Plus women are known for their great multitasking abilities. According to a new study published in the American Sociological Review, working moms spend nine more hours multitasking weekly than do working dads. These women spend about 48.3 hours per week handling multiple tasks at once, while for men, the total hours spent getting various things done is just 38.9 hours. The study revealed that for working mothers, 52.7% of multitasking performed involved housework, while for working fathers, only 42.2% was spent on household chores. In addition, the study showed that mothers spent 35.5% of time performing multiple tasks involving childcare, while for fathers the numbers came to 27.9%. This means that working mothers are doing two activities at once more than two-fifths of the time they are awake, while working fathers are multitasking more than a third of their waking hours. But though women can do more multitasking, they get more stressed. While men reported their multitasking performance as a positive experience, women tended to report negative emotions whether they performed such tasks at home or in public. According to another recent study, multitasking may also not be productive as we think it is. According to a study from Stanford on multi-tasking, it’s impossible to process more than one string of information at a time. Dave Crenshaw, business coach and author of The Myth of Multitasking, said the damage when trying to perform a bunch of jobs at the same time is caused by what he calls the “switching cost” – the time taken to switch from one task and refocus on another. “You actually take much longer to accomplish things, make more mistakes and increase your stress,” he says. These are not the things you want to hear about when it comes to your work. By slowing down you will actually be speeding up.
Selena Cuffe is the CEO of Heritage Link Brands, the largest importer and marketer of indigenous wine from Africa, and the mother of two young boys. She told The Grindstone when she first founded the business in 2005 with her husband she thought she would work in the two different modes but once she became a mother, things changed.
“Dual modes seemed like the simplest way to forge into the new territories of motherhood and entrepreneurship. Fast forward to when our son arrived, and that thinking quickly went out the window! While I did my best to set aside specific time for family versus professional activities, it was immediately obvious that family was going to be first for me. Rigidly switching from mode to mode wasn’t realistic…it added unnecessary stress and actually made me perform worse in both roles! Adopting a more flexible approach proved to be my saving grace. For example, since I know how important it is to have a quiet background during business calls, I would ask my contacts if we could meet during a window of time versus at a specific time. That way I was able to get the baby settled (since newborns certainly aren’t prone to exact schedules!) and join the conference afterwards. So I was able to put family first, yet still keep things professional and respect my business partners’ time. They were very understanding, largely because I set expectations upfront.
Also, I discovered that reserving the “glamorous” aspect of myself only for work didn’t cut it for me – I like to feel and look good all the time, including when I’m focused on my kids! That frumpy, frazzled mom look is not my style. So defining my activities, yet strategically allowing my roles as entrepreneur and mother to meld, has been the ticket for me! And since Heritage Link Brands is a family business, that approach is actually a cornerstone of our company.”
It also may be more difficult to do two completely separate modes if you work from home. It is very hard to separate the two worlds. Leslie Truex, Career and small business coach told The Grindstone:
“As a work-at-home mom, learning to balance the mom aspect from business owner. I have found it more difficult do to at home than when working outside the home, because working in an office provides clear boundaries between work and home. To be productive, requires the ability to be 100 percent focused, which means making sure the kids are cared for. On the other hand, the kids also need 100% focus when it’s there time, so I have to learn to turn of work-thoughts when I’m with family.”
Erica Diamond, an award winning entrepreneur and businesswoman and founder and editor of Women on the Fence told The Grindstone:
“The transition from working girl to mother is very difficult. The problem is, we walk through the door exhausted from the workday, and could use a little decompression or downtime before we switch to mommy mode. But we don’t get that—our kids need us right then and there. As they should. So that is where the grind and exhaustion sets in. My work mode overlaps frequently with mommy mode, being a social media mom. It’s just life, and it’s not always fun, but I do my best to stay PRESENT in all my roles. When the kids are gone at school, I’m full out career woman. When they’re home from school, I try to give them my undivided attention. The juggle is never easy. The key is being present and in the moment of what you’re doing- be it working, or mothering.”
Women wear many different hats and for some it may work to only wear one hat a time. But for others, wearing two or three or six hats at a time work just fine too.