Working mothers who think they can do the “supermom thing” and juggle a full-time career with full-time child-rearing are more prone to depression than mothers who take a more realistic view of what it takes to balance a career and children. Katrina Leupp, a University of Washington sociology graduate student, presented these findings on August 21 at the American Sociological Association‘s annual meeting in Las Vegas. As she says in Science Daily:
“Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities,” said Leupp…. In reality, juggling home and work lives requires some sacrifice, she said, such as cutting back on work hours and getting husbands to help more.
“You can happily combine child rearing and a career, if you’re willing to let some things slide.”
For her research, Leupp analyzed survey responses from 1,600 women — working mothers and stay-at-home mothers — who had participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which is administered by the US Department of Labor:
As young adults, the women answered questions about work-life balance by ranking how much they agreed with statements, such as “A woman who fulfills her family responsibilities doesn’t have time for a job outside the home,” “Working wives lead to more juvenile delinquency” and “A woman is happiest if she can stay at home with her children.”
Leupp looked at these answers in comparison to data about the women’s levels of depression at the age of 40. Women who as young adults had expressed a “supermom” attitude based on their “consistently agree[ing] with statements that women can combine employment and family care” were shown to be a higher risk for depression than those whose statements suggested a more realistic view about needing to make accommodations when working and raising a family. As Leupp notes, “Employed women who expected that work-life balance was going to be hard are probably more likely to accept that they can’t do it all.”
Leupp also found that stay-at-home mothers had higher rates of depression than those who worked. “Employment,” she notes, ‘is ultimately beneficial for women’s health, even when differences in marital satisfaction and working full or part time are ruled out.” There is, she says “some truth” to the saying that “Stay-at-home moms have the hardest job in the world.”
Photo by Romana Correale
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