Women who have a realistic attitude about balancing work and family, turn out to be less depressed than women who expect it to be easy. Working moms are happier when they delegate and let a few things slide — in other words, let someone with more time run the bake sale, make sure your husband is doing his share of laundry folding and limit your work hours when you can.
Though today’s Dads do help with housework and child care more than in prior generations, studies show that women — whether they’re employed or not — still do the bulk of those duties.
Researchers analyzed survey results from 1,600 married U.S. women who had children at home and were participating in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
When the women were between the ages of 22 and 30, they were asked their opinion of such statements as: “A wife who carries out her full family responsibilities doesn’t have time for a job outside the home”; “The employment of wives lead to more juvenile delinquency”; “Women are much happier if they stay at home and take care of their children”; and “It is much better for everyone concerned if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of home and family.”
The responses to the outdated statements were actually intended to ferret out women’s attitudes toward work-life balance by seeing how seamless they thought it would be to juggle work and family.
Then, at age 40, researchers measured their levels of depression. Overall, women who were employed either full or part time were less likely to be depressed than those who stayed at home. Signs of depression included difficult concentrating, feeling lonely, sad or restless, having trouble sleeping or getting going in the morning and feeling unable to shake the blues.
Working women surveyed who were less sure about the ability of women to balance careers and family were also less apt to show symptoms of depression than women who thought it was going to be easy to do both, according to the study.
“The findings really point to the mismatch between women’s expectations about their ability to balance work and family. Women still do the bulk of household labor and child care, even when they’re employed full time,” said study author Katrina Leupp, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. ”
Despite challenges, having outside employment is beneficial for women’s mental health. Some of the women who think it’s not difficult to work and take care of kids may also be buying into the “supermom” complex — pressuring themselves to be overachievers in all aspects of life.
How can working moms cope?
Be gentle with yourself and accept that balancing work and family feels hard because it is hard, rather than feeling that guilty or unsuccessful if you can’t devote as much time as you would like to your job and to your family.