A Mother’s “Invisible Labour” Is Detrimental To A Happy Brain

Referenced by the Independent, a new study published in the journal Sex Roles has revealed that the perpetual and emotional responsibilities of rearing children are detrimental to a woman’s mental health. More specifically, the fundamental framework that seems to go visibly unnoticed, the endless tasks that mothers tackle day in and day out that are not measurable or tangible are creating this unhealthy realm - now commonly referred to as invisible labor.

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Researchers from Arizona State University and Oklahoma State University conducted a survey of 393 American women (married or in a committed partnership) with children under age 18. The sample included women predominantly from middle-upper-class homes who were highly educated, with over 70% having had, at a minimum, a college education. They examined to what extent did the phenomenon of invisible labor impact their well being.

Confronting invisible labor is actually a revolutionary step as the results revealed, plain and simple - a mother’s work is never done; subjecting women to carry the majority of a mental load. Women, who indicated they were in charge of the household experienced emotional debilitation, exhaustion and felt overwrought. Consequently, they have very little time for themselves. Scary Mommy voraciously illustrates how the invisible workload of motherhood is killing her. It’s candid, it’s real, it’s a story belonging to millions of supermoms.

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Caregiving tasks such as the family social and activity calendar, groceries, meal planning and preparation, managing carpools, chores, homework help, medical appointments, clothes shopping, essentials (toilet paper, toothpaste, first aid), sick days, snow days, haircuts, dog walking, mail pick up etc.) require cognitive and emotional effort and are examples of the invisible labor women selflessly have committed to and although the topic has been trending for some time now, the issue remains seemingly - invisible.

Families were asked specific questions about the allocation of household operations. As high as 9 in 10 women responded that they felt solely culpable for organizing schedules of the family - an extremely large percentage given 65% of the women were employed. At least 7 in 10 women noted they were also bound in other aspects of family routines, such as maintaining standards for routines and assigning household chores. The fact remains, even if both parents are employed regardless of their job status, women still manage the majority of household functions. "It's a tedious, exhausting task to always be captain of the ship," said study senior author Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University.



This typically leads to the assumption that women are ‘naturally’ inclined to spend their lives at home with their children. Lucia Ciciolla, assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University and first author on the study explains, "Women are beginning to recognize they still hold the mental burden of the household even if others share in the physical work, and that this mental burden can take a toll." “...there's no question that constant juggling and multi-tasking at home negatively affects mental health."

The daily grind extends past the seemingly superficial tasks to the rearing and caring for their children. Being vigilant of development; fostering both their physical and mental health, specifically creates a more substantial amount of distress in mothers. Essentially, two-thirds indicated it was they who were attentive to the children's emotional needs. Research in developmental science validates, that mothers being the first responders to stress can be very weighty and terrifying - making decisions and flying solo may actually worsen than improve a child’s happiness. As for mothers, this affliction augments displeasure in marriage and overall, in life.

This study strongly reveals just how far these results can amplify a child’s unhappiness. The most critical defense of children under stress is the well-being of the primary caregiver - who is most commonly the mother. Feeling nurtured and cared for themselves is pivotal for positive mental health and effective parenting. Ciciolla explains, "When mothers feel supported, they can have the emotional resources to cope well with the demands they face."

Addressing inequalities in invisible labor is the key to creating households that are more functional. Ciciolla adds it can also spare women mental gymnastics to find the space and time to care for themselves. It almost sounds, exhausting.


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