Unhappy Stay-at-Home Moms Often Aren’t Staying Home by Choice, Study Says

Unhappy stay-at-home moms are not uncommon. They aren’t universal, of course. Being a stay-at-home mom can be a wonderful, rewarding experience for a lot women. But one woman’s perfect, blessed life is another’s yellow-wallpapered domestic prison. Some women become stay-at-home moms not because they wanted to, but because they felt forced to do so by outside circumstances like finances, childcare availability, and their partners’ career goals. According to a new study, those are the moms most likely to report being unhappy stay-at-home moms.

In perhaps the least surprising academic study of all time, researchers looked at 2,000 mothers witch college and graduate degrees who were working and not working. They put the women in four groups: Those who were working and wanted to be, those who were staying home and wanted to be, and those who were working but wanted to be staying home, and those who were staying home but wanted to be working. In results that will surprise literally nobody, the women who were doing the opposite of what they wanted were the most unhappy. The women who wanted to stay home and did that, and the women who wanted to work and did so, were the happiest and most satisfied.


The women who worked and wanted to be home, and the ones who wanted to work but were home were the most unhappy and dissatisfied, obviously. The study was published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. It also said SAHMs who would rather work reported the highest levels of loneliness and unhappiness, and the lowest levels of personal fulfillment.

Women who were home but didn’t want to be were the most unhappy.

Most of the women who stayed home against their wishes said they did so because they couldn’t find good childcare. In some cases childcare is too expensive, or just unavailable. In some cases, they have spouses with busy careers. Eventually they just grudgingly said, “Well someone has to be available, and I guess it’s me.”

The women who stayed home often said they felt like they gave up their professional goals. They were the most likely to report negative effects on their mental health and personal fulfillment. People often have this idea that being a stay-at-home mom is a privilege. But if you don’t want it, it can be brutal.

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(H/T Romper, iStockPhoto / vadimguzhva)

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