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Katrina Alcorn's picture

Working parents have a lot to juggle, and this can create stress. But what we often overlook is that stress has real health consequences.

Several weeks ago, I put together a survey* asking working parents about stress and its effects on their health. More than 600 people responded. I filtered out respondents who lived in a household with at least one stay-at-home adult, which left 560 respondents in households where all adults work. Their answers were alarming:

  • 80% catch up on work nights and weekends
  • 81% worry they will burn out
  • 88% said they suffer from at least one stress-related health problem since becoming a working parent
  • 59% have problems with anxiety
  • 43% struggle with depression

Can you say “public health crisis”?

Moreover, what these numbers don’t show, but what any stressed out parent will tell you, is that once the health effects of stress are felt, everything gets that much harder to manage. That’s when some of us start circling the drain.

Interestingly, most parents (82%) said their employers offered at least one family-friendly perk, such as flexible scheduling. But it seems clear that this is not enough to keep stress at bay for most.

When asked to choose one thing that would make their lives easier as a working parent, there was no one-size-fits-all answer. About a quarter selected “More help with chores/kids” and another quarter answered “Good part time option.” Detailed responses are here.

But before you dive into the details, here’s what I think we all need to understand:

Most jobs are made for people who have no caregiving responsibilities.

That means that most parents (or people caring for elderly or sick loved ones) do most of the accommodating. The results of this survey imply that for many of us, the price we pay is our health.

Hundreds of parents left comments at the end of the survey. One summarized the problem this way:

“Unfortunately, we’re living in a “half-changed world” – women have many more professional opportunities than did the last generation, but our importance as mothers and wives and to ourselves has not been taken into account, and there are increasing demands from our jobs…We all need to redefine work/success/”doing it all” so that our daughters will not face these same dilemmas.”

Detailed results, pretty charts, and a few disclaimers about this survey on working parents and stress can be found here.

Katrina Alcorn is a former-journalist-turned-blogger who writes the blog Working Moms Break.

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