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Women And Their Multiple Roles
Exhaustion or enrichment?
Exhaustion or enrichment?
6 am the alarm clock sounds, Mary gets up to prepare the lunches that her children will take to school. 6:30 am she wakes them up, prepares breakfast, makes sure they have their backpacks ready, with swimming clothes for the afternoon, that John does not forget to take the cardboard for plastic and that Sophie takes the authorization to go to her friend’s house after class. Once ready, she accompanies them to the door with all the luggage to wait for another mother to pick them up to take them to school. Then Mary lifts and washes the breakfast rates, makes the beds, takes a quick shower, dresses and leaves for her job remembering to bring her notebook and her bag with her clothes to go to the gym at noon. Intense working day, two call conferences with Brazil and problems with clients. Luckily in the afternoon her husband leaves earlier from work and can pick up John at school, then Mary takes the opportunity to go to see her mother who lives alone and broke an ankle. Mary passes by the supermarket and buys food for her mother. While chatting with her she leaves something ready for dinner. Then she goes to pick Sophie up from her friend’s house and they go home. When she arrives she opens the refrigerator and realizes that she forgot to buy food for dinner. At the same time, john says: “Ma, what’s there to eat? … I’m hungry.”
Although this scene does not represent 100% of women and today men participate in many of these responsibilities, domestic and childcare tasks, as well as elder care is still mostly in charge of women.
Now, these multiple roles produce exhaustion, stress, compete with each other for energy and time? The theory of role scarcity considers that each person has a determined amount of energy to use. Therefore, if a person takes time and energy from a role – for example, taking care of children – it detracts from another role – that of worker -. From this perspective, the conflict between roles is inevitable and is associated with stress symptoms.
Another look on the multiple roles
The theory of role accumulation suggests that the commitment to participate in different roles can create benefits. Some time ago, authors like Marks and Sieber argued that multiple roles give energy and resources instead of taking them away. Resources created by participating in a role can be used in other roles. This view considers that energy and time are resources that can be shared, included and transferred, instead of being fixed and limited. For example, by helping her mother who lives alone and taking care of her children daily, Mary feels satisfaction, increases her self-confidence and develops interpersonal skills. These emotions and resources developed can be used in other roles to be played, such as work. In turn, self-confidence and well-being will serve as buffers before difficulties she may face in her everyday life, such as a problem with a customer.
This perspective does not deny the existence of the exhaustion and stress that role overload can produce, but it emphasizes the benefits that are often overlooked.
What can organizations do?
Many companies take into account the benefits of having women committed to multiple roles and some suggest avoiding the sharp division between “work mode” and “home mode”. Instead they encourage “bring your whole self to work”. Nevertheless, continue looking for specific programs and policies that collaborate with the development of women’s careers, as well as their personal / family lives, is still necessary.
Women’s Wellbeing Programs provide specialized advice both for women who feel overburdened by multiple roles and for those who feel satisfied, but still want to maximize their resources to continue developing as individuals and workers.
By Andrea Lardani