A Course attendee, at one of our mental health first aid courses, said: “I feel as though I have three jobs now and I am overwhelmed and failing at all of them.”
A recent study of over 6,000 adults by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that one in three women who are homeschooling children have said their mental health had suffered due to the extra responsibility. While the ONS also found that there was a fairly equal division of time given to education, playing and reading with children by both male and female parents, the bulk of the other aspects of care such as cleaning, feeding, washing and dressing children has been taken on by women, leading to over an extra hour and a half of work a day. Many parents feel poorly equipped to teach their children, maintain their homes, and work in their jobs simultaneously.
This feeling of failure and overwhelm comes with the extra responsibilities that homeschooling has created, including the emotional effort it takes to also look out for our children’s mental health whilst they struggle with so much time away from school and their friends. Certainly in the first lockdown when schools were still gathering resources to teach remotely, many parents struggled with feeling as though they had to be replacement teachers, worrying that their children would suffer if they didn’t have a certain amount of high-quality education each week. While older children can be left unsupervised, younger ones who need constant supervision put many parents in a difficult position with their working hours creating extra pressure in the workplace.
For many women, the burden of extra domestic responsibility leaves no time to rest and recuperate or attend to their own mental health.
Key findings from the Fawcett Society research show that:
- “33% of women in employment saying their workplaces have been closed compared with 25% of men”
- “Mothers in couples were over one-and-a-half times more likely than fathers to say that they were doing the majority of childcare during school and nurseries closures.”
- “61.6% of single mothers in our sample said they had struggled to go to the shops due to their children being at home, compared with 39.1% of couple fathers.”
- “Anxiety levels are greater among mothers in our sample, with 44% compared with 33% of fathers reporting high anxiety.”
However, statistics from the Fawcett society also show that women are more likely to have reached out to support others who are vulnerable during this crisis. Women are incredibly resilient and giving, and it’s important that they feel supported during times of crisis.
As we see more companies coming through to us for mental health training, we also see more women talking about the pressures at home and we focus our training so the skills learned are also seen as “life skills” for those taking part. Whilst we cannot control the school openings or our jobs, we can look after our mental health. Here is some advice from members of our team.
“I am getting better at saying no and not revolving all of my thoughts around every family member all of the time. I have to give myself periods ‘off’ where I deliberately switch my brain off for a bit and even if it’s just an hour of not worrying about the kids, and doing something that I like to do instead, I feel it gives me some much-needed energy.” – Susie C
“I try to take at least an evening a week to to myself. It’s not always lying down in a darkened room (although that has been known!) but just even time in my room listening to music and pottering, away from everyone in the house, gives me a chance to focus and recharge”
If you are an employer, bear in mind that the mothers in your team may be facing unique challenges at this time, even though their kids are going back to school, for older children this may be on a part-time basis or they may suddenly need to be staying off school if they or someone they are in close contact with has Covid symptoms. Look at how you can help mothers re-organise their workload around the pressures at home and make sure that you are creating a space where they can communicate their issues to you without fear of being judged. We are, after all, all in this together.