By Bunmi Sofola
“I eagerly look forward to getting into my office each day,” confesses Adaora, a 46-year-old brands director of a pharmaceutical company.
“Being at home can be very stressful. The house is usually in chaos, thanks to three teenage children. Also juggling the kids’ constant demands with mountains of washing and other house work is exhausting.
Work is the one time when I get to put on killer heels and lipstick and feel like myself again. I worked very hard over many years to build a successful career, and I’m appreciated for my knowledge and skills.
My days are hectic, but I couldn’t be without my job. It is a sort of blissful antidote to the frenzied activity at home.”
For Adaora, it is the office rather than home that is a refuge – work is where she feels valued and less anxious, and can escape the stress of meeting her children’s needs and endless cycle of cooking and cleaning. And she’s far from alone.
Thanks to availability of domestic help, more and more women now feel content in the workplace than at home. Women’s earning power these days are equally as good as most men’s. They also shoulder more of the domestic burden than most men.
“Women are doing more than ever,” observes Dr. Fin Williams, a psychologist. “Statistics show that they do nearly twice as much work in the home, including children and domestic chores, even when both work full time. That can be very stressful.
“Women are having children later in life, which means they’ve often built a successful career before hand and can find being at home with children more difficult. They’re also having their children closer together.
They’re less likely to live near extended family too, so the community support they’d once have relief on isn’t there. All these factors add up to increased stress in the home. As a result, women can find going to work restorative, as it gives them space to think and the chance to be challenged in another way.”
Continues Adaora: “Work is crucial to my mental well-being. I was a high-flying career woman when I had my first child 16 years ago and the other two followed within the next four years.
“There’s only 22 months between my last two children and taking care of the children was very difficult. With my last baby, I was in-between jobs and had decided to look for a new one after I got him fixed with proper nursery care. Six months after the birth, I started feeling restless and depressed.
I felt isolated and lonely with chattering kids to look after. Like any mother, my sole role was to meet their needs – and this never stopped. I was permanently exhausted. I also began to feel I’d lost my identity which had been very tied up with my career. I was desperate to get back to work to regain my sense of identity and to do something that was just for me.
“To make things completed, my husband was working long hours as a director in an advertising company – a stressful job, and I found it very very difficult to be supportive when he arrived home in the evening. All I wanted to do was sleep and I had to battle not to be grumpy and resentful that he’d had such an interesting day. As to be expected, my unhappiness took its toll on our marriage.
“A lot of tension was taken off me when I landed my current job and became relevant again in the work force. Sadly, our marriage didn’t survive the stress created by our jobs and we separated over three years ago. Technically we’re still married. I have the children and I’m lucky to have reliable helps. The kids are all in their teens, so don’t need to be corseted all of the time – leaving me a lot of freedom to excel in my job. We’re all much happier now that I’m working, even though I’m a single mum, it is tough. But it’s the best for everyone, children pick up on their parents’ moods, and I’m much more content now and less stressed. My kids know that when I’m with them, that time is completely theirs, and I find it much easier to be totally devoted to them as I have time for myself at work.”