I have found myself wondering these last few days if life is becoming more and more stressful. Was daily life always this busy? Or are we simply ending up with new challenges to face?
I look back to my grandparents era and they had the traditional nuclear family, my grandfather went to work, my grandmother stayed at home and raised the children, did the shopping, cleaned the home. They looked forward to their one holiday a year somewhere within the British Isles and appeared happy with their lot in life.
The next generation, my parents, again a typical nuclear family two parents, happily married and the obligatory two children. However things were starting to change, both of my parents worked. My father worked full-time in an office job, Monday to Friday. My mother worked part-time, night-shift two nights per week, the rest of the week allowed her to keep the house tidy and do the weekly food shopping. We were lucky enough to enjoy family holidays abroad most years, we had a family car and enjoyed weekend day trips out to the beach or countryside.
And finally our generation, it suddenly seems we have a lot more pressure upon us, but I wonder how much of that pressure comes from the media and how much from our own personal ambitions. Life suddenly seems to have become more complicated. Myself, I am a thirty-year-old married woman of five months. However before that I was a single mum, with a mortgage, struggling to complete a university degree, which required me to work full-time and often-unsociable hours. I therefore had the challenge of struggling to make ends meet on a student bursary as my only source of income, try to find enough hours in the day to spend quality time with my son, arrange childcare for my unsociable work hours, complete my assignments, work the expected number of hours in order to qualify and maybe…if I was very lucky maintain some sort of social life in order to stay sane.
It seems in today’s society in order to have the lifestyle that we want, the holidays, the extra curricular activities for the children, the two cars and a home; both adults in the family need to work full-time in a well-paid career in order to achieve financial stability. Parents are often no longer together which leads to complications regarding child contact and many women are no longer satisfied (or financially able) to fulfill the role of stay at home wife and mother, and rightly so, they require the achievement of being a successful career woman in their own rights.
Now I admire both the women who devote their lives to becoming wives and mothers as much as I admire the women who have the ability to juggle work and motherhood. Both have their own challenges, advantages and disadvantages. What I wonder is, are we putting too much pressure on ourselves as women to be perfect? We want to be the best mother, the best wife who still has time to shave our legs and apply our make up for our partners coming home. We want the house to be clean and tidy, whist working 40 plus hour weeks in demanding high-profile careers to show that we are capable strong women and we can do it all.
In an age where we have access to information 24/7 and are contactable immediately by our smartphones, are we creating a culture in which we can’t switch off?
Are we as a society at risk of burnout? Are we damaging our own health by trying to do it all and not asking for help? I myself am guilty of leading this busy lifestyle, the desire to be an independent woman often conflicting with the needs of my family. Frequently I long for a slower pace of life. There is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma; every woman will make different choices. I would love to hear your views on this and whether you think modern life creates more pressure on women to be perfect and to seemingly ‘have it all’ or whether these demands on women have always present but just not as apparent.