategies that can help:
To Listen to this interview play the audio file below:
Why are women especially affected by the chaos Spring Break creates on the home front?
Research indicates mothers spend more time parenting than fathers. This, plus women’s time spent doing housework and working for pay adds up, and it requires a delicate balance to pull off. Throw a two-week change of routine into the mix and women’s stress levels and workloads can spike.
Of course, both Mom’s and Dad’s are affected. For example, I spoke with a few fathers about this. They were all feeling exhausted, but they noted their wives were the one’s taking care of a lot of the issues caused by Spring Break.
What do women face during Spring Break?
One of the huge tasks women take on when they become mothers is managing and organizing the household. They become the hub. Women manage children’s activities from choosing them, to signing kid’s on, they make the doctor’s appointments, keep track of details like vaccination schedules, filling prescriptions and getting everyone to take their medicine.
They sign the permission slips, plan the birthdays, keep track of homework and after school care, they plan menus and shop for groceries. They find child-care, set up play-dates and locate and vet baby sitters. Spring Break can mean re-jigging the system, or having to overhaul it completely.
Organizing and managing a family is also constant mental work. The ongoing responsibility of remembering and reminding family members takes mental stamina. Generally, mothers tend to multi-task more than fathers do. It’s not uncommon to find mothers, popping a load of laundry in, while putting away the groceries and helping a child find their cleats.
According to researchers, Dad’s tend to focus on one thing at a time when they parent. So, multitasking, organizing and managing the household and working for pay leads to more stress and women putting in long hours, which gets exacerbated by Spring Break.
What are the effects of this on women’s health?
Women’s schedules and responsibilities inside the home and at work contribute to long hours. When you combine work hours with those at home, women may find themselves pulling 12-14 hour days with no real breaks. We know that routinely working more than 60 hours a week contributes to chronic health issues like cancer, heart disease and arthritis later in life.
While the stress and added workload at home, created by Spring Break lasts two-weeks, the fact remains the added chaos can contribute to this health effect over time.
What seems to be behind mother’s being overworked and suffering long term health effects?
The irony is that Dad’s have been increasing the time they spend with their children steadily since the 60’s. So, saying Dad’s need to step-up is overly simplistic because they already are to a greater and greater extent.
Research also shows women have been increasing the number of hours they put into the mothering role too. Yet, there seems to be ever-increasing pressures on mothers to meet unrealistic standards. I’ve heard it termed “intensive parenting”.
Intensive parenting says that parenting should be child-centric, based on expert advice and require lots of time and money, as well as a huge emotional investment to ensure children are successful.
If anything goes awry in a child’s life, mother’s often feel incredibly judged. The pressure to perform at work, and to strive for excellence on the home-front without skipping a beat is tremendous. This is increasing for each generation of mothers. Spring Break chaos just brings this reality into sharp relief.
What can be done about this, won’t the same set of circumstances present themselves this time next year?
Women can re-examine how much they are willing to measure their worth as mothers and as workers based on extreme societal trends. Taking back control is important, especially since we know the long-term health effects of women trying to measure-up are dire.
Organizations can help by sponsoring child-care activities for employee’s children during Spring Break, or when the job allows, creating project-based, work schedules that allow work from home.