Working Moms Happier, Less Depressed Study Says

Ever feel guilty for working outside the home? Feel guilty no more! A recent study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, says that working moms are less prone to depression and are happier overall when their children are young.

For the study, researchers interviewed 1,364 mothers from Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington, Virginia and Wisconsin, starting in 1991. Women were interviewed during their children’s infancy, preschool and elementary school years. Employment of the mothers ranged from stay-at-home to full time.

Mothers who participated in the study were asked to indicate whether or not they experienced any symptoms of depression. They were asked to indicate their overall health as “poor,” “fair,” “good” or “excellent.”  The moms were also questioned about conflicts in their work and family lives as well as their level of involvement in their children’s school lives.

According to the results, mothers that worked part-time or full-time during their children’s infancy were less likely to report symptoms of depression than mothers who stayed home with their children. Working mothers were more likely to rate their health as “excellent” and they reported fewer conflicts at home. The study did not show any differences in intimacy levels and awareness of their partner’s emotional needs among working mothers and stay-at-home moms.

In regards to schooling, those who worked part-time were just as involved in the schooling of their children as mothers who stayed home, and were found to be more involved than mothers who worked full-time. Mothers who worked part-time were also more apt to provide educational opportunities for their children than mothers who stayed home.

The researchers did indicate that no difference was found between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers during their children’s school-age years. Additionally, the mothers who participated in the study had just one child. The data may be different for mothers that have more than one child. Still, it is rather intriguing that mothers who work are more apt to be happy than mothers that stay at home.

Researchers believe that some of the increased risks of depression and unhappiness may be due to the fact that stay-at-home moms are more likely to be isolated. They also suspect that caring for children around the clock may increase stress levels, which puts stay-at-home moms at a higher risk for health and emotional problems. This may also explain the reason why there was no noticeable difference between stay-at-home and working mothers once the children reached school-age.

So if you’re a working mommy and you feel those pangs of mommy guilt, tell ‘em to shove off! Your employment status could be the reason you are less stressed than your stay-at-home counterpart.

Keep in mind, however, that the study doesn’t mean that you have to work outside the home, if you like staying home. Instead, this study shows that there is a great need for stay-at-home moms to understand the importance of self-care and time away from the kids. This isn’t a luxury. When you’re raising kids, self-care is a necessity. It makes you a happier, more functional mom!

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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