World Mental Health Day

Peace at Home October 7, 2022 | Ruth Freeman

World Mental Health Day is October 10th and the theme for 2022 is “Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority.” 

What does this mean for working parents?   Consider this dilemma:

“The “ideal worker” is an employee who is completely devoted to their job, works long hours, and relies on someone else to take care of family responsibilities. Ideal workers stay late at the office, check email at all hours, rarely take time away from work, and get rewarded for it. The “good mother” is the polar opposite: completely devoted to her family, she prioritizes caring for her children over paid work. Because she is emotionally absorbed by the needs of her children, she is seen as distracted and unreliable at work and gets dinged for it. The ideal worker and the good mother are ideologically incompatible. You can be one or the other. There is no space to be both.” -Marianne Cooper, “The Atlantic,” October 2021

First, let’s note that this issue is not only true for mothers. Fathers are far more involved in caring for children than ever and the struggle with balancing work and family is not limited to mothers. Second, it’s impossible to be an ideal anything, and striving for that goal is a significant cause of mental health problems in itself. 

Last May, Ohio State University released a report describing “parental burnout” among 66% of working parents including “more mental health concerns and punitive behavior toward children.” In the context of the pediatric mental health crisis, working parents are facing monumental challenges with no end in sight. When anxious 10-year-olds become teenagers, the problems tend to expand significantly.

So what can you do about world mental health? Start with your world. If you are a working parent, you may want to talk out loud about the myth of work-life balance and seek solutions among your peers and leaders at work. Does your company have an Employee Resource Group that focuses on parents in the workplace? Check in with them and learn about their agenda. Share your views and challenges. If such a group doesn’t exist in your workplace, talk with a few fellow parents and think about starting one. If your own “parental burnout” leaves little energy for such activities, then talk with at least one colleague or manager, or leader who you trust. Start a conversation about the lives of working parents as an intersectionality and look for solutions. Most importantly, don’t go it alone. The mental health of working parents is at risk and leaning on relationships in your personal life and the workplace to find comfort and connection is life-saving for both you and your children. 

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