| Exhausted Mothers |
Eve, Nicole, Daniela, Kristen and Stephanie have been in treatment for ten days at this wellness clinic in Bad Wurzach. They had waited for a long time before, because it was hard to find a bed here, and all the beds are now full.
The mother’s rehabilitation facility has 73 nursing clinics that can treat tens of thousands of women at the same time. Today, the demand for this has doubled. In Germany, there are 8 million mothers with at least one minor child, and about a quarter of them need treatment.
These women walk into the clinic exhausted, anxious, fearful, stressed out, suffering from depression, arthritis, disc damage, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, bronchitis, asthma, high blood pressure, neurodermatitis, Psoriasis, migraines, or sleep disturbances.
For many women, housework and work have become more onerous during the pandemic. They don’t have the time and space of their own to take care of their own needs. In January 2022, a survey by the Institute of Economic and Social Sciences of the German Trade Union Confederation showed that 67% of mothers said they did most of the childcare work, and 20% had to reduce their working hours as a result. In fact, their working hours have only increased since the pandemic began during the first strict lockdown in April 2020. In contrast, only 6 percent of fathers worked less hours to care for their children. In the early days of the outbreak, half of working mothers with children under the age of 14 put off at least part of their work until evenings or weekends, according to the German Institute for Labour Market and Vocational Research.
Data from a public health insurer in Germany showed that the number of sick days taken for mental illness peaked in 2020, and that the increase was mainly among women. In a survey by the Federal Institute for Population Research, 54 percent of mothers said they were stressed. Other studies and surveys have also shown that mothers are reaching their limits. Before the outbreak began, many mothers were already overwhelmed, and their satisfaction with life has continued to decline over the past two years.
Some of their children are still affected by the consequences of living in isolation and remote teaching, and these women are exhausted by the chaos of working from home, childcare, housework and homeschooling. During the first lockdown, about 43% of mothers with children under the age of 16 felt depressed and hopeless at least once or twice a week. For fathers, the ratio is 25%.
Of course, there are fathers who suffer too. What we’re going to talk about next may make some fathers feel aggrieved, such as those who have to interrupt their office work immediately to pick up their children when the kindergarten has to close due to staff shortages, and spend a lot of time with their children to see the doctor fathers who not only know what their children love to eat, but also often cook them.
They won’t see what their home life and partner look like in this article. They will think that they too are tired and sometimes feel more stressed than they can handle, and take on chores of one kind or another, but they don’t complain. However, great fathers like this are only a few.
The days of working from home have indeed changed the distribution of chores in some families: fathers are starting to fold clothes and are more responsive than ever to their children, and many fathers are realizing for the first time how much time and effort parenting and chores take. Our impression is that today’s young couples are mostly willing to distribute housework more equitably than their predecessors, however, the findings of the survey are quite different.
Percentage of men and women who claimed to be primarily responsible for housework or childcare during Germany’s first lockdown
In a survey conducted by market research firm Ipsos for the Bertelsmann Foundation, 69 percent of women said they did most of the housework during the first lockdown of 2020. For men, this figure is only 11%. Problems with childcare and homeschooling are similar. Half of mothers believe they should be responsible, compared to 15% of fathers. Figures from the Federal Institute for Population Research show that if the youngest child is under the age of 12, mothers spend eight to 10 hours a day caring for their children, compared with four to six hours a day for fathers.
It’s not just that men generally earn more, or that their jobs keep them from taking care of their families. The pandemic has made it clear to us that being a mother means being on call at all times, and that many women are still playing the roles they were women hundreds of years ago. Even when they feel pain, they are often silent. They rarely seek help and often hide their seeking treatment from acquaintances.
Children staying at home during the pandemic
In Germany, the traditional division of roles still reigns: the role of mother is an innate mission, mothering is a work of love, and in the process, no complaints. If women groan, they are considered too sensitive and vulnerable and like to cry, which also leads to their demands not being taken seriously.
And society depends on their care work. According to a survey by the Federal Statistics Office, all the time women spend on chores, family, neighbours and friends is worth around 500 billion euros. Although this set of data is from 2013 and there are currently no updated data, it is certain that the corresponding data during the new crown epidemic will only be significantly higher, and neither child allowances nor other tax cuts can offset the mothers’ efforts. The work they undertake is taken for granted and unpaid.
The city of Bad Wurzach is located in the Allgäu Mountains, on the edge of a moorland of grasslands, fields and gently rolling hills, with a castle, a peat museum and a classicist church. The health clinic is a two-story building with long corridors and wide stripes of yellow, orange and ochre on the walls, warm colors that make people feel comfortable. There are two doctors’ offices, a “silent room” and a lounge corner with brown leather sofa chairs. There are bookshelves and a TV in the common room, as well as a fully automatic coffee machine, and cappuccinos cost one euro. Women live in single rooms. They have been reluctant to admit for a long time that they have worn down their bodies excessively until they are exhausted and can no longer continue. Five of them shared their experiences.
| Eve |
Eve, who teaches information technology at a vocational school, has a 21-year-old daughter who is in college and an 18-year-old son who graduated high school a year ago. She said life at home during the lockdown has overwhelmed her.
On the one hand are her children. The daughter likes to text or browse photo websites while taking the big video class, while the son takes the online class in bed. Their sluggishness was driving Eve crazy, and she had to push them all the time. She said that it was only at the expense of her that they could be comfortable. Her two children asked her what she wanted to do with their own lives. Eve remembers her reply: “Yes, but it’s my responsibility.”
Percentage of current employees feeling stressed during the pandemic
Source: Kantar poll, over 6,100 respondents
On the other hand is her class. She knew what was going on with the students at home, she only had to look at her own children to understand. She asked a student to answer a question, but got no response, after which the student said he had gone to the bathroom. Maybe it’s true, but most likely it’s not at all. One girl said she had to ask for leave because of a nosebleed, and another said she would take an emergency call she had been waiting for for a long time.
Her husband sat across from her while she lectured. He also works from home. She could hear him calling, and he could hear her talking to the students. She works with two screens open: one to share material for the class and another to answer student questions. She wanted to motivate her students to better prepare for the exam, but felt powerless.
Before the epidemic, every winter, the family would clean the house together on Thursday nights, and on Fridays would drive the RV to go skiing, get some fresh air, exercise, and relax and talk about the past week, all of which were closed. The city turned into a bubble.
Eve said: “I originally thought that when the epidemic came, I had to better assume my role, whether it was a teacher or a mother.” It has always been very important to her that “everything is under control”. During the lockdown, she practiced hygiene more thoroughly than before, often getting up at night to iron her clothes when she couldn’t sleep. In the past, it was usually the son who used the vacuum cleaner to clean and throw away the garbage, but now she has started doing these too, because she wants her son to study hard and prepare for the graduation exam better.
However, she suddenly became unable to concentrate. One day in March 2021, she sat in front of her computer and greeted students, uploaded teaching materials, and said, “I don’t know what to say now.” She turned off the camera and cried.
Sociologist Francesca Schutzbach, author of “Women’s Burnout,” said: “Women are given ‘full responsibility’. In the times we live in, women’s liberation wears an ugly Masks. Women achieve a lot, get into leadership, can go into politics, can love what they love, can have abortions, and have their own channels on video sites. Still, to be as successful as men, the amount of work women need to endure Still at least twice as many as men. They have to be role models at work, at home, and in parenting. If a woman is perfect as a mother, housewife, working employee, unpaid worker, wife and caregiver for family members, on the one hand she will A lot of praise, which would have prompted her to intensify her self-exploitation in this way, and eventually even collapse, and on the other hand, because of the large amount of unpaid labor, her financial situation tended to be worse in old age.”
Still a minor . of young girls already believe in the principle of “total responsibility”. They think that modern girls should be all-powerful: independent, sexy, enterprising, gentle and considerate, caring for the family, and strong in empathy. “It’s like some kind of sow that lays eggs, produces wool, and milks,” Schutzbach said.
| Nicole |
When she first entered the nursing clinic, Nicole paced back and forth in her single room like a tiger trapped in a bird cage. She watches TV shows online by herself and doesn’t want to have anything to do with other women. She was thinking about her children’s schedule: “I’m going to see the oral and maxillofacial surgeon tomorrow afternoon, I hope they’ll think about it at home.” A few days later, she went to the common room with a cup of tea and waited for someone to sit down . Before long she was asked: “Where are you from? What happened?”
Living in the Rhineland, working 30 hours a week, she was separated from her child’s father and had a new partner in eight years. Her 14-year-old son is more introverted; her 17-year-old daughter likes to contradict her, deliberately provoke her, and is aggressive. Nicole said she knew puberty might be like that, but she felt the children’s behavior drained her energy. No matter what meal she made, they didn’t like it. When she came home from get off work, there were unwashed dishes and chopsticks in the sink, and there was a mess everywhere. During the lockdown, children wandered around in their pajamas all day, not studying at all, she said.
Her new partner, a salesman, thinks she can’t educate her own children, and he never cares about stepchildren. At night, if he saw Nicole sitting on the couch, he would say, “What? You have time to sit in front of the TV now.” She said she never learned to ask for support. Being in line with other mothers, having to meet certain expectations, was always stressful: a child’s birthday had to be celebrated, a show, and invitations made. “I’m the only one in my family doing these things. Everything I do is taken for granted,” she said. “My partner said I was always over-stressing myself, and when I heard that, I started yelling. ”
In the nursing home, Nicole and others ate at a table, separated from each other by plexiglass panels, and many places read “For your safety and everyone’s safety, please keep your distance.” Nicole said she couldn’t remember the last time someone prepared a meal for her and she wasn’t responsible for anyone or anything, and when was the time. Here, she thought a lot and began to doubt her life plan.
”I don’t know if my partner is treating me well,” she said, “and I don’t know if my child is treating me well.” Before the treatment, she was afraid to say such things. Recently, she sat down with a woman and talked about the rest of her life—they’re leaving in nine days. The woman said she did not miss her husband and children. “I think so, too,” she said.
Most mothers are afraid of being considered bad mothers. “If a woman is perceived as a bad mother, she is blamed for everything that goes wrong with the child,” Schutzbach said. Mothers feel that they cannot be perfect and feel overly demanded, which leads to a lack of self-worth and a lack of self-worth. Guilt, shame, and depression.
Women with children have been stressed for generations, but the problem has gotten worse in recent years, family researchers say. Almost everything in the family revolves around the needs and interests of the children, not the parents, who are “reduced” to waiters.
Fathers suffer, too, but they tend to fare much better in public opinion than mothers. “After a divorce, a father can be socially acceptable if he only schedules one weekend every two weeks to see his children,” Schutzbach said, “but if a mother does that, she’s quickly labeled as such. ‘Work-only, cold-blooded, hard-hearted’ label.”
Daniela, from the Ruhr region, is an intensive care nurse who has also taken care of Covid-19 patients. Her work is very hard, sometimes she doesn’t have time to eat and drink, and running around in protective clothing makes her very tired. Still, she sometimes prefers to go to work rather than stay at home, because at work she feels needed and at home she always feels unfulfilled.
Her son is six, her husband is in training to change careers, and her mother-in-law has cancer. She finished the morning shift from 6:00 to 14:00, went to the hospital to see her mother-in-law, took home the dirty clothes, went shopping, and often got home around 7:00 in the evening. Her son wanted to play with her, but she was exhausted and just wanted to lie down on the sofa. Her husband felt she should cheer up for the child. Usually, the husband is in charge of cooking and the two do laundry together. Daniella felt that her husband couldn’t fold underwear. “I felt like I was in charge of everything. I thought, if I don’t do it, no one will do it. If someone does it, it’s not right because only I know how to do it,” Daniella said.
| Christine |
Christine is a stay-at-home mom to her 14-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, and her husband works in the information technology industry. Christine’s daughter, who had not been to school for months, complained of stomach pains and tried to commit suicide. She guessed that her daughter was bullied by her classmates, but she also believed that her daughter’s misfortune was caused by her. She said: “My daughter needs to be treated, but there is no place to receive new patients during the epidemic. As long as the child is not good, mothers will think it is their own problem.” After arriving at the nursing clinic, she found peace, but How long can this last? She is likely to return to her old life.
But even if a woman works full-time, her time for housework is generally not reduced. According to the survey, women without children spend twice as much time per day on household chores as their husbands, while for couples with young children up to the age of six, fathers spend an average of 47 hours ironing, cleaning, cooking and educating their children. minutes, mothers averaged 2 hours and 23 minutes, both on weekdays and weekends. Even though women are the main source of household income, they still mostly do more ironing, cleaning, cooking and educating children than men.
Percentage of mothers and fathers who say they have reduced their working hours because of childcare
Source: Kantar Poll, January 2022, 6,419 respondents
Also incalculable is the mental burden, the stress that comes with tedious parenting and household chores. “Even if it’s the father who flushes the toilet, a lot of mothers are just on the sidelines,” Schutzbach said, “but they have to take care of everything, and they have to think about the kids’ birthdays coming up, going to the doctor, and running out of food in the fridge. , to restock. If they can’t, they’ll be considered ‘bad moms.'” The
traditional division of gender roles won’t go away on its own, partly because our society still lacks institutions that encourage parents to divide their labor equally:18 The parents of % of primary school students cannot keep their children in school for as long as needed, and the nursing time provided by kindergartens is often too short, especially for children under the age of three.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 75% of German women with children under the age of 12 said they did the vast majority of childcare work in the first year of the pandemic; only Turkey among OECD countries had a higher percentage High, at 76.6%; by contrast, this figure in Israel is only 44.4%.
Schutzbach believes that family political reform has been unable to advance because unpaid care is extremely beneficial to social development. “Our society cannot continue to develop without mothers taking responsibility,” she said. “The more you think women should take on these tasks, the better. Instead of seeing this type of work as hard labor, it’s a statement that women are born to love They don’t have to be paid, or very little, to do these jobs. Caregivers and educators can feel this too. Our capital-rigged system insists that care is the best way to be free Moral duty to fulfill.” It’s
not just social institutions and men who don’t want to share that make life difficult for mothers, they themselves contribute to it. A 2017 study by the Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences found that mothers rarely let their sons help with household chores. Some studies have concluded that women’s multiple stressors are self-inflicted: They don’t assign tasks and suffer from outcomes that don’t meet their expectations. Some men criticized women for not being relaxed enough or prone to hysteria, saying they took housework too seriously. Their indifference is actually a show of power, which not only devalues the work women undertake, but also allows them to escape the burden of household chores. In addition, girls are taught from an early age to do cleaning and care to a higher standard, and they behave like their mothers.
| Stephanie |
During the epidemic, Stephanie was exhausted and always out of control. She couldn’t help but yell at her triplets, who were less than three years old. One day, her mother called to say she had lost her way. Stephanie has since added another elderly woman with dementia to her life.
Stephanie felt exhausted, depressed, tinnitus from time to time and unable to concentrate. Because of this, she came to the convalescent clinic. She lives in Hesse and her husband is a craftsman. After the baby was born, she started working half a day in the marketing department of a large company. She was hesitant about it, because she had been working full-time, but kindergarten closed too early, and during the epidemic, she never knew if the children would be sent home because they were suspected of being sick.
One morning, Stephanie was on the phone in her office to deal with her mother’s nursing home placement, and the boss told her that she should make such calls after get off work. She could have taken time off to deal with these things, but she needs to spend it on days when her child won’t be able to go to kindergarten. She went to visit her mother in a nursing home, and the old woman said she was scared because someone was going to drag her away. Stephanie comforted her, but when the carer asked her if she could visit often, she could only answer that she didn’t have time. She felt like an incompetent mother and a terrible daughter. She has read stories on social networking sites of mothers who are still doing well after leaving their husbands. She wondered if she should do it too.
Stefani cried for five minutes at the first gas station she passed by while driving to the nursing clinic. In Thursday’s “Energy Management” discussion class, 20 weary women pondered how they could live their daily lives without breaking down. She jotted down her thoughts: “Why can’t there be an aid agency to support sick children, a national full-time, full-time child care service for all ages?” She said mothers should be paid for their care, according to Children’s age is billed by the hour.
Schutzbach recommends that families visualize this workload, creating tables that write down who cleans the bathroom and how long it takes, who cooks, does shopping, and reads to their children. Also, consider the amount of mental burden each person is carrying: Who is responsible for sending out contact information before the child’s birthday party? Who should reply to messages in the school chat group on a daily basis?
Organizing such a table can make family life more relaxed. The father takes the kids for a swim, and it’s nothing. When he packs the toiletries for everyone, packs up after the swim, washes off the wet swimsuit and hangs it to dry, and hangs the bag back in place, he’s done. Swimming makes people hungry, and hungry children will no longer have energy.
Many mothers are looking for ways to unwind, yet yoga classes, fitness and even annual leave are clearly not lasting enough. In 2021, about half of Germans will feel tired within a few days of their vacation, according to a survey by a pollster. Forty-two percent of women said a mountain of chores would soon make them feel like they never took a vacation, compared to 21 percent of men.
”This problem cannot be solved on its own,” Schutzbach said. “In fact, calling for a better work-life balance often leads to additional stress that makes it more exhausting, since you probably don’t have the time to spread it out. Your own yoga mat.”
If both parents were obligated to give up full-time and part-time jobs for the family, the division of childcare and household chores might slowly become fairer, Schutzbach said. And to be truly fair, it has to be when the labor for the family is paid for.
Years ago, sociology professor Frigga Hauge envisioned a model for a good life — an equal distribution of time for four things: time for work, time for family and friends, time for political and social responsibility, time for Time for yourself and your own growth. A person is awake for about 16 hours a day, with 4 hours allocated to each area. In Germany, so far, this kind of thinking is still utopian. Many people may not feel happy even if they have a lot of time for themselves. After all, work can bring people so much sense of accomplishment. Want to continue working overtime after working hours.
Martin Bougard, of the Federal Institute for Population Research, said we must prevent the “specialization trap” that mostly occurs naturally in a child’s first year of life. “The mother breastfeeds, cares for the baby, the father provides support, maybe two months of paternity leave. But, overall, he doesn’t have enough opportunities to develop his parenting skills,” Bougard said. “That’s how traditional roles are divided. It quietly appeared, even if a couple didn’t plan to do this before, just because women did more of these things, and it ended up happening naturally.”
Bougard suggested that from the first day the child is born, it is necessary to consciously control this matter. , “Men must be more involved in childcare from the start, earning enough parenting opportunities, just as women fought for equal employment rights. The labor market has to change for this. We need to have part-time jobs for women and men, parents It must be possible to temporarily attend 60%, 70%, 80% or 90% of the normal working hours according to the age of the child, and it must not affect their professional development.”
Bougaard said that we must emphasize the impression that parenting is not a burden, but is opportunity. In this way, men who take on too little parenting work can end up being discriminated against because they lack the time to engage with their children in depth and the opportunity for emotional fulfillment.