Though life may throw any number of wrenches into your day and we certainly live in a world built on inequalities, the fact remains: Things are pretty damn good. Between the freedoms we have via technology and work opportunity and the gender-related advances we’ve made in society, our net progress is positive. But being able to do more also comes with a price.
We all know moms are overworked and underappreciated. But kids or no kids and in spite of every social advancement, women in general continue to take on every possible caretaking role there is, often without even realizing it. From family, to spouse, friends, co-workers, clients and their pets, from 18 to 81, ladies “mother” –- and we don’t seem to want to stop. For many, mothering takes place while also cultivating careers that, in the case of cam, can be all-consuming and emotionally taxing. Doing it all can be too much.
Why do women continue to pull double duty?
According to various psychoanalytic theories, women are taught from a young age to prioritize other people’s feelings before their own, which often manifests in care-giving work. As society equalizes in terms of conventional labor, women inevitably get saddled with the same care-giving stuff they’ve always been trained to do in addition to the responsibilities that come from (approaching) occupational equality.
This is why you feel extra-exhausted after a 12-hour “work-work” day on cam, but still feel compelled to handle any pending care-giving work as double duty IRL. (This is also why you may worry about the wellbeing of your key clients after their credits have run out online.)
The triple whammy
Three factors work together to increase the likelihood of double work duty: social, physical and emotional. Because these factors are interconnected, added stress cropping up in one or more of the areas can impact your already taxed system.
In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Jean Kim, a psychiatrist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, recently addressed the issue of social, physical and emotional factors and where they may pop up in seemingly unrelated corners of our lives.
“Mass media and the bookstore circuit try to offer patchwork solutions to these deep-seated sociocultural problems for overextended women,” Dr. Kim wrote.
For example, Arianna Huffington attempts to explain insomnia and exhaustion in her recent book, The Sleep Revolution with quips and tricks. Though everyone probably could benefit from more sleep, Huffington never addresses the real problem of why you aren’t sleeping.
“While it is certainly true that sleep deprivation is a commonplace symptom of our workaholic society and that it leads to a whole host of medical and psychiatric ailments, it still seems like [The Sleep Revolution] is emphasizing the end result and not the core cause,” Kim explained.
Kim suggested we should not ignore the ways in which social patterns relate to physical and emotional factors, nor how they can manifest in very precise and personal ways.
“The cost of our current socioeconomic structure combined with our underlying biology is that women have higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders … and fewer financial resources to get help,” she explained.
She also explained social and cultural individualism, which is especially prevalent in places like the United States, also makes it lonelier for women in general. This may be augmented by a “lonelier” job like cam.
Women who werk
We all know (or know of) a perfect mom who doesn’t miss a beat after a 12-hour day online. Or a model with a flawless face and disposition at 3 a.m. As much as we may secretly admire (also, not so secretly haterade) those women, we need to be mindful of the intense pressure all women who werk are under.
“Women who prioritize their careers are also held to a higher standard — and double standards,” Kim explained. “They suffer from regular slights from both genders in regards to their behavior [work and personal settings],” including from women who undermine or get jealous and compete for approval from men.
In case you missed it: “Slut Shaming: Petty, Insecure Behavior”
Double standards and higher standers may sound obvious — hell, women apparently all live it to varying degrees — but what can you do to manage more effectively?
One good habit to adopt is taking a moment to pause when you feel you are getting into the overkill range. Ask yourself why you feel compelled to do what’s driving you. Be honest with yourself and think critically about the answers that come up. If it’s because you “have to,” ask yourself why.
Kim encouraged also thinking critically about the people who appear to juggle it all successfully. How do they do it?
“There are some people who are naturally more energetic than others and may have a higher ‘setpoint’ for stress,” she explained. “This stress tolerance also ties into questions of resiliency, which is a huge hot-button topic in psychiatric research.”
Resiliency, or your stress setpoint, supposedly can be raised and strengthened. According to the American Psychological Association’s “Ten Ways to Build Resilience,” it’s just a matter of seeking out social support networks, practicing self-care, setting boundaries and acceptance. The concept of resiliency, though, alludes to the idea our limits could (and should?) be bolstered. Which brings us right back to the idea of “just get more sleep” without considering the bigger, more complex issues.
In the end, there are endless ways to approach things like double work duty and your own resilience. Find the avenue that works for you –- but don’t forget the underlying source.
Erika Chan is a workaholic who doesn’t sleep. Email her your tips and strategies for getting at underlying issues.
Building resilience via choosing positivity and happiness may work for some, but not others.
Image © Madja.