Working Moms Are Healthier Than Moms Who Stay Home & I'm Not Surprised At All

I had my first child in 2005, my second in 2008. Prior to two years ago, I worked full-time outside the home. These days I work from home -- mostly part-time, depending on my freelance client load -- while taking care of my kids.

I tell you that only so I can say that given my own background and experience with balancing work and parenthood, I'm not terribly surprised by the recent study that shows moms who work full-time are healthier than moms who stay at home.

Not because moms who work are better off. But because moms who are free to make their own choices are.

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Here's what the study shows: moms who work steadily full-time after the birth of their first child are healthier at age 40 than moms who stay at home, work part-time, or moms who find themselves repeatedly out of work.

Researchers from the University of Akron in Ohio studied 2,540 women who had children between 1978 and 1995. After adjusting for other factors that could influence the findings (like prior health, employment before pregnancy, race/ethnicity, single motherhood, cognitive ability, and age at first birth), they found the choices women make early in their professional lives can influence their health later on:

Women who go back to full time work shortly after having children reported better health, both physical and mental. They have more mobility, less tendency to depression, and have more energy, at age 40.

We can probably make a few assumptions from this study -- for instance, the working women likely had more access to childcare, more education, and relatively stable home lives. It stands to reason they'd be healthier later in the life. But I think we can also assume that they were healthier because they were following their own paths.

Now, I'm not saying that every single mother who works is doing so because it's their choice. Some women choose to work, some women choose to stay home, some women would rather stay home but have to work in order to take care of their families.

In other words, BREAKING NEWS FROM THE NO-SHIT GAZETTE: we're not all the same.

Personally, I've found that it's all hard. It's hard to work outside the home and miss your family, it's hard to work from home and not feel like you're ignoring your family. It's draining being home with kids all day, it's painful not to see them until dinnertime. It sucks not earning a salary at all, it sucks earning a salary and paying a bunch of it to daycare.

There are pros and cons to everything, and every single person's situation is different. I feel incredibly blessed that I've found the balance that works for me, and I have no doubt that I will be healthier at 40 than I would have been had I stayed at my unrewarding office job.

The shrieking of the 'mommy wars' might occasionally drown out common sense, but the truth is, all moms aren't meant to make the exact same choices. If nothing else, this study surely proves that not every woman is better off staying home with her kids. So maybe it's time to drop the attacks, the guilt, and wake up to the reality that what's best for mom is best for her family -- period.

Did you get to make the choice you wanted after having kids? Are you happier for it?


Image via Tom Carmony/Flickr

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