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Stress: Why do mums bear the brunt?

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It's Stress Week on The One Show and Michael Mosley is examining the ways in which stress can affect our daily lives.

See also: How stressed are you? Take our test.
See also: Watch our Stress Week videos.

According to a recent survey of 3,000 working mums, 93% felt under stress trying to balance work with raising a family. In the second film in this series, Michael went to meet Jo Oxtoby in Maidstone. She's a working mum who juggles her partner, her kids, her work and household chores.

Jo is clearly suffering from psychological stress, says Michael.

The cause? Stress expert Ann McCracken believes that Jo is putting herself under huge pressure by trying to do everything perfectly. The survey suggests that Jo is not alone. Many women cited feeling stressed about not having enough time to do everything they feel they need to do. They mentioned trying to live up to the role model of their own mothers or grandmothers, the generation who stayed at home and ran "dream homes".

Tips for working mums
1. Don't feel guilty!! Stress can be caused by exhaustion and guilt.
2. Talk to your employer. Surveys suggests that employers are being sympathetic to the needs of working mums.
3. Get support at home - prioritise and find time for yourself. The domestic workload can get out of hand. Ask for help, if it's all getting too much.

Why are mums feeling so stressed? Surely these days, dads do (or should do) as much work as their other halves? Or is it part of women's genetic make-up to feel the pressure of creating the perfect nest? Or maybe you believe that mums don't know the meaning of stress? Let us know your thoughts.


  • 1. At 7:33pm on 25 Nov 2008, mumronnie wrote:

    I would just like to comment on how i could really identify with the working mother in tonights show. Being a single parent of three teenagers and a seven year old and am also a bit of an obsessive about the house being tidy, I can relate totally to how she feels and how much she expects of herself. I would like to wish Jo good luck with her Social Work Degree,having just qualified myself this year, after three years at Southampton Solent University (and working part-time throughout the three years). Good Luck. It will be hard work and you will be under a lot of stress at times, but it is definitely worth the end result. I am now working 29 hours a week in a job that I love and am earning half decent money aswell.
    All the best!

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  • 2. At 7:45pm on 25 Nov 2008, Sauna-Nut wrote:

    Maybe if many of today's women/mothers weren't so bent in pursuing a career and the driving want to climb the social ladder, maybe they would not feel so stressed out.
    Also I wouldn't mind betting that many men in their normal state of mind would love to be the main breadwinner like our fathers and grandfathers were. At least they fulfilled a sense of purpose!

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  • 3. At 8:27pm on 25 Nov 2008, oswatcher wrote:

    Some women have no choice but to work. A man's wage is not enough always to pay all the bills. I would love my man to be the breadwinner. We both have to work to pay all the bills. (and of course the child care)

    Im a mother of two young children, a 4 year old and a 16 month old toddler: I have to work full time to make ends meet. I often get stressed out. I don't feel like there is enough time in a day.

    The choice of being a stay at home mum has been taken away from me and many other women. Therefore if a mum has no choice but to work, they might as well try to better themselves and pursue a career. I would like to be a stay at home mum and put my career on hold!!! I feel bitter that I don't have that luxury to be at home with my children.

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  • 4. At 8:28pm on 25 Nov 2008, virtualblingqueen wrote:

    I too can relate to the working mum on tonights show. It is very hard to pull everything together when you go to work every day, plus have 2 kids and a hubby who works away! It isn't a question of climbing the social ladder - it is a question of necessity in going to work and looking after your family and home!

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  • 5. At 10:16pm on 25 Nov 2008, desperatewives wrote:

    Woman always push them selves harder than any man I know.

    As a working mum of 3 and wife of a husband whose business has gone down the tube due to this credit crunch my stress levels are reaching great heights.

    However I can remain positive I still have my job for the moment!! My kids are my sanity. We have never lived beyond our means so we will survive.

    But I do feel that I am the one expected to hold it all together for all of us!!

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  • 6. At 10:18pm on 25 Nov 2008, Penspets wrote:

    I am mum of 3, I work 28 hrs a week I am a police officer.My husband works shifts so I am very often the only parent at home in the evening, and nearly everyweekend. My eldest son does Rugby and Karate, my middle son Dances 3 nights a week and plays rugby. We have activities after school everynight and every Sunday. My youngest on ly does half days at school so he is at home in the afternoon.
    We have 3 dogs a cat and a variety of other pets in the house, plus one of my dogs has just had puppies bringing the total to 10.
    I like my house to be immaculate and my children to be smart and well behaved. I do their homework with them everynight as well as ensuring they eat a healthy well balanced diet of freshly cooked food.
    Funnily enough I scored as extreme on your stress test.
    I know I bring a lot of stress on myself by being the way I am but I want the best for my children and I don't see that I could do anything very differently.

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  • 7. At 12:30pm on 27 Nov 2008, supabikerpete wrote:

    Goodness! I've just taken your stress test. The result was at the extreme level. Now I am stressed big time!

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  • 8. At 7:22pm on 27 Nov 2008, JaneR66 wrote:

    I'm a full time working single mum with one child, aged 9 and I am definitely stressed. Trying to juggle a career with spending time with my son is very difficult. Luckily I don't worry about the house being tidy - my mum comes and cleans it twice a week!! But I've never been bothered about the house anyway - it's a home, not a show house! Trying to get some time for myself is almost impossible - but then I work an average of 50 hours a week, including travelling. I used to go to the gym, but I no longer have the time. I batch cook at the weekend so that I have meals ready for during the week, which means decent meals, but again, no time for relaxation at the weekend. As for the person who thinks women should stay at home rather than pursue a career - I'm afraid they are living in fantasy land. It's not often that a man earns enough on his own to allow that luxury, often men earn the same or even less than their partners and some just can't be bothered to work at all! And what about us single mums? What are we supposed to do? Sit at home on the dole? Surely we are better to get out there an earn a living.

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  • 9. At 8:56pm on 27 Nov 2008, valiantkate wrote:

    I totally agree with many of your comments- it's so difficult trying to be a great Mum, wife, and employee- I don't think some of the images we see in the media are helpful as they portray this 'super' woman who also looks fab . I feel that I'm doing OK but lately I know I've been really short tempered with everyone and I feel guilty about that- hey ho, I'd love a holiday and a rest- feel so very 'flat', it may sound silly but I don't even sing to music on the radio anymore- I think the 'super' has left me!! Hope I get it back sometime soon. Cheerio for now!

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