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Maxed Out American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn


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Working moms have become the primary breadwinners in 40% of American households, according to the startling findings from the Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends. Paired with the percentage of women who have an equal stake in their families’ finances, that figure rises to two-thirds. 80% of these women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to healthcare for the entire family.

The record-breaking generation of Super Moms is bucking convention and changing the face of the American family. They’re also suffering from stress and attendant health risks in record numbers. The American Psychological Association shows that up to one-third of married women and one in five single women is battling dangerous levels of stress. While these figures may come as a surprise to those without kids or those who aren’t saddled with so much responsibility, it’s no secret to Katrina Alcorn.

The self-employed web consultant made her authorial debut in September with the book Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. Spurred by her own struggles with anxiety disorders, insomnia and depression, Katrina Alcorn makes a strong case for average women being stretched beyond their means. Kirkus Reviews calls Maxed Out “a moving account [that] is pertinent for American women and men who are trying to chase their own version of the American dream.”

Keeping Up Appearances

In her debut book, Katrina Alcorn bravely tackles the reason behind the modern American mother’s struggle to maintain a strong facade in the face of anxiety. “There’s a lot of pressure on us to look like we have it together,” she says. “The research shows that after a woman has kids, her performance is scrutinized more at work than that of her coworkers. We’re afraid of losing our jobs; after all, two-thirds of American mothers are breadwinners for their families.” The stress of maintaining composure outwardly while internally struggling only compounds overall anxiety. Women need to have a strong support system in place for the times when they’re simply spread too thin. More importantly, they need to know that it’s okay to ask that support system for help when they need it. The strain of keeping up appearances can be the figurative last straw. Instead of struggling to appear that you have superhuman control, it’s important to learn that it’s acceptable to ask for help.

Bringing it All Together

One of the most pressing problems at hand for the average American mother is that there is still a lack of social infrastructure. Today’s generation of parents is vastly different from those that came before, but there has been little overall change in the way families operate. “Since the 60s we’ve seen a massive influx of women into the workforce, so our family lives have changed dramatically – most children are now raised in homes where all adults work. We need society, and especially, the workplace to catch up to this fact. Most jobs aren’t made for people with family obligations. That needs to change.”

“I want women to know that if they’ve tried everything they can think of and are still ‘maxing out’ in their attempt to work and take care of their families, they are not alone and it’s not their fault. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be this way – I cite many examples in the book of countries and companies that are finding ways to make it possible for employees to balance life and work.” While you may not be able to singlehandedly change society, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a change in your own corner of the world. Look for ways of establishing new policies in your workplace. Formulate a plan for managing daily tasks at home. Don’t be afraid to delegate items on your to-do lists. You may even find that pulling together a loose, informal network of extended family and friends helps you to make ends meet.

At the end of the day, a stressed-out mom is simply not able to perform the way she would like. You may not parent as effectively, and your household may not be run as efficiently as you would hope. You’re left with a vicious cycle where stress begets more stress, and there is no visible light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Realizing that it’s not only acceptable, but also necessary to ask for help is the key to success in this brave new world of juggling motherhood with full-time careers.

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