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While both moms and dads think about family matters throughout the day, it appears as though only moms experience a preoccupation with stress and negative emotions.
“I assume that because mothers bear the major responsibility for childcare and family life, when they think about family matters, they tend to think about the less pleasant aspects of it – such as needing to pick up a child from daycare or having to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a sick kid – and are more likely to be worried,” according to study author Shira Offer, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at bar-Ilan University in Israel.
While a lot of work is physical – producing the report, picking up kids, going to practice, making a presentation – an even greater amount of work takes place in our heads as we plan and anticipate. Parents are often preoccupied with their caregiving.
“These thoughts and concerns – mental labor – can impair our performance, make it difficult to focus on tasks, and even hurt our sleep,” Offer explained.
Offer used records from the 500 Family Study. These families are not representative of middle-class American families; they are highly educated professionals who work longer hours and have higher incomes than middle-class families. They are time-pressured, dual-income families.
Offer reviewed the diaries of some of these families and collected information about content of their daily lives, experiences and emotions. She found that moms engaged in mental labor for about 25 percent of their waking time while dads were engaged in mental labor 20 percent of the time. Interestingly, both men and women were preoccupied with family concerns about 30 percent of the time. Gender differences in mental labor appear to be minimal, but that doesn’t explain the negative impact on women.
“Mothers may feel that they do not devote enough time to their job and have to ‘catch up,’ and as a result, they are easily preoccupied with job-related matters outside the workplace,” Offer wrote. “This illustrates the double burden – the pressure to be ‘good’ mothers and ‘good’ workers – that working moms experience.”
Source: American Sociological Association, MedicalNewsToday
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