Working mothers are happier and healthier than stay-at-home moms. Surprising? This news is a recent finding released by the American Psychological Association (APA) based on research conducted through interviews with over 1,300 mothers. The research suggests that mothers in part or full-time working situations are healthier and less depressed when compared to stay-at-home moms. I see these conclusions as empowering mothers by increasing their awareness of a freedom of choice to stay home or work, as this research opens the door for mothers to work without the burden of feeling guilt or regret.
What does this finding really boil down to? I believe it is the autonomy and freedom to decide your own path in life, the recognition one receives for these choices, as well as the separation between work and home; the presence or absence of which makes the difference as to anyone’s satisfaction or discontent. Granted, there absolutely are stay–at-home moms who are completely comfortable and happy with their decision to take on this role, and I don’t want to suggest otherwise.
When I was raising my young child, I was one of the only working mothers in a sea of stay-at-home moms and I was ostracized for it. Though this didn’t feel good, I understood it since the prevailing notion at the time was that in order to be a good mom, you have to stay at home and take care of the children and house. If you worked, there was no way you could possibly do these “mothering” things well. I can tell you firsthand that this was an immense amount of peer pressure. Because of this, though many women at the time chose to stay at home, it wasn’t truly their choice but the only choice they felt available to them from society, family, and their peers. The frustrations and the difficulties for both types of mothers arise when the mother feels forced to live the role that she does not want for herself, giving way to both resentment and depression.
A recent study published in the British journal PLoS ONE finds that those who consistently work in excess of 11 hours a day are two and a half times more likely to be clinically depressed. Stay-at-home moms don’t experience any differentiation between their work and their home life, making their home life one in the same as work, and it never ends. Working in this manner is exhausting, as I’m sure anyone can imagine if they were forced to sleep in a cot inside of their cubicle every night, where the last thing they see every night and the first thing they see when they wake up, are the same four pale grey walls and the dull 60hz whine of your old CRT computer monitor. In addition, the recognition in doing a good job and being financially rewarded that stay-at-home moms receive is lacking. A separate study conducted by Salary.com and published by Forbes found that stay-at-home moms do the equivalent work of someone earning in excess of $115,000 per year.
When mothers are insecure or feeling guilty, either about staying home or working, this feeling is communicated to their children. In the same way, if they are confident and happy about what they are doing, this is also expressed to their children. People are happier when their needs are being met, and we all need to be stimulated intellectually and emotionally. One person (be it a child, husband, or coworker) or one thing (be it home or work) cannot meet all our needs: a combination is necessary. Either way, it can be helpful to pause, contemplate, and take this information in; for working and stay-at-home moms out there to think about their choices and their happiness, for the true nature of these will be reflected in all that you do and all that you interact with, including your children.
©Dr. Donna Housman 1984-2012