By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst / The Mother List
As a mother of three, Katrina Alcorn was determined to make it all work. “I was a poster child for ‘leaning in, ’ ” she says in her TEDx Talk. “I had a supportive husband. I was taking care of three children and had a fabulous job as a creative director at one of the best web design firms in San Francisco.”
But beneath the surface, her stress levels were building.
She says she became “hyper-efficient.” “I pumped breast milk in conference rooms while editing business proposals. I ate dinner standing up while washing dishes. I learned to prioritize, to delegate, negotiate, and — when needed — to give up things like seeing my friends or having alone time with my husband, and the hardest of all – sleep.”
After her third child arrived, she developed insomnia, panic attacks, and then a black depression. One day, she simply stopped in her tracks.
“I went home sick one day, and I just never went back, not even to clean off my desk. I had completely burned out, ” she recalls.
She started a blog and heard from professional women all over who said they suffered, too. Just like her – they were maxed out trying to work and take care of families.
America may be the most hostile country in the developed world for working parents of all income levels, Alcorn points out. On one hand, low-income parents often deal with rigid schedules, lack of affordable childcare, and no paid time off. Meanwhile, professionals are expected to work grueling hours, travel for business and never unplug. We experience this problem in different ways, but the result is the same: chronic stress.
In the 1950s, families could thrive on one income, she says, but that’s not the case anymore. “We’re expected to do our jobs as if we don’t have families, and raise our families as if we don’t have jobs, ” she says. “Something has to give. It’s time for society to lean into parenting.”
Solutions include policymakers supporting paid parental leave and paid sick leave, and supporting affordable childcare. Companies need to provide both mothers and fathers with flexible options: telecommuting, job shares and part-time opportunities. Such arrangements decrease turnover and increase productivity. It’s not just good for parents’ health, it’s good for a company’s bottom line.
The learn more about Katrina Alcorn and her own experience, read her memoir: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink.
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