Overworked, overextended, overstressed and underserved

Posted by on Sep 11, 2009 in Uncategorized | 22 comments

Sound familiar? Results of a global survey (conducted by the Boston Consulting Group) suggest that women are more overworked, overextended, overstressed and underserved than ever. In fact, time demands are the number one challenge that women face in their lives.

Key findings include:

  • Women are responsible for a large percentage of global income, owning 40% of all U.S. business and controlling over $12 trillion dollars in consumer spending (globally).
  • In the U.S., almost 71% of women in the workforce are mothers, and over half have children under the age of one. Yet, they do most of the work at home as well (88% – grocery shopping; 85% – meal preparation; 84% laundry and cleaning; and 77%, household administration).
  • 48% of women say that managing household finances is a major source of stress in their lives, while 81% are concerned about not having enough money for retirement.
  • 47% say that time demands represent the “big stress in their lives,” with 45% expressing that they don’t have enough time for themselves.

One of the most disturbing finding deals with women’s expectations of themselves. In fact 44% say that they rarely or never feel powerful. Hmmm, why is this?  Why is it that we feel powerless when we control such a significant portion of the global economy and virtually run our world, both inside and outside the home? And where is the true source of a woman’s power?

Survey results suggest that the source of happiness in women’s lives mostly relates to love, health, honesty and emotional well-being. From this, one might surmise that the source of women’s power lies within their connections, candor and honesty, as well as the opportunity to pursue these things freely. Indeed, when asked what they wanted most, respondents said:

  1. More love and connections, both intimate and with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.
  2. Freedom to pursue the path which will allow them to become fulfilled, happy and satisfied.
  3. More balance in their lives.
  4. Enough money to remove financial pressure.

Silver gazeWe live in a world where time is a commodity and where the individual is always being pulled in a zillion directions. Self-image, especially as we age, can be tough, especially when societal messages abound that we are no longer “as beautiful as…”  In fact, in this survey, at least a quarter of women said that they rarely or never felt beautiful.

What gives? We are powerful, we are in control and regardless of age or shape, we, as women, have an inner beauty that when realized, reflects outward and resonates endlessly.

Life is stressful and it appears that as women, we are shouldering a burden of extreme proportions. Not only should we be asking what we are doing to create this paradigm but more importantly, what can we do to change it.

What do you think?


  1. 9-11-2009

    That’s a huge question with no easy answer. I know I’ve had some of those feelings, as well. Asserting our own needs and abdicating some of the responsibility for everyone else’s happiness and wellbeing is one way I’ve found to reduce stress and feel more powerful.

    • 9-11-2009

      Christy – it IS a huge question indeed. But it’s time we start figuring out the answer, right? Clearly, the time burden and self-burden has become too large. Acknowledging and thinking about the issue is the first step.

      Thank you for sharing your method for reducing some of the stress.

  2. 9-11-2009

    This is a problem for many of the women I know today. We try to balance work, family and all the extra that come along. The answer is to share some of the responsibility but for many that is not an option. We become victims of our own success. For each challenge and task we are given and accomplish, it is easy to add more to the queue.

    Exercise, eating well, sleep (ha ha) and taking time for you are all suggestions. It is putting those into your daily regimen that is the struggle.

    I would love to hear what more women are doing to achieve a healthy balance.

  3. 9-11-2009

    Margaret, how true. “It is putting those into your daily regimen that is the struggle.” Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. 9-11-2009

    What an important post….today’s women’s worlds are so much larger than our mothers’ and grandmothers’ were. Also, everything moves much faster than in the past, so our lives are more “controlled” by schedules, timing, appointments. In especially busy times, I stop scheduling my discretionary time in order to maintain control and decompress. I miss out sometimes on tickets to events or classes or other things requiring pre-scheduling, but I have a sense of some control over my time. There are a couple things I hold sacred to my sanity — my 4 day per week water aerobics class and making time for a bit of reading every night. In busy times, I also try not to be such a control freak about cleaning, cooking and errands…so I let some things go, order out more and have things delivered instead of wasting time shopping. Sounds like little things in a big, busy life but it is what works for me.

    • 9-11-2009

      Lori – thank you. How true “Today’s women’s worlds are so much larger than our mothers’ and grandmothers’ were.’ It puts things into perspective and reminds us that we need to do, as you say, things that we hold sacred to our sanity.

  5. 9-11-2009

    Focusing on what we can do to change this is key. Women’s expectations of themselves come from our culture. I think we are in a very important time of transition in realizing that we can take responsibility for why we choose to live to someone else’s expectations. When studies like this come out (but there isn’t a ton that is really new in it), it gets conversations like this one going again. Women are great at supporting one another – so let’s start calling each other out when we see society’s or cultural “expectations” emerge as hindrances to our growth/life satisfaction. We can bemoan our stressful lives or we can do like so many of your readers, Liz – and take charge. Schedule in that workout or time alone, make sure we have “dates” with our significant others regularly and live life the way we want to. Forget everyone else’s expectations (even your mom’s or your best friend’s). A good book I came across lately that deals specifically with “second half of life” intentional living is What Matters Most by James Hollis. Great perspective on making choices rather than letting life happen. Thanks for bringing this up, Liz!

    • 9-11-2009

      I love your comment – thank you. As women, we often start living out the expectations of others’ rather than choosing to live our own…Essential to continue to conversation. I will pick up the book. Thanks Andrea!

  6. 9-11-2009

    I’m 51, and the older I get the more difficult it becomes to do things I don’t want to do, but maybe “should” do. It’s a power struggle within myself. For instance, I work as a freelance writer and do okay for the most part. But from time to time a “real” job crops up, one that promises a hefty wage and direct deposit. I could certainly use the money, but do I want the burden of that real job eating away my free time, my life? Can I overcome that sinking feeling of waking to a day full of responsibilities the real job demands? I’m learning to say, hell no, it’s not worth it. And it’s hard to recognize and say this, because I’ve been conditioned for years to be overworked, overextended, and overstressed. In the past, I would’ve guilt-tripped and rationalized myself into taking the real job. But times, they are a’changing. The clock is quickly ticking down the days of my life. Learning how to say “no” to things that make my heart sink, regardless of how these things look to others, is one way I’m learning how to feel empowered and to find balance in my life.

    • 9-11-2009

      Diane – it’s true, we’re conditioned to be overworked, overextended and overstressed. It’s realizing this and learning to say “no” that changes the paradigm. Self preservation must happen before we can help those around us that we care about.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. 9-11-2009

    I think many of these feelings are there if we are overworked or not. Being in the job market has left me feeling unappreciated, unvalued and overwhelmed. I have time to do more for myself and yet feel unworthy to care for me the way I probably need to. I am still trying to be the best mom I can, although kids are now in college and living away from home, so I don’t even have that time constraint.

    As I look at my life when I had full time job and kids at home, I know that by making more of the chores fun in some way – and sometimes just ignoring them for a day or two- and involving the family to help out, my life much was happier, and theirs too. Let’s face it, if mommy ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy!

    We – WOMEN – need to give ourselves permission to NOT be the very best of everything we do – worker, mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, entertainer, community service worker, etc. We need to contribute what we can and focus on giving ourselves and those we care for quality time. NOT quantity of time, but quality of time. This is sometimes easier said than done, but something to strive for.

    • 9-11-2009

      I think that’s key Kim and goes straight to the heart of the matter on expectations – we must give ourselves permission not to be the best at everything we do.

  8. 9-11-2009

    As someone who has been a single mom for about 15 of my son’s 16 years, I felt this survey in my gut. I had the double edged sword of being ambitious, yet wanting to be there for my son – and failing miserably at both during my 20’s. That led to so much resentment on all sides of things. I recall when my son went to live with his dad for about 3 or so years while I finished my degree and got my career rolling. The picture painted of me in my family (and his father’s family) was that of a selfish human being. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of that guilt or the resentment that followed it.

    That being said, I do feel fortunate that I can have the feeling of being wonder woman every now and then. You know that feeling? When you are able to finally get everything in balance: cook dinner, help your kid with their homework, clean the house, finish that presentation for the next morning…all while on a series of conference calls and STILL fit time for a workout in there! I end those days feeling like I can do ANYTHING. 🙂

    Thanks for posting these thought-provoking questions in response to the survey, Liz. These sorts of posts are what help me feel I’m definitely not alone. 🙂

    • 9-11-2009

      Tara – you are definitely NOT alone. There are so many wonder women out there trying to do it all and then some; this leaves little or no time for self-realization or just to sit and “be.” I believe that whatever fuels you is what will fuel the way that you relate to the world around you. Those moments when everything *feels*just*right* are realizable; we just have to believe in ourselves. Thanks for commenting (and supporting this important post).

  9. 9-11-2009

    Thank you for your thought provoking post – it does have me thinking! The thing that is resonating most for me is that with all we do as women there are so many of us who don’t feel powerful, who don’t feel beautiful. I have a very heavy heart when I let that sink in. I also feel incredible gratitude that almost every single day I feel powerful, empowered, grounded, beautiful, connected, inspired and loved. A lot of that has to do with having an amazing, committed, supportive, true partner for a husband. And a lot of it, honestly, has to do with the Woman Within community that has helped me connect with that wise, loving, powerful woman inside. Please don’t take that as a plug or ad… I just have tremendous gratitude for the women who have supported me and helped me in the past few years connect with myself and feel successful as a women, spouse, mother, friend and sister. I am sending out my intention, prayer, and vision of a future where our daughters and grand-daughters look confused when we share that there was a time when we as women did not feel powerful and beautiful just as we are – because they will have no idea what that feels like.

    • 9-11-2009

      JJ thank you! Finding a community of support is essential to being whole; I don’t know where I’d be without the women in my life. Just last weekend, I was having a conversation with a woman about how things have changed for women over the past several decades; I hope that future generations continue to change the paradigm.

  10. 9-11-2009

    Great post! And an important topic.

  11. 9-11-2009

    Great comments all around. Very thoughtful post. For me, it’s not about not feeling powerful – I actually often do. For me, it’s, as you wrote, the balance and the sheer magnitude of the amount of responsibilities and expectations, real or imagined (or imposed or self-imposed) that drag me down. I never feel ‘finished’ or feel free to just do nothing because something is still expected. I’m working to change that. To let stuff sit. I’m improving. It’s a process.

    • 9-12-2009

      Wendy – interesting how the expectation theme arises again. “I never feel finished….because something is still expected.” But as you aptly state, it is a process and it’s improving; I think that it’s important that we continue to remind ourselves that it IS a process. Thank you.

  12. 9-12-2009

    I sincerely appreciate the comments above. They are echoed in our research. Anyone who wants to participate in the research can take the survey at http://www.womenspeakworldwide.com . And if you would like to see more of the findings, they are at our site for the Boston Consulting Group: http://www.BCG.com
    Thank you.


    • 9-12-2009

      Thanks for your comment and follow up Michael.

  13. 5-16-2011

    I enjoyed the post, keep up the good work and I look forward to the next one…


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