A few weeks ago, we all learned a valuable lesson from 30 Rock: Murphy Brown lied to us, and women really can’t “have it all” (read: kids and careers). But according to a Gallup poll released this morning, working moms actually seem to have it down–they report the more overall happiness than either employed, childfree women, or stay-at-home moms. The stay-at-home moms, meanwhile, reported the highest levels of depression and anger, and the lowest levels of satisfaction.
This isn’t the first time that research based on self-reporting has indicated that staying at home with young kids can be emotionally difficult and lead to a lack of overall life satisfaction. In 2010, New York Magazine released a featured entitled “Why Parents Hate Parenting,” which ignited the anger of many a mommy-blogger. And earlier this year, Blisstree writer Deborah wrote about a study that found that being a stay-at-home mom is depressing; the stay-at-home moms were not amused. Immediately, a lengthy battle ensued in the comments, as mothers who didn’t work outside the home adamantly defended their choice to stay at home, and refuted the study’s findings.
What’s interesting about this poll, however, is how happy working moms seem to be. Despite the message that is consistently repeated in films, television, and the media, women who continue to work as parents are not only less stressed, when asked how they felt “yesterday,” they report more feelings of enjoyment and fulfillment than either childfree women or stay-at-home moms. Here’s a graph from Gallup:
As you can see, working mothers not only report getting smiled or laughed at more, they also experience the most happiness, and report that the word “thriving” best describes how they feel. And who doesn’t want that? Additionally, in several studies, working moms have also shown to be physically healthier, and better at managing stress.
Finances, too, seem to have a lot to do with it (don’t they always?). Stay-at-home moms on the tightest budgets report the highest levels of stress and depression, while working moms–even low-income ones–experienced more joy. However, in situations where the median household income was under $36,000 per year, employed women without children were found to be the happiest and most thriving.
It shouldn’t be as surprising as it is that a career, which has long been shown to give women greater feelings of self-efficacy, empowerment, and even enjoyment in their personal relationships, would be part of the mix for a truly fulfilling life–and yet, there are so many societal forces telling women that staying at home is the best way to raise healthy, smart, engaged children. Could it be that working moms are the victims or poor PR, and that they’ve actually got the secret to awesome lives? Or, are they just more likely to report positively about their life choices in the face of scrutiny?
Each mom (or child-free woman, for that matter) has to choose what’s right for her life and her choices–but it seems that, for the most part, working moms really do have the best of both worlds.
Image via Politico