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Women & Multiple Role Stress

Haven't you ever wished you had a wife who would wash, clean, take
care of the children, and have dinner on the table while she patiently
listened to you complain what a tiring day you've had, when you get
back home?
You'd be surprised to know that more women than men answer 'yes'
to this question! It is also known as the I need a wife !yndrome,
commonly afflicting dual"career couples, where the woman might be
working and earning# $ut unfortunately women can never have a
wife waiting at home with warm food and tender care? for her when
she gets back home after a full working day, it is only the beginning
of the second"shift" she must now take up the duties of a wife,
mother, homemaker and perhaps daughter or daughter"in"law#
In fact, when the levels of %ortisol, or the stress hormone were
studied, it was found that the stress levels of men and non"mothers
fall when they get back home from work# However, for Working
Moms, the cortisol levels shoot up when they get back home.
&ven if you haven't e'perienced this, I am sure you can empathi(e
with the situation of this woman who works two full"time )obs! *ot an
enviable position!
+omen in such situations typically undergo what is known as
,ultiple -ole !tress, or opposing pressures and demands from the
multiple roles they are trying to )uggle#
.echnically speaking, ,ultiple -ole !tresses can take place in two
Role Overload" .his is when there are )ust too many
demands to fulfil# 0 common e'ample would be, waking up
early, making breakfast and sending the children off to school,
making sure lunch is ready and then getting to work on time
only to ensure all deadlines are met and reports completed
and getting back home to cook and clean and prepare for the
ne't day? it )ust never ends! $ottom line/ she is )ust plain
overworked, trying to do too many things# 1uggling too many
balls none of which she can drop even momentarily#
Role Conflict" .his occurs when the demands of the various
roles are conflicting and she is forced to choose one or the
other# 2or e'ample, an important meeting at work coincides
with ,om"in"3aw's appointment with the doctor# In this
situation, if one is more important than the other, the decision
could have been simple but that rarely is the case# !he is
forced to choose between two important demands, both of
which need to be fulfilled# 0nother form of role conflict is when
the demands of one role are opposing the demands or
e'pectations from the other# 2or e'ample, a woman at work is
not allowed to display any emotions or tenderness, but as a
mother and wife she must be loving, caring and sensitive"
basically wear her emotions on her sleeve# !o not only is she
e'pected to fulfil two conflicting roles, but she must also
change her personality )ust as she changes an outfit to get to
If you are not already empathi(ing with our lady, suffering under the
pressure of having too many roles to play" and play them well" let us
look deeper into how this affects her# 4to4 research proves that
women in India too 5much like working women in other parts of the
world6 feel guilty about not being able to spend time with the
children, find housework too ta'ing, do not have enough time for
their partners or for sociali(ation and often put themselves on the
back"burner# .hese effects are also seen the world over, in working
women who also have other roles to fulfil#
.he answer then would be to quit working and be a stay"at"home
mother and wife, right? +rong! 1ust like it would be wrong to
categorically state that one must not have children or ever get
married and only work#
.he reason being, having more than one role is also highly
advantageous# ,ultiple roles are like having more than one
opportunity for satisfaction and success# It results in a full, multi"
faceted life, rather than a one"dimensional e'istence#
*ot only does it add to the fullness of life, having more than one role
in life also buffers us from the occasional failures in one or the other
role# 0fter a long and particularly difficult day at work, haven't you
felt re)uvenated after spending some time with family?playing with
your children?or even a simple cup of coffee with your ,om? .he
reverse also applies" when things aren't going so well in your
personal life, success at work could be something that sees you
through the difficult times#
.he right answer then, lies in building up our resources to cope with
the multiple demands# 57f course, there might be times when you
)ust need to stay away from the incessant demands and have some
time by yourself, and that is healthy and re)uvenating6#
In terms of building our resources, we are essentially strengthening
ourselves or calling in for reinforcements# !ome simple strategies for
this would be/
Prioritize#8now what's important and when# 9ick out tasks
that are urgent as well as important first: ne't those that are
important but not urgent: and quit doing tasks that are neither
important nor urgent!
Set yourself up for success not failure#failure 5read/ set
realistic targets6# If you e'pect yourself to be the perfect
worker, the perfect daughter and the perfect wife, not to
mention the perfect friend and daughter"in"law, you are
setting yourself up for failure# 0llow yourself a margin for error
and be easy on yourself if you slip up once in a way#
Use strategies to derive maximum benefit from te least
input#3earn multitasking and other skills such as time
management# ;se time spent on the long commute to catch
up on your reading 5or chatting with friends or even filing your
!elegate#You do not have to do everything yourself# If the
cook 5or your ,om"in"3aw6 can prepare dinner, let her#
!evelop and use net"or#s#.here might be many others
struggling with the same issues like you" meet and learn from
them# ;se them in times of emergency" such as asking the
children to wait with the neighbour if you are stuck in traffic
une'pectedly# 0nd if nothing else, you could get some moral
0lmost every woman is conditioned to believe that unless she cooks
and feeds her family, she is a failure# !he might then choose to cook
dinner everyday: not reali(ing that the time might be better spent
playing with her children or spending some couple time with her
husband# How often we all fall for choosing the mundane over the
important# !o give a lot of thought to priorities and then use e'ternal
resources, strategies and networks to ensure that you are able to
meet them# .his also calls for a certain reduction in e'pectations from
yourself# 7therwise you could drain out before the finish"line#
0nd while you try out all these strategies, do remember that you are
important too# If you suffer, so will every thing else" your husband,
children, family as well as work# 0nd as someone has rightly said, one
cannot outsource stress"management# !o take care of yourself"
physically as well as psychologically#
.he strategies mentioned here are skills that one can learn and
develop# If you wish to find out more about these or any other points,
do contact our counsellors#