Why working mums shouldn’t work more than 20 hours a week.
Are mums overworking and inadvertently starving themselves (and their families) of their beauty, energy and zest?
Has the pendulum swung too far? Are mums running themselves into the ground all for work?
Without guilt, with no bias and actually with very little answers to this (maybe a few suggestions) I want to explore the pros, the cons, and the collateral benefits and damage of mums working.
My observation after being a working mum, having best friends that are working mums, and more importantly discussing the intricacies with working mums in my clinic of 18 years, is that 20 hours is the safe and cut off limit. After that things go a bit side ways.
After 20 hours a week, we (working mums) start sacrificing too much. Too much of ourselves which is much need to orchestrate and run the other cogs in our lives that often sees us at the centre - kids, partners and a family!
Oh yes, not often discussed is the collateral damage of us mums working.
This is neither feminist, chauvanist nor with judgement. This is just a commentary about a subject I know well.
20 Hours a Week "working" on Top of Being a Mum is the Safe Limit
25 hours a week is really pushing it and cracks will be visible.
30+ hours and I can nearly assure you of either a superwoman, a mum in denial or a tired exhausted woman.
Don’t get me wrong. Many working mums in these predicaments don’t know how to stop or change the terms and conditions of their lives or work.
So let’s give this a go. Let’s frankly and honestly, no judgements, discuss why 20 hours a week maximum is the MOST a working mum should do (on top of her role of being a mum).
The unstated facts
You see to be a mum is a full time “job”.
And for a woman, to work is a full time job, even if it is part-time.
No one tells you this.
A woman’s mind does not have the capacity to switch off like a mans. It’s called “multi-tasking” which really is code for “I work 24/7 because my brain doesn’t switch off.” “I have this amazing skill apparently, that means I can think about multiple things at once”.
All I know about the apparent “gift” of multi-tasking is that it robs us from being still in mind and able to be present in the “current” moment.
So whilst we succeed at “working” and excel at the “modern day mother” we actually struggle behind the scenes.
To be a mum is a full time “job”.
We become exhausted, tired and our sparkle diminishes.
Our sparkle actually extinguishes because to have sparkle is to have time, to have energy, to have moments of nothingness and to have play.
When a mum works longer than 20 hours, there is no time called “nothingness”. Every hour, every minute is allocated. Even “fun” if it is factored in is calculated against the tasks, the working hours and the essentials.
So here is my spin on a world wide phenomena.
I am not referring to my sisters in third world and tribal lands who have been working incredibly hard for milenia. I am referring to the “modern day western woman”.
Let me also add the clause, I am not referring to the Sandra Bullocks out of The Blind Side either. If only we could all be married to Texan men! I am referring to the average woman who blindly, courageous, leads her family, seeks a careers and somehow pulls it off on the exterior but maybe is wanning on the inside.
For years women battled to gain entry into the workforce.
We did it for many reasons.
These are a few but not exhaustive...
Everyone woman is different but most of us, like men, have certain needs.
A need to be loved, a need to be valued and a need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Why Women Enter the Work Force
We, you, I wanted:
- Freedom and our own income to spend on the things we love without having to ask permission or judgement
- Independence is a natural progression of this. With income we can leave situations of abuse, of uncertainty and seek out that we love more
- To discover what we were capable of this life time - what our brain is able to achieve, what we can as individuals impact upon and contribute to
- To be recognised for our skills, our personal attributes our brains
- To leave a legacy and something our children and loved ones will be proud of > mum did that!
- To connect with others so we didn’t feel solo in life, so we had a place of belonging
- To escape the household - I know hard to believe -but sometimes the grind at home feels less loving that of a paying salary
- Then of course the chance to be recognised for our individuality and greatness
- And for many a necessity - to feed the family, to buy clothes, to pay the bills.
Many of us had career paths and well defined "work goal posts" established before junior came along. We knew the "rules". But suddenly the goal post change - dramatically.
Our value initially is not about us as a "working woman" but as a mum. This is where I think many of us are "blind sided" and can struggle.
If our worth has been structured around KPIs, achievements, salaries, work bonuses and accolades, it really is a shock to become a mum.
None of the above actually are granted nor given when you are breast feeding or changing nappies. I see and KNOW first hand why the desire to reenter the work force is there. We have apparent, measurable value - by ways of a wage and goal posts we had become familiar with before becoming a mum.
This is about the ideal amount of hours a working mum should aim for.
The Collateral of Being a Working Mum
Actually let me elaborate on this one now as I find it fascinating and I have dedicated the last 10 years in my writing and best selling book, Beauty & the Beast Within, for women (and couples) to better understand it.
The issue is such. The more we work as women, generally the more stressed we become. Children or no children.
Time frames, deadlines, KPIS, budgets etc were all invented by men.
Men are solutions driven. Women are experience driven.
The female attributes (aside from the smarts) are we care, we love, we share and we connect.
Whether the “establishment” agrees with it or not is irrelevant, that is what we excel at, biologically and hormonally.
Unfortunately trying to demonstrate a great experience for people (AKA customers and ultimately our boss) requires using a language or parameters such as those listed, that are actually not measuable using those scales.
Using the measuring sticks of deadlines, turnover, KPIs, budgets etc etc requires the use of the hormone testosterone. The “man” hormone. The “results” hormone.
This doesn’t mean women don’t get the job done, we just go about it differently.
When we “play” and subscribe by these masculine measuring sticks we bump up our testosterone levels.
Testosterone, too much to explained here, switches off fertility.
High testosterone in women is the leading cause of female infertility globally but fortunately can be lowered safely, naturally and relatively naturally. I refer you to my best selling book on it.
High testosterone in women also leads to facial acne, cysts on our ovaries, unwanted facial hair and aggression.
We feel irritated easily and have little time for "time wasters". No bloody wonder!
I am feeling anxious just writing this explaining what really is quite obvious.
The work place by in large, is suitable for the testosterone driven male. Which is nearly the opposite of how woman excel and operate.
Females, actually thrive in softer, collaborative, community, sharing approaches.
Different measuring sticks, same results. Alas the 40 hour Monday to Friday work schedule doesn't really permit the feminine work way.
The same results can be gained by women doing it "our way", with women feeling less stress, less testosterone and probably greater customer satisfaction. Maybe that is WHY women are being employed into higher management positions in companies. the Female EQ is being sought after.
I think a work day starting at 10am for women is much better.
They work very solid on the whole so could potentially finish at 2 or 3 and still achieve the same as a 8 hour work day!
OK let’s back up to the hours and the mum thing.
Remember this is not to antagonise or fractionalise anyone. This is merely my commentary and observations of being a working mum of 19 years and helping other working women.
Being a mum is a full time gig!
I know many dads excel at being dads and we love you for it. And there are even some that are full time dads who do an awesome job. Here I am discussing the “typical” dad. The guy that works, has kids and maybe a wife or partner.
So not to compare but to give an insight this is how mums and dads differ, majority of the time!
When mums set about their day, they are planning ahead, rarely in the moment, or if they are , they are simultaneously cooking breakfast, shooing the kids to get dressed for school and keeping an eye on the clock.
It’s not relaxing!
They are already jumping ahead to make sure everyone has what they need for the day. It’s like a mini itinerary for each child every day.
Once out the door, and let’s say this is a working mum, the heat is on!
Children wailing, complaining or even opening up in the car with their safety net, their mum in a trapped captive space ship.
WAAA WAAA me this, she did that, he has more than me... on and on it goes.
No wonder women are frazzled all before 8am.
Then to enter work, to battle. I mean battle. Remember we are not playing by our best measuring stick more often than not. We are playing a game that is suited to men.
So we race into work, grabbing any legal stimulant on the way and start with our “day”.
As we type, answer calls, rearrange pillows, clean toilets we are continually thinking and doing stock takes of our children. Not because we “desire” to but because we are hormonally designed to.
Remember that amazing gift called “multi-tasking”.
Unfortunately multi-tasking only has one casuatly, the woman doing it!
So with all our planning, dinners sorted, shopping lists made, some time for exercise (miraculously squeezed in), we race home to collect kids.
More of the space ship odessy.... waaa waaa, he did this, she has more than me, blah blah, the hysteria is mind blowing!! Seriously kids don’t do this special performance for their dads or for anyone else. SIGH!
Then we get home. Round 2.
Undress kids, supervise or bath the kids, feed the kids, do homework with the kids and then some smart professors have found that reading to our kids as they nod off is beneficial for their developing language.... forget mumma’s desolving energy levels, health and sex drive! This is told to us mums to be “unconditional love”.
Then many mums clear away dishes, make school lunches for the next day, some wash, some iron some flake it about now.
Others (let’s call them super women) actually bake. Who are those women?! What are these women? Super human?
Others make macadamia milk, wash nappies, breast feed, and many of us, oh so many of us, wipe floors and clean that blo***y kitchen bench.
For some who have stamina to watch some mindless flick on telly good on you, the rest are aimlessly swooping face book or insta in search of some inspiration posted by a nubile 20s something (non) mum swanning around the Greek islands with her handsome Fabio.
OH dear... no wonder very few working mums feel like doing “it”.
Let’s work out what needs to be done.
I’ve made a list of things that are essential and those that are not.
The Essentials Working Mum List:
>hugs all round
>rubbish bins put out for removal
>dad’s needs (I’m joking obviously this is non essential)
The Non-essentials Working Mum List:
>kitchen bench cleared
>kitchen bench washed
>floors even clear to see
>towels hung up
>toilets flushed... ok this should be on the essential list
>beauty stuff like nails, hair, facials... or are they essential?!
>having a clean house
>checking in with face book
The Executive Working Mum Summary
Basically working mums there is only so much one human can do in a day. It's 24 hours... only.
While you maybe able to squeeze all the optional excursions, inclusions and even sex in, are you feeling relaxed? Possibly not. I suspect not, if you are working too.
So why the magical 20 hours maximum?
Well if you divide all of the listed above activities, I also forgot to mention showering, attending to personal hygiene, making the odd bed, catching up with friends and even sending a cherio to the in-laws, then I am sure when you do the maths, there simply is not enough hours.
So why do women attempt to work 40 hours? Why do we try to do more than 20?
Can we not be allowed some grace but given the rights of a fully fledged working body? Maybe even pro rata. So for each child you work 10 hours less for the same rate?
I know women. I know working mums.
I know they will over-work while at work and they will still be thinking about work when they are not at work.
Doing the maths on 20 hours a week is 4 hours Monday to Friday 10-2pm. After mums drop kids, exercise , then work, then leave to collect kids, and do the mummsy stuff after work (cooking, baking supervising homework, walking the dog) 20 hours is a maximum.
20 Hours of paid work is the maximum "happy" for working mums, any more and we suffer.
Jeepers guys you might even get a little more of what you want.
I strongly advocate, where possible, let go of the ideal of the investment property, the funky expensive clothes for the kids, the materialism, if it means you can work less, and BE more. Be more of you. Be less of a frazzled. Be less exhausted.
I invite you to find a way to work under 20 hours a week. Ideal world, YES!
Try to make it happen.
I know when you do, you will have more joy, more fun, more energy.
Guys if you have a woman who is the mother of your children, can I ask for your assistance too? Remember WE all benefit.
See if you can help her shift the mindset that she has to work more than 20 hours a week. That going without some of the financial seductions might lead to a happy life, a happier a wife, a saved relationship?
We need you to help in this confusion as well.
And mummas, if you are a working mumma, try to take in my comments and wisdom of hundreds of women before me.
If you are burnt out, stop.
Write your own sickness, absence certificate.
Take a mental health day!
Take some time out to reflect.
Saving yourself from the driving forces and lure of working more than 20 hours a week may change your life. I know for most it will reduce stress and improve happiness.
Just try it.
Remember when mumma bear happy, everyone happy!
Please leave your comments below, how you find working and being a mum and any tips that might help others. Namaste, Sam xx
Sam Beau Patrick is a best selling author with 6 published books. Topics include Menopause, PCOS, Fertility, Burn Out and Male Hormones. More can be found on her website www.sambeaupatrick.com/shop