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Why Working Moms Should Feel Great About Themselves

First in a series from the author of "The Feminine Mistake"

by Leslie Bennetts  |  92325 views  |  29 comments  |        Rate this now! 

We all know it’s not easy being a working mom. All too often, mothers who work outside the home feel conflicted and apologetic about their choice, even when it’s dictated by financial necessity. All too rarely do they receive the kind of validation and support they deserve. Between the stress, the guilt and the sheer physical demands of juggling family and job, most of us have days when we wonder why our lives have to be so complicated.

Well, it’s time to take heart! As The Feminine Mistake makes clear, working mothers are, in most cases, doing the best possible thing for their children by contributing to the family income and maintaining their own financial viability. This series will highlight some of the surprising research I uncovered when writing the book.

Prepare to pat yourself on the back -- you have lots of excellent reasons to feel good about the choice you’ve made!

REASON NUMBER ONE: Working Women Are Happier

The media constantly harp on the stress of the juggling act and the relief women supposedly feel when they opt out of the work force. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the grass is greener on the soccer mom’s side of the fence, where stay-at-home mothers are free to devote all their time to children and home. Would working women be happier if they gave up the hassles of balancing job and family in favor of baking cookies and planting daffodils?

In fact, they probably wouldn’t -- not even in the short run, and almost certainly not over the long haul. As demonstrated in The Feminine Mistake, the truth about life as a full-time homemaker is very different from all that retrograde hype about the joys of opting out.

Contrary to popular mythology, decades of social science research have consistently shown that working mothers are happier and less anxious than stay-at-home moms; those cliches about desperate housewives fighting depression and substance abuse turn out to contain a good deal of truth. Moreover, when full-time homemakers return to paid work outside the home, their mental and emotional health improves significantly.

For example, one study found that women who had a child and stayed in the work force showed no increase in psychological distress -- but women who had a child and dropped out of the work force experienced a major increase in stress.

The boredom and lack of satisfaction experienced by many stay-at-home mothers are troubling enough when their children are young, but the problem becomes acute as the kids get older. Wrapped up in their own lives, teenagers assert their independence; husbands are busy with their careers. At this stage in life, stay-at-home moms may find the empty nest traumatic indeed, whereas working mothers with rewarding careers have ample opportunities for positive reinforcement outside the home.

About the Author

Leslie Bennetts is a veteran journalist and the author of the national best-seller, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? Her book was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and is now out in paperback. Widely hailed as a must-read for women of all ages, this controversial book documents the benefits of work and the risks of economic dependency for women who give up their jobs to become full-time homemakers. She is a long time Vanity Fair magazine writer and is a mother of two teenagers.

Read more by Leslie Bennetts

29 comments so far...

  • "Propaganda to stay home"... You chose to make babies. Why is it propaganda to think you should actually take care of them?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kristie McNealy on 13th March 2008

  • I agree with Joanne, however I also agree with Kate's comment. As a working mom, I feel extremely guilty for working (even though we have no choice financially--women will feel guilty no matter what they're doing!). So this does make me feel better/justified doing what I'm doing. I am constantly worrying about it so this takes a load off -- somewhat. : )

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Amber on 13th March 2008

  • I totally agree with Joanne!!

    This is absurd! Women are happier when they are doing what they WANT to do (just linke men), whether that is staying home, or going to work. For me, being away from my kids and letting someone else raise them was torture. My neighbor on the other hand, had a mental breakdown (literally) and had to get out of the house and go back to work to get it together.

    Implying that any one solution is going to make me happier makes me sick. Why does it have to be an us versus them thing as far as working and stay at home moms go, and where does that leave WAHMs?!?


    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kristie McNealy on 13th March 2008

  • Can't we stop having this discussion that pits mother against mother against mother?? If working makes us happy, great. If staying home with our kids make us happy, great, too.

    Why must we keep insisting there is a one size fits all prescription for happiness?


    Flag as inappropriate Posted by PunditMom on 13th March 2008

  • I am so excited for this series! I completely agree - I think in the long run I am much more sane/productive/positive person (mom) working than not. I don't really understand the propeganda to stay home... it's great for some but not for everyone!
    Can't wait for Reson Number Two!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kate on 12th March 2008