Are you juggling the 'shiftwork' of motherhood? This mum hits the nail on the head with the 'exhausting' six shifts we put in with kids and here's what a parent psychologist thinks

A parents work is never done!

Tired parent
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A mum has taken to Instagram to explain her theory of parenting 'shiftwork' - and a parenting psychologist has praised her for speaking up. 

Parenting is hard work and no parent is ever going to tell you otherwise. Especially as childcare costs rise, everyone knows how tiring it can be to juggle family life with work, with many experiencing parenting burnout. And what's great, perhaps the only great thing about it at all, is that we're now talking about this a whole lot more than we ever have before. 

Just days after Paloma Faith opened up about feeling ‘so tired’ juggling her career with motherhood, working mum and author of the book The Blend: How to Successfully Manage a Career and Family Life, Tobi Asare, has laid bare the realities of just how much work parenting takes with her 'shiftwork' theory - and we'll never feel guilty for taking a break after learning this analogy. 

"I don't think we talk enough about shiftwork when it comes to motherhood, so hear me out," she said before diving into her theory. "We have the first shift which is waking up, getting the kids ready, getting ourselves ready, doing everything you need to do to leave the house and get them to where they need to be and get yourself to where you need to be. 

"Then you have the second shift which is effectively, for lots of us if you work outside of the home, that's your paid job, that's the job that you start in the mornings - although it feels like you're probably starting at midday because your day has started much earlier."

She continued, "Then there's a third shift which is rushing to pick up or rushing home for dinner time and bedtime and bath time. And everything that goes into that, normally dealing with very irritable, tired children. 

"Then after you've done all that, you move into the fourth shift which is maybe getting dinner for yourself, sitting down and feeding yourself as you should. And then some of us move into the next shift which is opening up our laptops or jumping on our computer again and maybe catching up from the days work."

When you think about it like that, it's pretty hard to argue that you're not doing enough. Then factor in that you'll head to bed and likely experience interrupted sleep, children coming into your bed, children not settling and children waking up in the night before you do it all again the next day.

"I haven't even factored in housework, laundry - everything it takes to make a household just run," Asare added.

"It's pretty hard going on the body," she concluded. "There's been lots of research done on continuous shift work. It's not great for our hormonal system. It's not great for our overall wellbeing.

"All of this to say that next time you feel really guilty for taking a break; Don't! What I'm doing, what you're doing, is really hard. We weren't designed to do it alone. If you get the help, or somebody offers you help, take it.

"Don't feel guilty for taking a break."

Stephanie Lowe, family editor at GoodToKnow said after watching the video, "Seeing this video resonated with me so much, it spoke to my tired soul. Hearing the words gave me permission to be like, actually yeah. This IS why I am just so depleted and exhausted all the time. I want to share it with the world!"

Experts have also rushed to praise Asare for her candid video with Nicola Saunders, a BACP registered therapist, telling, "This is the reality for parents today."

She explained, "Being a parent was not that long ago a FULL-TIME JOB. This is what was signed up for, and it was expected that the main parent would meet the needs of the household and the children. However, what was also available was a community; Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles all lived on the surrounding streets, so few parents tended to parent alone.

"Now, however, with ever-evolving research on the complexities of parenting and increasing the knowledge of our children's needs, parents are often parenting alone, with full-time jobs, often stressful jobs, to create the lifestyle they want for themselves and their children. More and more people are expecting themselves to be able to manage two full-time jobs and wonder why they feel like they are failing in certain areas."

It's something Saunders says she sees a lot of mothers struggle with. "As a result of trying to be all things to all people, I see many mums struggling to have the bandwidth to manage what they expect of themselves. This can present from a place of self-criticism: ‘Everybody else seems to be able to do all of this, so why am I struggling?’ But everybody else isn’t managing to do this so try not to compare."

Parenting is difficult, but it pays off. To be reminded of that, the England Euro squad have the sweetest relationships with their mums and here's what they've said about the important influence in their lives. Plus, in other family news, half of parents ‘trapped’ into living near grandparents due to childcare costs - two mums share their stories. And, distraught grandmother seeks advice after seeing her grandchildren ‘favour’ other grandparents - here’s what to do if that sounds familiar

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.