Work Life Balance

Enough Already With The Stay-At-Home Vs. Working Mother Happiness Debate

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stay at home motherWho’s happier: Stay-at-home mothers or working mothers? It all depends on who you ask. If you go by the latest British government study, stay-at-home moms are as content and satisfied with their lives as those who choose to work. And yet another recent U.S. study, this one by, found that eight out of 10 mothers enjoy being a working parent; in fact, a whopping 64% said that work does not interfere with their ability to be a good parent. (I find this shocking, by the way.)

While the results of both studies are actually quite uplifting, I always take studies like these  with a grain of salt. Why? Because, like any controversial parenting topic out there, you can find whatever it is you’re looking for on Google. For example, I typed “co-sleeping is safe” into Google and got 23,800,000 results. I then typed “co-sleeping is dangerous” and up came 2,650,000 results (“co-sleeping kills” gets 1,570,000). My point is that you’ll find tens of thousands of official “studies” and “expert opinions” on any given topic – and you’ll choose to believe whatever it is you were looking for in the first place.

The same applies to the whole working mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate. It’s astounding to me how many studies have been conducted on the subject. And yet a woman’s happiness level is based on so many factors that have nothing to do with research and statistics. I have friends who stay at home who are very fulfilled. Actually, they’re more than fulfilled! Most of them are busy, sure, but they still have time for daily workouts and social interaction (especially those with school-aged children). I have an equal number of friends who have gone totally batty not working; in fact, they’ve chosen to go back to work for their own sanity even if they didn’t need the money. (And, yes, they feel guilty about their decision.) Of course, it would be nice if we all that choice – most women simply have to work for financial reasons – but that’s a whole other topic. (Let it it be known that I also have friends who work and end up giving 100% of their salary to their nanny.)

The same schism can be seen among the working moms I know (myself included). We are forever feeling guilty about leaving our kids each day – despite what that study claims – and yet we have even more guilt about not giving 100% to our jobs because we’re too busy focusing on our families. Then there are the work-from-home moms, who have either the best or worst of both worlds – depending on how you look at it.

There are so many other factors to consider as well. Women I know who are happy with their marriage or partners seem to be happier as mothers, whether they spend their days at a desk or as family chauffeur. This isn’t the least bit surprising. And those who have a challenging child vacillate between wanting time to spend with him and wanting a reason to leave the house each day. I hate to say it, but it’s true.

I will no doubt continue to report on many of the parenting-related studies that come my way, mostly because they  spark interesting discussion and debate (we like that here at Mommyish). But the two latest studies remind me of what’s truly important, and that is that a child be brought up by a loving parent. A happy parent. For some, that might entail a jam-packed schedule that includes pursuing a high-powered career. For others, it means having all the time in the world to volunteer at the school book fair and do drop-off and pick-up each day.

But no matter what the “experts” tell us, only we know what works for our own family. And most moms I know need to be reminded of that every so often (okay, who are kidding? More like every day). Consider this your daily reminder Besides, if happiness could really be defined as stay-at-home mom vs. working mother, we’d all have the golden answer. If only things were that simple…

(Photo: Photodisc)