So much to do and so little time. Sound familiar? You’re not alone!
The thing is, we all have the same 24 hours in a day, even though sometimes we wish we had many, many more. The issues come when we choose how we are going to spend them.
‘Spend’ is the interesting word here. Have you noticed we use the word spend when we talk about how we divide our time up each day. Usually the word ‘spend’ is more associated with money, something else we wish we had more of from time to time!
Us women always seem to be performing some kind of balancing act as we struggle to fit our home and work lives into each busy day. Just like our finances can be eaten up by daily expenses and unexpected bills, our time can be taken from us as we fulfill our many roles as wife, mother, sister, daughter, auntie, friend, colleague and so on.
Just like bills hoover up our spare cash, it’s no wonder we feel resentment when life sucks up our free time, especially when it’s the unpaid aspects of our daily lives that shrinks the time we have left each day. This resentment and feeling of being time-poor is known as ‘time poverty’.
And there is another clue … ‘hoover’ and ‘suck up’, both terms associated with vacuuming and another job that is usually left to us women. And there lies the rub.
One of the reasons women suffer so much with time poverty is because even though we may feel like we live in a modern world, gender stereotypes still work against us.
Even the career girls who on paper look like they have it all, suffer with time poverty. This is because women by default are still seen as the primary carer. Any woman with kids or aging parents, or God forbid both, will feel the stress and strains of being the one who organises the child care, sorts the washing, does the food shop, cleans the home, walks the dog, feeds the cat and keeps tabs on everyone’s social lives.
Forget the full or part-time paid job a woman is trying to hold down each week. What about the unpaid job she does day in day out, with no holiday leave, no sick pay or in fact any pay at all.
Some will scoff and say she made her choice. But the choice isn’t the issue. The issue is the fact that women all over the world are burning themselves out as they try to keep all their juggling balls in the air.
Look at the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. Who did you see bearing the brunt of that when we were all told to work from home? Women. It was women who fell into the role of teacher, coach and psychologist as they tried to juggle the needs of everyone around them as well as their home life and jobs.
When something has to give because of the demands on our time, it’s usually our health and self-care. When torn between a dental checkup, a hair cut, the kids homework and household chores, it’s the things for us that we sacrifice.
While some women were embracing hobbies in lockdown, exercising and generally enjoying a a better work-life balance, others were neglecting their health and self-care care just from being too exhausted to care. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.
Gender stereotypes aside, the modern world with all it’s gadgets also plays a part when it comes to time poverty. The ‘always on’ culture we have grown used to has made us impatient, feeding our frantic lives. We can have access to anyone or anything 24 hours a day just with a simple swipe or click.
By constantly being plugged in, we no longer walk away and switch off from work, school or other people. We have forgotten how to rest.
Women tend to suffer most with time poverty because of equality. Childcare, looking after elderly parents, and carer roles still tend to be taken up by women. So the other issue we face is time inequality.
Time inequality is a little more subtle in it’s appearance and easily overlooked because it’s the hidden load of emotional chores faced by women. The carer role has a lot to answer for. Don’t get me wrong, we will do anything we need to for love. But a sense of duty is different and women often bear the brunt.
More and more women are experiencing burnout and depression. Is there a link here with time poverty? Perhaps. Eventually we will all feel a sense of overwhelm as our mental and physical health suffers. It’s inevitable if we keep putting ourselves last on the to-do list.
If you are lacking the energy, time and mental space to look after yourself, you will start to make bad decisions. We need to stop looking up to female stereotypes such as working women who ‘have it all’ or ‘supermums’. They are both faking it behind the scenes … if you don’t believe me, watch Motherland on Netflix.
It’s time to be realistic. We know what we see on social media is fake, as we’ve all taken 20-plus photos to share just one image of us living our best lives on Instagram.
Some will blame governments and employers for policies that do not support women enough. But we can’t rely on someone else to make the changes for us. We need to be that change and get our lives back.
When we are struggling with our finances we sit down and look at our incomes and outgoings. We make small changes here and there to cut our bills, putting money aside where we can for treats, holidays or the odd unexpected bill.
It’s time to apply the same process to our time. Review where you are overspending your minutes, cut back where you can and keep a few minutes in the bank for you.
Time waits for no woman, so what are you waiting for?