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There are plenty of sources of guilt out there for working parents. One way to mitigate some of the guilt of a tight schedule at work is to carry a smartphone, hook up a VPN, and get some work done in the evenings (and the mornings and the weekends), right? Not so fast, apparently. A new study has found that for women, such communications technologies can promote even more guilt. The study:
... found that women who were contacted frequently by supervisors, coworkers, or clients reported higher levels of psychological distress. In contrast, men who received frequent work-related contact outside of normal work hours were less affected by it.
Unfortunately, I have to say that this resonates with me.
And I do feel guilty. Constantly guilty. Work pings and task reminders and updates and problems and challenges and small fires that need putting out are a constant -- constantly reminding me of how I'm constantly behind. The only real faint consolation I have is that this was true long before I had a child. Now that I have a child, I just get double the guilt. I get to feel like I suck at work, and I suck as a parent, and I suck at household management. A three-fer! I'm apparently not alone:
We found that women are able to juggle their work and family lives just as well as men, but they feel more guilty as a result of being contacted. This guilt seems to be at the heart of their distress."
The findings show that many women feel guilty dealing with work issues at home even when the work-related contact doesn't interfere with their family lives. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to experience guilt when responding to work-related issues at home.
Co-author Scott Schieman says the findings suggest that men and women may still encounter different expectations over the boundaries separating work and family life -- and these different expectations may have unique emotional consequences.
I have some issues with how the study is framed--at least in the media coverage--as it suggests that it is each individual woman's own fault for giving in to these societal expectations. As I've written before, nothing is ever that simple. However, I don't expect societal solutions anytime soon. So, for my own part, I don't know how I'm going to get out of the rut of constant self-recrimination. I have some vague ideas (but no time). Hmm.
NB: I recognize the article focuses on guilt related to family obligations imposed by being tethered to work. But I somehow manage to have guilt related to all of it and for me right now work is the bigger stressor and guilt-inducer and misery-maker.