Of mothers, work and family | Inquirer Business
Workplace Wisdom

Of mothers, work and family

Work and family—two words that highly interact and support each other, and two words that may cause the most conflict and stress when combined.

Filipino workers are generally over-employed, rendering more than the required 40 hours of work per week to earn more and sustain adequate family life.


This is true not only to men, who were the traditional family breadwinners, but also to women whose population in the workforce continues to grow.

The growing number of women in the workplace can be due to the increasing need to supplement family income and the desire for empowerment and financial independence.


Yet the Philippines is a highly familial society. We put particular emphasis on ensuring that the children and the house are taken care of according to standards set by past generations where most mothers have the luxury or the preference to remain at home.

Most employees, especially working moms, will agree that there comes a time when work and family roles come in conflict with each other and that fulfilling the demands in one domain makes it difficult to fulfill the demands in the other. This produces tremendous negative stress or distress on the employee.

The study

A local study was done by Renee Ortega that aimed to predict the antecedents of work-family conflict and whether these would lead to dissatisfaction towards work, marriage or life as a whole. One hundred sixty-two Filipino workers from various industries were surveyed. Apart from this, eight pairs of interviews were conducted among husband and wife tandems who were simultaneously working.

Antecedents of work-family conflict

The results showed that predictors of work-family conflict are work stress, number of hours spent at work, and age.

Being more stressed at work can spill over and affect the dual role of being worker and family member. Having more problems at work can take away time from performing duties and responsibilities to the family, resulting in a sullen mood and producing higher work-family conflict.


Having more hours at work likewise impact family life. Obviously, the more hours the Pinoy spends at work, the less time he or she has with the family. This means less quality time spent with one’s spouse and children as well as less time for household duties and responsibilities.

As for age, it was found that younger couples tend to experience more work-family conflict than senior couples aged 40 and above. This is because younger couples are adjusting to their new roles as spouse or parent.

Adjusting from single to married life can already be stressful and levels of stress become even higher when the children are born. More senior couples, on the other hand, have passed through the adjustment stage, are more stable and have more independent kids.

As expected, women reported experiencing more instances of work-family conflict than men. Aside from doing work, women have significantly more household responsibilities. A review of literature showed that this finding was true even to other nationalities.

What can help reduce work-family conflict?

Communication between the couples helps in coping with the stresses that work and family life brings. Couples can maximize the use of technology in actively communicating with each other and effectively coordinating familial responsibilities.

Grandparents can also step in by becoming “part-time yayas” to their grandchildren, or helping oversee the household help as they take care of the children and the household.

Organization support is likewise necessary, especially for young working mothers who experience the most work-family conflict.

This may take many forms such as having an understanding boss, allowing for a flexible work schedule or work at home arrangements whenever possible, as well as having a dependable secretary and efficient staff for those in leadership positions.

The organization can also set aside an area for lactating mothers and activities that will expose the children to the important work done by the parents in the organization.

By identifying specific needs of young parents, organizations can aid in reducing work-life conflict.

Also, work-life balance programs such as family picnics or events, day-care facilities, financial planning programs, stress and time management programs, can help as well. With these, work-life conflict and negative stress can be reduced, promoting better welfare for the working parents, especially mothers.

(Emerald Ilac is a doctorate student in the Leadership Studies program of the Ateneo de Manila University. This article is based on the MA thesis of Renee Ann L. Ortega entitled “The Relationship between Stress with Work-family Conflict and Job, Marital and Life satisfactions among Dual-earning Couples” (2009). For feedback, e-mail us at [email protected])

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TAGS: Family, mothers, Philippines, work, work-family conflict
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