by Rachel Allison
The title “Why Working Moms Are Happier” was a taunt that caught my attention. The article by Laurie Tarkan first suggests that “women who believe they can do it all—the successful career, the clean house, a home-cooked meal every night—may be more unhappy than working women who assume that they can’t be a supermom, according to a new study.”
This “study” found that “those who as young adults consistently agreed with the notion that women could successfully combine employment and family care—were at a higher risk for depression compared with working moms who felt it would be difficult for women to raise a family while working.
I don’t have a problem with these findings. My husband reminds me periodically that “the discontent we feel comes when our expectations are too high and as a result, are not realized. This “study” states the obvious. Working women who have faced reality by recognizing the time and energy commitment a career takes from home and family are simply being realistic.
Several years ago my sister-in-law asked that I substitute for her at the local high school while she attended to some serious family matters. My children were all in school and so I agreed to help her out. I would be working 29 hours a week. My first thoughts were, (just like the young adults in the study,) “I can keep up with everything and everybody and still work 29 hours at the local high school.” I quickly recognized that I was wrong. And do you know what hurt most? Not my home. I was determined to keep it clean and orderly. Not my meals. I became a “crock-pot diva.” What hurt was my one on one time with my children. It was the precious reading time we had spent together around the breakfast table…So after several months of this time commitment, I was thrilled to return to full-time mom and homemaker.
The section of the “study” I take issue with? “ Working moms had lower levels of depression than stay-at-home moms, but Ms. Tarkan’s silence on the “why” is what concerned me…and so I read other studies on this topic.
The why? One study suggests, “Women who stay at home are more isolated. They don’t have the adult stimulation they would at the workplace. They don’t have to get dressed and get out of the house. Being confined to the same four walls day in and day out can have negative effects”…the key to beating the doldrums in this second study is that we all need “BALANCE.” This balance is certainly attainable for those who choose to be stay-at-home moms. In fact, balance may be more easily reached because stay-at-home moms set their own schedule. It takes self-discipline and planning, but as we rise to the level of “Home and Family CEO” the challenges and rewards are exciting and innumerable. Children make demands of our time, but so do bosses. Housework can be time consuming, but so can work projects.
No matter what course a woman chooses, we would do well to remember the importance of creativity and the need for growth. Because stay-at-home Moms have more flexibility with their schedules, they may have more opportunity to pursue personal interests. They can take a class at the local community college. They can get involved in politics, PTA, local charities, and musical presentations. I have seen young stay-at-home moms organize and orchestrate neighborhood theatrical productions for the children who are out of school for summer break. The possibilities are endless…and the rewards are invaluable.
All three of my daughters are stay-at-home moms. One has taught herself photography, and has built up a little part-time business. It doesn’t take up much of her time, and she loves it. Another daughter played college volleyball. She organizes volleyball clinics once or twice a year for the young girls in her neighborhood. She looks forward to sharing her passion with these athlete wannabes. The third is actively involved in her neighborhood homeowner’s association and has made friends with most of the homeowners in her neighborhood. Plus she’s very involved in local politics. Are they depressed? They don’t have time to be depressed.
Ms. Tarkan states, “One heartening piece of news is that no matter how guilty you feel or how insurmountable your tasks seem, working is good for your mental health.” I agree! But the work that I consider good for mental health is cleaning and organizing a closet, painting an old piece of furniture, sewing a costume, or planting a garden…and guess what? No guilt!