The to-do list of all parents is endless and always growing. It’s, arguably, even longer when you’re a working parent, juggling the needs of the family with the needs of a boss. Or, if you’re a business owner, you’re also dealing with the stress of running your own company and/or staff.
It’s no surprise that studies show working parents are feeling more stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed and pushed to their limits.
A recent survey by Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) found an increase in stress for families juggling competing priorities. The HILDA Survey found that while men reported higher levels of "work-family conflict" the number of women in full-time work reporting this stress has risen.
Working mums now claim to have the highest level of tension as they struggle to balance family life with work.
On top of this, working mums are also struggling with the physical load of a myriad of unpaid chores, coupled with the mental load of having to manage their families’ schedules. Is it any wonder they are absolutely exhausted?
To feel on top of the family schedule, most parents have tried everything from reorganising their computer’s task section, to experimenting with various apps on their phones, trying to clear up the endless trail of unread emails and struggling to sleep each night, plagued with worry that they didn’t get enough done during the day.
It’s clear that many parents can barely keep up with the demands of their children’s lives, which includes multiple activities both within and outside school hours.
At the end of the day, parents are left feeling that there are so many demands placed on their shoulders, it feels impossible to keep up and that’s when “overwhelm stress” starts to take over their lives.
Here is a small example of the things parents have tried in a bid to manage their lives:
“We had a whiteboard at home so the kids and other carers had visibility...this was hard to maintain and keep updated so I gave up.”
“I used a family app but still had to go through everything and enter it into the calendar.”
“I paid my oldest daughter to be a secretary.”
“I used to print out everything and keep it in a folder but I just don’t have the time.”
And, because parents are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the demands of juggling their own work as well as their child’s activities, it means schools get caught up in extra administration issues. It’s not surprising that many school leaders are stuck in a situation where they have less time and yet an increased workload - this is their biggest challenge. The Educator’s latest “2020 Education Report” has revealed many school leaders are struggling with “getting basic tasks done.” One of the most pressing aspects of a principal’s job is not only having to manage parent and community expectations, but they are also dealing with unrealistic expectations and aggressive behaviour from parents. 82 percent report that improving communication between teachers, students and parents is challenging.
School communication has become a vicious cycle. First, there’s an explosion of digital communications; information is now fragmented across a variety of channels, such as email, apps, portals and websites. This results in parents having to manually check, filter and record their events and tasks from the multiple channels for each of the schools that parents must deal with - along with the multiple activities that their children enjoy.
Parents are already highly stressed and, because they are overwhelmed, they lean heavily on the schools, sucking up their resources. And the school's communication is imperfect because it exists in a fragmented way across a variety of channels.
According to Michelle Forster, CEO myWhānau, what adds to the stress is that the actual process of managing a families’ schedule is manual and error prone.
“Today parents have more places they need to track, which is made more difficult by the current process being so manual and labour intensive – it is very overwhelming. Parents struggle to keep on top of everything so they frequently have to rely on the school for assistance, which leads to valuable staff resources spending more time on admin.”
“Schools then increase communication to help and reduce their admin burden, but this only makes matters worse, as it just increases the volume of what parents are required to read, filter and keep track of. When all of this is coupled with a parents’ own work, the stress multiplies. So, it’s a vicious cycle that simply leads to more emotional and physical fatigue.”
Michelle, a mother of three, was working 60 hours a week in a corporate role but found she would “burn out” every two-three years.
“I thought it was because I couldn't hack it. I was wrong; part of it was the mental load of managing my family's responsibilities as well as working long hours in my corporate role. When I felt out of control, I stressed more,” Michelle says.
“That’s why I developed the first Family Calendar Assistant: myWhānau. Our virtual assistants pull together from multiple channels, like emails, portals and apps the family's school and activity events as well as parent tasks and adds this to their calendar, along with deadlines and reminders. Parents have all the details they need in one place. They stress less and also claim they are now more productive at work thanks to the Family Calendar Assistant.”
“In response to the challenges facing schools and parents, we have also developed the first free School Calendar Assistant. This is similar to the Family Calendar Assistant but it works by pulling only school events and parent tasks into the parent’s calendar.”
Michelle believes it is normal to feel overwhelmed when you have so many demands, not just for parents but for the school staff, because we can only juggle so much.
“But when you have all the answers literally at your fingertips, myWhānau takes away a huge amount of pressure and that, in turn, translates to less pressure on the schools. When we are properly organised and on top of our families’ commitments with such little effort, our lives are much easier and we are less stressed, it’s as simple as that!”