Career vs. Family: A Working Mother’s Lifelong Wrestling Match

Some days, nobody wins.



Sigmund Freud said that the goal of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy is to help the patient develop the ability to love and to work. Several studies have shown that satisfaction in one domain is associated with satisfaction in the other domain. However, this task may be more difficult for working mothers to achieve, especially for mothers who work full-time.

We can all agree that finding satisfying work is important for everyone. Being engaged in meaningful work has a positive effect on our self-esteem, self-confidence, and gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. This makes us happier individuals.

When our ability to love or to work is hindered, our emotional health suffers. Several studies suggest that being able to balance love and work is key to maintaining good mental health and happiness.

Anne-Marie Slaughter created media buzz from her piece in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can't Have It All.”  She writes about her own difficulties and feelings of ambivalence related to having a prestigious career in a top government leadership position while trying to be a good mother to her two teenage sons.

Slaughter decided to continue to work, but in a position that allows her the time to nurture her important relationships, in other words, the time to love.

 So the question remains, what can working mothers do to allow them more time to nurture their important relationships and to feel fulfilled and satisfied with the two most important aspects of their lives—love and work?

Here are a few tips:           

Share the load: More fathers than ever before are stepping up and helping mothers with parenting duties. This also includes laundry, grocery shopping, and housework. It is also important to have older children help out. Not only will this ease the stress for the working mom, but studies have shown that children who help with family chores appropriate for their age and developmental level, have a higher degree of self-confidence, self-esteem, and mastery. 

Make your schedule flexible and stick to it: When possible, try to make your work schedule flexible, such as working some days from home or working four days and week and having one day off. If this is not an option, consider picking one day a week when you can focus solely on your family. On this day make sure you do not have any distractions such as computers or cell phones that could interfere with the time you are spending with your children.

Be present: Try to be fully present at the times you are with your children. You can be more in the moment maintaining eye contact when your children are telling you important things. Also, do not interrupt your children when they are speaking.  There will be plenty of times that you will feel stressed when you are at work because you are not home with your children and vice versa. Children benefit most from having parents that are not stressed-out regardless of the amount of time parents are actually spending with them.                                                                          

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A CONVERSATION ABOUT OUR MENTAL HEALTH

About This Blog

Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples, and families.

Dr. Durlofsky treats a wide variety of disorders and has a special interest in issues affecting women. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital, Lankenau Hospital, the Women's Resource Center in Wayne, and the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. In addition to her practice, Dr. Durlofsky is a workshop facilitator and blogger. 

If you have questions or feedback for Dr. Durlofsky, please don't hesitate to reach out to her via email at drpauladurlofsky@gmail.com.

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