Working Moms Are Happier Than Stay-at-Home Moms

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You know, I always figured the question of who has it better, working moms or stay-at-home moms, was one of those unanswerable questions like which came first, the chicken or the egg? or if a tree falls in the forest and no one's around to hear it, does it make a sound? (I recently contributed to an eBook, Welcome to My World, in which the to-work-or-not-to-work question is debated, but not resolved.) But it turns out that, at least according to a new study, there is, in fact, an answer: Working moms have it better.

At the very least, according to this new study, published in Journal of Family Psychology, working moms are healthier and happier than stay-at-home mothers, who reported much higher rates of depression.

Moms working part-time as opposed to full time had it best of all: They reported less work-family conflict than moms who worked full-time and were just as involved with their kids' schooling as stay-at-home moms. (Lucky ducks.) Tellingly, the health and happiness benefits of having a job outside the home tend to taper off after kids started school.

I'm sure there are stay-at-home moms who will object strenuously (and vocally) to the results of this study -- the ones who feel it has been their calling and their pleasure to stay home with their small children. They, too, are lucky ducks. Certainty about your choice one way or the other -- to stay home or to stay at work -- has got to feel blissful. The fact is so many of us feel caught in the middle: confident in our choices one minute and totally, miserably unconfident the next.

But this study does much to reinforce the choice many of us make to continue working even after our children are born. Staying at home may be right for some of us, but it is clearly not right for all of us. We fantasize about quitting our jobs and taking care of our kids all day every day, but the truth is that childcare is hard work. It's not all laughing and happily stacking blocks and playing peek-a-boo, like in the commercials. And that has nothing to do with how much we love our kids and how much we love being with them. Staying at home, too, can feel isolating. And even acknowledging this to ourselves (let alone to each other) can fill us with profound guilt, compounding the problem.

Working can open up that world
, giving us women with children a separate identity and interests and affording us daily help from family members, nannies, spouses, neighbors. It can boost our self-esteem and our sense of value and, as the study showed, our mood and sense of well-being.

So many of us work because we have to, but a truth that's harder to admit is that some of us work because we want to, as well -- that working helps us not only support our kids and meet their needs, but also support ourselves and meet our own needs, making us happier, healthier women.

What do you think of the study's conclusion that working women are happier and healthier?

 

Image via Mobile Edge Laptop Cases/Flickr

emotional health, mental health, stress

117 Comments

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nonmember avatar fjc

As a SAHM I can't argue with these findings. We lost significant income when I quit which has been stressful. I no longer have a lot of adult contact. Since everybody is home, my house is a mess. I can't keep up and it causes me stress. I know we made the right decision, but its not always easy. I'm not a mom who loves every minute of every day. I liked working.

douxm... douxmusique

Of course working moms are happier! I'm happy to be home with my kids but I actually don't have a choice about it anymore. I can't get a job. It's depressing. I'm working on changing my situation, but I am not goingto work to pay for childcare. I can't possibly be the only person in this position? So I have always stayed home. I like it well enough but I'd like it more if I had a second job that would pay for us to do museums, classes, sports, etc. Oh... But wait...



Whatever works for whoever, really.

nonmember avatar Shelly

And many studies have showed kids of stay at home moms, rather then working moms...are MUCH happier and healthier. Not that I think one is better or worse then the other. There is a bigger picture here. There is always a trade off. That's why we should do what's best for or families, rather then rely on studies to tell us what's best.

fave82 fave82

Could not disagree more. I loathe having to go into work everyday. I'd give my right arm to stay home with my daughter. I'm grateful for my job because it's a necessity.. but would much rather be independently wealthy :)

Ari. Ari.

The grass is always greener on the other side.

nonmember avatar Workingmom

Completely agree. If I could work part-time it'd be ideal. All day everyday with kids would be too intense (for them as well as I think they benefit from nursery, preschool etc) but ten plus hours away from then is too much. Working 4 hours a day would be perfect. Oh well, I'll just have to keep buying those lottery tickets!

ashlet01 ashlet01

I love being home with my kids. But the thing that makes it better is getting a mommy night out. Without a girl day, either lunch, a movie or shopping kids free I would feel trapped in my house too. I started doing a work from home opportunity, that yes is an MLM, but I love it.

missusmc missusmc

I am a SAHM and I have been offered a position at my previous employer.  Although I turned it down, and want to be a SAHM forever, it was tempting to go back to work.  I miss feeling important.  I know what I am doing is important, but with twin toddlers running around all day and a husband working long hours, it CAN be lonely.  I completely understand why the study results are what they are.  It's sooo important to have a support system and outlet for the feelings of isolation. 

ivego... ivegotrhythm

You are responsible for your own happiness.


I think a lot of SAHM;s gave up everything to be that way.  I know for the first few years I worked part time and was MUCH happier than when I first became a SAHM.


But you have to find ways to be happy.  I have a group of girlfriends with whom I go out to lunch once a week.  We go to each others houses and talk while the kids play.  My son is in school now so I have time to work with my horses, dogs, have an egg business (including egg salad and pickled eggs to some local restauants) that keeps me busy and makes me happy.


Sometimes I remember my part time job and how fun it was to NOT be a mom for a while, but honestly I wouldn't go back to that for anything.  I have girlfriends with whom I can act like a "not-mom" and I can still be there when it's important for my son.


Honestly, if you're depressed as a SAHM (and trust me I've been there ) it's really no ones fault but yours.  Only you can find ways to make yourself happy, and work isn't the only way. 

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