The Triple Burden of Working Motherhood by @jesschivers

(written by Jessica Chivers)

Rummaging around my PC looking for an article I thought I’d written, I found something else I started writing several years ago and never quite finished before forgetting about it (that’s what happens when you have two children in nappies. They are now seven and five – tempus fugit). I give you an explanation of what the ‘triple burden’ of motherhood is and why it’s an issue.

The Triple Burden: Bad Behaviour, Broken Heating and a Burgeoning Workload?

I have turned to writing to stave off the tears prickling behind my eyes. For the second time this week I have lost my internet connection, my son is refusing to go to school, I have taken on more work than I can realistically do without losing sanity and jeopardising family relations and to top it off we have no hot water.

Let’s deal with these in turn. The first time I lost my connection to the information superhighway my husband had been digging in the garden close to the Virgin cables. It became apparent that we have lost touch when my computer screen fails to find red pesto on and to cut a long story short we go without the internet (and our Sainsbury’s delivery) from Sunday – Tuesday. I am not impressed but I get over it, look for the silver lining (no pressure to respond to e-mails and no distraction from Twitter) and spend more time with my children. Today I am not prepared to get over it because I have a stack of work I need the internet for and I really can’t face another 2 hour ping-pong phone marathon with an offshore call centre. In short I am ready to weep.

It’s at this point I text my husband to have a small moan. I can see him in his comfy chair at his uncluttered desk getting on with the interesting, clever things he does, totally unaware of my plight. He does not know of the battles with our children this morning. He hasn’t had to coax our son to school; the son who was really, really excited about starting Reception on Tuesday but who now says he doesn’t like all the different teachers (he has two who job-share but now a third has appeared) so doesn’t want to go. And who can blame him when powerful captains of industry won’t entertain job-sharing? Neither has my husband had to drop his daughter at the childminder with tears in her eyes (I know she gets over this very quickly so am not dealing with guilt on that front as well this morning). And my husband certainly hasn’t had to worry about getting dirty school uniform washed or sort out what we’re eating for lunch and dinner.

Then I remember something I read whilst researching my book on working mothers: The Triple Burden – a phrase coined by academics. What I’ve told you about my life is the ‘triple burden’ in action – women earning and doing disproportionately more ‘childcare’ and domestic drudge than her male partner. I don’t claim to handle the triple burden without moaning or occasionally sniping at my husband but I do get on with it as so many women do all across the world every day of the year. To all of you I say, you deserve a medal and if we want to change the world, we need to shape the cultures of the places we work to help men feel able to be active fathers. If you’re curious, read my thoughts on fathers here: Paternity Perspectives – Businesses Benefit from Active Fathers.  Whilst you’re at it, you might appreciate this piece on how to ask for a job-share.


Jessica Chivers is the author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work! (Hay house, 2011). She is the founder and managing director of The Talent Keeper Specialists ( and blogs at (@jesschivers)

There are free maternity comeback workshops available. The next one is Monday 30th June:


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