A whole new field of research is beginning to look into why overwhelm matters… entire presentations laid out the inverse relationship of increasing role overload and declining birth rates all over the world, which means many societies will soon have a worrisome surplus of old people and fewer young workers to support them. In the United States, the fertility rate began falling when the economic crisis hit in 2008, but it had already dropped among those with a college education to a “crisis” level. Steven Philip Kramer, a professor of strategy at the National Defense University, warns that countries that fail to address gender equity, redefine traditional families, reform immigration, and pass government policies that help men and women more easily combine work and family “do so at their own peril.”
As I pored over the time studies searching to understand why the feeling of being overwhelmed was on the rise, one central truth emerged clearly: When women began working in a man’s world, their lives changed completely. Yet workplace cultures, government policies, and cultural attitudes, by and large, act as though it is, or should be, 1950 in Middle America: Men work. Women take care of home and hearth. Fathers provide. A good mother is always available to her children. But obviously, life isn’t so sharply divided anymore. And until attitudes, however unconscious, catch up with the way we really live our lives, the overwhelm will swirl on. Nowhere is that disconnect between expectations and reality more apparent than when a women has a child. Time studies find that a mother, especially one who works outside the home for pay, is among the most time-poor humans on the planet, especially single mothers, weighted down not only by role overload but also what sociologists call “task density”– the intense responsibility she bears and the multitude of jobs she performs in each of those roles.
— Brigid Schulte, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, pp. 24-25