And This Is Why I’m Not A Stay-At-Home Mom; It’s Depressing
A new study just proved why I could never be a stay-at-home mom: Mothers who have jobs are healthier, happier and less depressed than those who are not employed.
Published in this month's Journal of Family Psychology, researchers found that working mothers were less depressed and reported better overall health than moms who stayed at home with their kids who were not yet in school. The study also found that there was no difference between the positive mental and physical health of mothers who worked part time and those who worked full time–just the fact that women who worked outside the home for some amount of time seemed to be happier and healthier. Why? Because stay-at-home moms were found to be more socially isolated and under more stress than working moms, which increased their chances of being depressed. To which I have to say: Duh!
For anyone who's ever stayed at home all day with young children, none of this may come as a surprise. At least it didn't for me. I have two kids, and believe me, I wanted to be the perfect stay-at-home mom, but that never happened. I was intimidated by the other too-perfect stay-at-home moms. You know, the ones who have the spotless houses, whip up healthy homemade snacks at their child's whim, make their own Christmas crafts and manage to celebrate Halloween with perfectly decorated spider cupcakes that they, of course, made themselves. Oh, and they're also the room mom at school, the team mom for soccer, and they attend every mommy-and-me class in town. Not that every stay-at-home mom is like this, mind you– just the vision of the one I had to be (and that one annoyingly perfect one down the street).
After my first son was born, I tried attending the neighborhood play groups. Boring. Like, do women really want to sit around and talk about which brand of diaper is best or what their baby's poop looks like? Really? Just shoot me (or give me a large glass of wine. Or both.), I would think as I eyed my watch every two minutes looking for a graceful excuse to leave (please, baby, cry). I also tried to be fulfilled singing Barney songs and trying to understand what the hell the Teletubbies were all about, but all of that just left me exhausted.
The days would creep by (not that I didn't love my child, because I truly did and found him nothing short of amazing), but going for stroller walks with other moms, toting him and his heavy, bulky, awkward car seat around the grocery store, changing diaper after smelly diaper and feeling my brain atrophy a little more every day was totally not cutting it for me. I was growing estranged from my former co-workers and found myself jealous of what I knew they were doing Monday through Friday: dressing in chic suits and trendy pumps, having smart brainstorming sessions with clients and talking about things other than diapers at happy hour. Meanwhile, I was stuck in the house (afraid to go out and run into the “perfect moms”), dressed in old sweats and lacking anything somewhat intelligent to talk about. Not that I'm saying all stay-at-home moms are like this because all moms are important and work hard, regardless of their choice to stay home or work (and that's a personal decision for each woman to decide what works for her). But for me, something had to give. I was clearly depressed.
So I did what I had to do: Much to the horror of those who thought my baby should be nestled in my bosom at all times (something else I hated), I put my son in daycare and went back to work part-time. I also (somewhat guiltily) used part of the time he was in daycare to run and workout, get my hair done and have lunch with the girls. And you know what? I was happy again. When I would pick my son up, I was fully focused on him and ready to spend the rest of the day together. No longer was I half-listening or not listening at all to him, while wallowing in my own depression. No longer was I dressing like a bag lady, and no longer was my brain taken over by baby talk. I began sleeping better, getting my pre-pregnancy body back and reconnecting with my husband and my friends. In short, I felt fulfilled. And not depressed. Thank God, because I was in the process of having some truly terrible thoughts about what I really wanted to do to those Teletubbies.