You really break my heart: Survival tips for the working mothers of boys

An #IBOT post

Are you a working mum with at least two sons? Well here's a fun fact for you.  According to recent research you're at greater risk of heart disease and heart attack than you would be if you had daughters, or no kids.  

Yep, according to Italian researchers who tracked the health of more than 100,000 women over eight years, if you're a working mum to two or more boys you have a greater risk of dying from heart disease.  Why?  They're not really sure yet.  (A correlation between two factors is not necessarily causal.  You need a bit more research to tease out exactly what's going on.) 

Theories include: 

  1. Boys are not much help around the house and mums are doing ALL the work.
  2. Teenaged boys cause mums stress and that's bad for your heart
  3. Big boy babies are doing damage right from the outset.

I'm not sure about numbers two and three.  I'm sure teenage girls cause parents stress and I'm not qualified to judge the third although my two boys tipped the scale at close to 4kg each so I know about big boy babies.

The one that intrigues me is the first because it pushes all my buttons.  Despite my best efforts housework falls very much along traditional gender lines in our household.  The man of the house puts bins out, mows lawns, chops firewood, fixes bikes, pumps up footballs and is generally responsible for anything involving sporting equipment, heavy objects and the outdoors (except gardening, pretty plants are my domain).

He is great with the kids, listens to school readers, runs the bath, makes breakfasts and will make the bed and do dishes.  He is NOT well acquainted with the washing machine, broom or vacuum and he has no idea where most of the items in the house belong. 

I'm kind of okay with this most of the time.  I'm a firm believer in playing to your strengths and that's exactly what we're doing. What worries me is when my small boys say, 'That's a girl's job' when asked to undertake some small domestic duty or 'You're my servant' - a favourite phrase of Mr 7 who has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek as he says it.  (I think). 

Kids learn through modelling faster and more deeply than they learn any other way. They do what we do, regardless of what we say.  I can launch into my best feminist rant around our house, and trust me, I do, but I know that it means nothing compared to what they witness at home each day. 

So what do I do?

Firstly I take heart from research like this from Harvard Business School that suggests that the sons of working mothers eventually do more around the house and help out more with their own kids.  (Yes it kind of contradicts the Italian research but that's what research does.)  I'm parenting for the long haul.

Next I'm implementing a 'let's help Mummy around the house' regime from an early age.  Doing chores around the house is known to be a predictor of lifelong success so I figure I'm helping my small boys to be better people as well as better feminists when they're older.  

We're starting small by getting dirty clothes into the washing basket instead of dumped on the floor and they do now bring their breakfast bowls to the kitchen once they've consumed their body weight in Weetbix each morning.  

Beyond this? I don't know. It's a work in progress. I'd love to hear your tips and advice though.  Are you a working mum to two or more boys? Or a successful delegator of household chores to the small people in your life?  Tell me, what do you think I should do?

This is the first post in a series on the ups and downs of life for working parents - whatever work you do.  As an added extra, here are some of my favourite books for working mums.  Check them out. 

Books for working mums

(These are affiliate links which means that if you buy a book via the links I might eventually scratch together enough money for a coffee.)

I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother, Allison Pearson. This inspired the film. Fun.

The Working Mother's Survival Guide: Your Complete Guide to Managing Life & Work with a New Baby, Melissa Doyle & Jo Scard. For the new and impending mums.

The Wife Drought: Why Women Need Wives and Men Need Lives, Annabel Crabb. I want to be Annabel Crabb when I grow up.