When it comes to making Mother’s Day wishes, spending less time in the office used to top the wish list for many work working mums. With COVID, working from home (WFH) has become the new normal, while a lot of people see benefits from this arrangement, working mums feel quite differently and even find “refuge” working in the office.
Andrea Wong, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, AXA Hong Kong and Macau, shares her insights on the latest survey findings on working mum’s stress:
AXA Hong Kong and Macau conducted a survey among more than 300 customers (including working parents living with children, couples with no children and singles) at end April 2021, and reveals that nearly 90% of the working mums find the pandemic has added tremendous stress to them, 20 percentage points higher than all other respondent groups; and close to 60% of the working mums prefer working in the office to ease the “double stress” from having to work and take care of their children at home at the same time.
Why are working mums more stressed out during the pandemic? Apart from worrying about one’s health and finances, parenting has become an additional source of stress for them. Nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools were all once closed during the pandemic, making working mums feel “trapped” at home with their children. 68% of the them say having to work and take care of the needs and studies of their children at home have doubled their stress levels.
Pandemic feared to have set back gender equality
Society has created stereotypes for women by holding them more accountable than men in taking care of children and household chores. Even though this phenomenon has improved over time, our survey shows that most working mums are still impacted by this gender stereotype, with only 13% of them saying they do not feel any stress from society or their family’s expectations. Almost half of the working mum respondents feel more obliged to take care of their family than men, to the extent that they feel guilty if they choose to have “me time” over spending their free time with their children and family.
Gender stereotypes are not limited to Hong Kong, in the U.S., working mums are three times more likely to be the caregiver and take care of the housework; on a weekly basis, many working mums spend over 20 hours tending to household chores, almost the equivalent of half a full-time job.
This imbalance has been exacerbated by the pandemic and some working mums worry their time spent on caring for their family has taken a toll on their work performance, and if forced to choose, they will quit their job and focus on their family, resulting both in a loss of talent and productivity in the community.
Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) Anita Bhatia told the media, before the pandemic, women already have shouldered more household and family responsibilities; their time spent on such non-paid labour is three times as much as their male counterparts. Under the pandemic, these figures have been on the rise and are feared to have set back gender equality by 25 years.
Mental and tangible support must go hand in hand
The above data indicates that working mums are suffering from both physical and mental stress during the pandemic. As Mother’s Day is soon approaching, besides thanking all the mothers for their dedication, we would like to call for more attention to the physical and mental well-being of all mothers. Confronted with different kinds of stress, the mental support from people around working moms, such as the acknowledgement and appreciation from their spouse or family, as well as the actual sharing of the parenting responsibilities are both essential.
The Advisory Committee on Mental Health has also recommended that when dealing with parenting stress, it is better to avoid drilling into negative events and focus more on keeping contact with family and friends for mutual support, and practicing relaxation exercises.
Among the stress reduction resources available in the community, “AXA BetterMe”, a holistic wellness platform for body and mind, offers a unique service – “Mind Charger”. “Mind Charger” provides mental wellness support free-of-charge to the general public. Not only can it help working moms to relax, it also enables them to “stay cool” and strengthen themselves inside out by learning mindfulness, a trendy and scientifically proven method that alleviates stress, so that they can become a “BetterMe”.
Women need to first take good care of their physical and mental well-being in order to support their spouse and children. On the other hand, men could also take a more proactive role and have bigger ownership in taking care of the children, because ultimately, parenting is a shared responsibility and commitment, regardless of gender. Only through open communication with the spouse, appropriate sharing of the duties at home, and striking a good balance in life, can working moms become a BetterMe and to create a BetterWe with their family.
To learn more about “AXA BetterMe”, please visit: https://www.axa.com.hk/en/axa-betterme