Dispatches from The Department of Obvious Things! American women who are full time stay-at-home mothers fare worse on mental health assessments than their counterparts who attempt to balance working with motherhood. So, the way to avoid depression in mothers is to make sure that they're working outside of the home? Not so fast- those ladies are depressed, too!
The findings were presented yesterday at a meeting of the American Sociological Association. According to US News,
Researchers analyzed survey results from 1,600 married U.S. women who had children at home and were participating in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
When the women were between the ages of 22 and 30, they were asked their opinion of such statements as: "A wife who carries out her full family responsibilities doesn't have time for a job outside the home"; "The employment of wives lead to more juvenile delinquency"; "Women are much happier if they stay at home and take care of their children"; and "It is much better for everyone concerned if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of home and family."
The responses to the outdated statements were actually intended to ferret out women's attitudes toward work-life balance by seeing how seamless they thought it would be to juggle work and family.
Then, at age 40, researchers measured their levels of depression.
The researchers found that women that worked outside of the home fared better, mentally, than their full time mom counterparts, but really, everyone was sort of depressed. Come on, moms! Get happy!
Researchers also found that women who had unrealistic (optimistic) expectations of career-motherhood balance also became significantly bummed out. Many experienced a sense of injustice when their mates failed to contribute equally to keeping the home in working order, because even though men do more work around the house than they did during the swell 50's, they're still not exactly pulling their weight. The solution? One researcher thought that the best thing for women to do to achieve happiness is to lower their expectations.
"The findings really point to the mismatch between women's expectations about their ability to balance work and family. Women still do the bulk of household labor and child care, even when they're employed full time," said study author Katrina Leupp, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Women who go into employment expecting it to be difficult — 'I'm going to have to work full time and do the laundry at night,' but who are accepting of that are less likely to be frustrated than women who expect things to be more equal with their partners."
Many women don't have a choice when it comes to whether or not to work outside of the home; in some cases, child care costs more than what a woman could bring in by working and thus she's stuck, not totally of her own accord. In other cases, the cost of simply existing necessitates that a household have two full time incomes, and a woman must work outside of the home, again due to circumstances beyond her control. If you have a child right this second, for example, by the time that child is old enough to go to college, it will cost approximately $5 billion per year. If you don't save, your child will be indebted forever and forced to work in a Chinese labor camp, because by the time your baby is in college, we will be West China.
Women and their families face a daunting set of circumstances, and it doesn't help that America is also famously crappy about paid maternity leave and flex time for working mothers.
So, ladies, if you have a child, go into it with a crappy attitude. It will save you the depression that arises from crushing disappointment.