A new study offers good news for those seeking to balance work and family: moms who work outside the home are healthier and less depressed than moms who don't.
According to ScienceDaily, researchers looked at interviews with 1,364 moms over a 10-year period. They found that moms employed part-time or full-time had less depression and better general health than stay-at-home moms. Moms who worked part-time fared best in some areas — they matched stay-at-home moms when it came to involvement in their children's schooling (and, unsurprisingly, were more involved than moms who worked full-time). And, of all the mothers in the sample, those who worked part-time provided the most learning opportunities for young kids. Says study author Cheryl Buehler, "In all cases with significant differences in maternal well-being, such as conflict between work and family or parenting, the comparison favored part-time work over full-time or not working. However, in many cases the well-being of moms working part time was no different from moms working full time."
Her co-author Marion O'Brien points out that the study makes the case for more support for part-time workers: "Since part-time work seems to contribute to the strength and well-being of families, it would be beneficial to employers if they provide fringe benefits, at least proportionally, to part-time employees as well as offer them career ladders through training and promotion." It's no surprise that part-time work appears beneficial to moms. For one thing, it provides much-needed income — researchers did control for moms' education, but it's not clear if they looked at socioeconomic status or whether stay-at-home moms were actively looking for work. Even leaving aside financial issues, work can provide women with an identity, sense of accomplishment, and set of experiences that are outside of motherhood. And given how stressful motherhood can be, it's no shock that some women appreciate the chance to do something else from time to time. As O'Brien says, this should make us, as a society, rethink part-time work, since it seems to be the best possible scenario for many moms and kids. It should also make us recognize that, while some women do love being stay-at-home moms, it's far from the natural best choice for all women.
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