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Burnout is a syndrome manifesting from chronic workplace stress. Globally, over 42% of women reportedly experience burnout! Productivity is at an all-time high right now. Essentially, women are delivering performance and business results, but at a great personal toll.

Burnout in Employed Mothers

International studies have shown that women in senior management roles do more to help their employees navigate work-life challenges, relative to their male peers. They spend more time helping to manage workloads, and they’re 60% more likely to be focusing on emotional support. 

This is important, as it not only helps employees feel good about themselves, but employees have reported saying that when they receive extra support, they are happier in their job and less likely to make a move.

One in three women, and 60% of mothers with young children, spend five or more hours a day on housework, homework, and caregiving. Five hours a day is equal to half-time job! 

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic stripped bare what was already under the surface and well-understood by working women – which is how imbalanced those responsibilities outside the workplace are. 

For the majority of women, the thing they worry about in the workplace is how they’re going to be evaluated in their performance, not how much extra work they’re doing at home.

Burnout arises when individuals cannot access enough recovery between stressors. We see this, particularly with employed parents who face a higher number of, and longer exposure to, stressors from the multiple roles they play compared with non-parents, and they have less ability to access periods of recovery as a result. 

Employed Parents vs. Non-Parents

Employed parents report several stressors, in particular: 

  • a lack of work-life balance
  • increased responsibilities at both work and home
  • greater concern for safety at work and for their kids at school
  • a loss of social support
  • isolation.

In collective studies conducted around the world, employed parents have reported the following in comparison to non-parents:

1. They are worn out at the end of the day

Employed parents often lose interest or enthusiasm for their work, or find their work insignificant. They are facing illness, financial worry, and isolation. The compounded pressure of working while parenting, including remote schooling and working, has left many with feelings of apathy and fatigue. They feel that they are failing to live up to their own expectations across their many social roles. There are also indications that parents are not finding support or help from their employees.

Of the parents who report burnout – 90% believe their management considers productivity to be more important than mental health. Due to this, a lot of people will never discuss any issues that they are experiencing with their management or co-workers. 

People don’t want to look bad or seem as if they are not coping when everyone else looks like they do. They also don’t want to be seen as incompetent or at risk of being replaced. There is an assumption that people should be glad that they have a job right now and everyone should do the extra work demanded of them, as they could easily be replaced.

There are six main causes of burnout: 

  • an unsustainable workload
  • a general perceived lack of control
  • insufficient rewards for effort
  • the lack of a supportive community
  • absence of fairness
  • mismatched values and skills. 

Many of these are challenges that employed parents may be more likely to face, particularly from this pandemic.

Employed parents report a range of stressors that have deteriorated their mental health. The level of household responsibilities is a particular problem. 

In fact, the majority of parents responsible for all household duties report symptoms of burnout. These responsibilities, including caring for older adult family members in addition to children, most often fall to women who have also been more likely to cut back on paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to provide childcare. For these women specifically, reduced paid time at work could also serve to further exacerbate the symptoms of burnout they are experiencing, if their responsibilities at work do not also decrease.

2. Parents are understandably worried. Four in five employed parents say they feel concerned about their child’s mental health, and more than one-third rate this concern as extreme.

According to a McKinsey and Co survey, parents are more likely than non-parents to report missing days of work because they are experiencing symptoms of burnout. They are also more likely to use leaves of absence and supported employment.

“The stresses and pressures of being a parent mixed with the demands of work have made life nearly impossible.” – Primary Caregiver of two children, United Kingdom

“Employers should] allow more flexibility in terms of working in the office and from home so that employees can better take care of both their work and family matters”Primary Caregiver of three children, Singapore

While employed parents are more likely than non-parents to see themselves staying at their employer in two years’ time (79 percent versus 64 percent), burnout correlates to employed parents’ likelihood of not recommending their place of work to others. Their perspective on senior management’s attitude toward the importance of mental health, as well as the level of supportiveness their employer shows toward colleagues with mental illness, also declines.

What’s more, stress and burnout are the main reasons that cause people to consider leaving their jobs.

Dealing With Burnout

What resources do burnt-out women, and in particular, working mothers have at their disposal to assist them in their situation? 

Talk therapy and life coaching is one aspect that can help to achieve a work-life balance. Neurofeedback is another option for those who might not be able to adequately verbalize their feelings.

Neurofeedback – brain training – has been found to be an effective tool to assist in balancing stress, depression, and sleep, as well as traumas that exacerbate burnout and ongoing mental health issues. Addressing these imbalances as soon as possible will help parents and employees to be more effective, happier, and more productive, as well as giving them the opportunity to cope with the ongoing stresses that they are confronted with.

Want to know more?

According to the World Health Organization, poor employee mental health costs the global economy an outstanding $1 trillion per year. These issues tend to arise due to a lack of work-life balance, so here’s a guide to achieving a healthy work-life balance.

MAIN IMAGE CREDIT:Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash


Kerry Rudman

Kerry Rudman

Kerry Rudman is the owner of Brain Harmonics and currently based in Johannesburg, she is passionate about this business, helping people, and results.  It took her years to find a modality that she could fully stand behind.


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