Balancing wellness and a career as a working mom

Gender roles have become more fluid but the echoes of traditional roles persist. Picture: Jonathan Borba /Pexels

Gender roles have become more fluid but the echoes of traditional roles persist. Picture: Jonathan Borba /Pexels

Published May 3, 2024


THE DISCUSSION on the “balancing act” of managing a career, family, and personal success in the context of mothers is prevalent due to a combination of societal expectations, traditional gender roles, and the challenges inherent in striving to achieve a level of success in multiple areas of life simultaneously.

Historically, women have been primarily responsible for childcare and domestic tasks, while men were expected to be the breadwinners.

Although society has progressed, and gender roles have become more fluid, the echoes of these traditional roles persist.

Women, particularly mothers, often find themselves in a position where they are expected to excel in their careers, be fully present and supportive parents, and also manage their households.

This “balancing act” is complicated by societal pressures and sometimes unrealistic expectations of what success looks like in each of these areas.

YuLife South Africa hosted an insightful webinar exploring this topic. Host Pabi Moloi was joined by an expert panel including Navlika Ratangee (Managing Director of Lyra Wellbeing), Nande Sikampula (Head of HR at Rectron), and Bernise Games (YuLife SA's Head of Marketing). Picture: Supplied

The conversation usually centres on mothers because they face more scrutiny in their roles as parents compared to fathers.

There’s a societal expectation for mothers to seamlessly manage all these aspects of their lives without letting any area falter.

Working mothers face a tough challenge as they strive to balance career aspirations with raising a family.

A startling statistic reveals that only 40% of women can secure full-time work after returning from maternity leave, highlighting the struggle to maintain professional and parental responsibilities.

In a webinar hosted by YuLife South Africa, the spotlight was cast on this issue.

The session, led by host Pabi Moloi, brought together experts Navlika Ratangee, Managing Director of Lyra Wellbeing, Nande Sikampula, Head of HR at Rectron, and Bernise Games, YuLife SA’s Head of Marketing, to discuss how working moms can find a sense of equilibrium in their hectic lives.

The discussion revealed some hard truths. Nearly 38% of moms with young children feel backed into a corner, stating that they would be forced to either quit their jobs or cut back on work hours if their employers did not offer flexible working arrangements. This statistic underscores the critical need for workplaces to adapt to the realities of working parents.

Moloi kicked off the webinar by sharing her experiences of motherhood, setting the stage for a deep dive into the challenges and potential solutions for working mothers looking for balance.

She said: “While it is quite universal, the tightrope and endless balancing act called motherhood is something that needs to have more of a spotlight shone on it. This is especially true of being a working mom.”

The webinar found that 62% of participants are juggling their careers and parental duties through flexible hours or the option to work remotely, as provided by their employers.

Meanwhile, 44% rely on a network of family and friends for support, yet a notable 25% still struggle to strike a balance between work and home life.

The issue is complex and fraught with emotional and physical burdens that disproportionately affect women. Ratangee, one of the speakers at the event, highlighted the pressure women face beyond their professional roles.

“Women tend to bear the brunt of stress, anxiety, and burn-out more than men, due to the additional household responsibilities they take on,” she noted, pointing to the so-called “second shift” that many working mothers have to manage.

However, the discussion was not without a note of optimism. Panellists agreed that there is a way forward — a combination of advocating for oneself.

Establishing clear boundaries, and making use of available support systems, whether through employee resource groups, counselling services, or wellness programmes tailored to the needs of working mothers.

When it comes to practical strategies for managing the competing demands of work and family, the participants had clear preferences.

A majority, 58%, put their faith in physical exercise or meditation, while 47% valued the support and guidance from mentors and colleagues in navigating their dual roles.

Sikampula said: “Employers need to really understand the pressures mothers face and make sure our rules, benefits, and the way our company works includes everyone properly.”

Games said: “As working moms, we need to remember to take care of ourselves. We need to know we can’t give what we don’t have. We should remind ourselves and our bosses that taking time for ourselves is more helpful than harmful.”