Christine Park

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are Working Moms Less Depressed Than Stay-At-Home Moms?

It's us versus them. It shouldn't be this way. But even among my friends, there's a sort of competition and mistrust between working moms and the ones that stay home.

Working moms try to assuage the guilt they feel over someone else raising their children by emphasizing the fulfillment from their career, the example they're setting for their children. Stay at home moms try to hide their envy of their working friends by raving about the quality time they get to spend with their children and the milestones they get to witness along the way.

But "stay-at-home mom" is a total misnomer. The ones who do it, will tell you, it ought to be called "go everywhere mom"... because you're running errands, shuttling your children around, doing everything for everyone but yourself. And therein may lie the reason a recent University of Washington study found stay-at-home moms are more likely to become depressed than their working counterparts. This was, in some part, because these moms received little feedback or appreciation for their daily "work," high expectations and no compensation, and minimal interaction with peers. The study's authors concluded employment is ultimately beneficial for women's mental health, provided the woman maintain a work-life balance. If employment is not an option or desired, she recommends stay at home moms find opportunities to create happiness for themselves, whether that includes hobbies or alone time.

But the study also found, working moms who try to be supermoms put themselves at an even greater risk of depression. Accepting that they can't do it all, and making tradeoffs (i.e. leaving work early to pick up the kids), were key to the moms' overall well being. The reality is, most workplaces are designed still for employees without childcare responsibilities. So reject the myth of the supermom. She's not happy... or she doesn't exist. Chances are, underneath the polished, successful, she's-got-it-all facade, is guilt, frustration, or a feeling of a lack of control... all factors that could lead to depression.

So even without this latest study, countless moms could have told you... being a mom, whether you work or don't, is the hardest job in the world. Whether you enjoy it, is up to you.

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