Motherhood, Working and Relationship

It’s common that in our modern lives and economic climate that families are often relying on both parents working. Regrettably, the social condition still exists in our culture that sees the primary responsibility for family care most often falling to women, and such responsibility affects the working lives of them more than it affects the working lives of men. In addition, mothers wanting to return to work, are faced with a lack of employment policies to accommodate them. Forcing them to choose between job security and parenting, or a job that isn’t in line with their career goals or education.

Despite these complex hurdles, working woman often do an extra ordinary job in balancing their lives to reflect their roles as mothers, professionals, partners and members of the community. Comparatively, working woman are still more likely to work more hours of paid and unpaid work than their working partners. They will be doing more housework and child care than men, are more likely to take a day of work if a child is sick, and more frequently will give up personal aspirations to spend time with family.

That’s significant, because working woman are also more likely to initiate separation and divorce. For working women, resentment that can build from their spouses not helping out enough in domestic and child care duties can spill out in anger, conflict and disconnection. Sadly, this relationship dynamic has the adverse effect of creating more family distress too, and about 60% of working woman report taking out their stress on children negatively. Things can spiral out of hand quickly and issues are heightened if there were underlying relationship problems prior to her returning to work.

When viewed through this relationship lens, it seems obvious, that working mothers – first and foremost – receive the increased support of their partners with domestic and child rearing tasks around home. Although a great starting place, it’s also obvious that this is sometimes too simple. Relationship dynamics can be far more complex. Couples can get stuck in a groove around perceived roles and responsibilities that’s generational and unconscious. It’s important then to create a space for discussion, reflection and change and I’ve listed 4 ideas below that may help..

1. Communicate your needs: first and foremost, have a genuine, connect-full conversation about yours and his perceived ideas around work, responsibilities, roles, child care and the like. This is a very important conversation to help shift values and stuck themes within the family. Those stuck places are often well past there used by dates in a modern Australia. Avoid blame and criticism. If the relationship distress is too high and it’s impossible to hold a space for this discussion without conflict, I would highly recommend seeking couples counselling or some relationship support.

2. From this Build a solid weekly routine across both parents calendars and children’s schedules: essential for time management and Job delegation. Some families can get very detailed to include who’s turn to cook, clothes washing, etc. At home, we use a whiteboard so the kids can get involved and everyone has access to the daily tasks/activities. It also allows for flexibility and changes to be made easily.

3. Prioritise time as a couple: Couples where both parents work often report an increased level of emotional disconnection through lack of quality time. And we know that, families hinge on the couplehood. So quality, caring time together is essential. In my therapy practice, regardless of the issues, couples always do better when they can provide this opportunity for each other. And it can be as easy as 30 minutes one night a week. Of course, prioritise time as a family too. Make sure some time during the week is set aside for the family to be together as a family.

4. Honour you core feminine energy: recognise that the work place is often – regrettably – structured around core male/patriarchal structures (ie competitive, task and outcome focused, solution oriented, etc). So, when you can, spend time honouring your core female spirit and pamper, dance, create, cry, laugh, love and luxuriate wildly

Woman are often well networked with others and excellent communicators and in my experience many working mothers are skilfully resourced in dealing with enormous demands. However I would reiterate a holistic approach (relational, physical, intellectual, emotional, social) to self and relationship care. Most recently, I have been reminded of this as my wife has just returned to full-time work and although it has raised new challenges for her and the whole family, it has also been a chance to embrace change, growth and something new.


Working Mothers: How Much Working, How Much Mothers, And Where Is The Womanhood? Medknow Publications 2009

Working Mothers – Common Issues