Bottom line? Women, with or without children, prefer part-time work over no work AND full-time work. The slight outcome that mothers are "happier" when the kids run off to school is the main headline heard around the world. But the real conclusion is a tad hairier than my legs in winter: Work/life balance is screwing with all of us women, not just us breeders who want to take the afternoon off to hit the holiday play. Not just us mothers who call in sick to stay with our feverish children. It affects even the child-free women of the world -- those who want the afternoon off to maybe hit the gym early, read that book that's been sitting on her night stand since Hanukkah 2005, or to spend some time with their dog on a beautiful sunny day. This report should not had been heralded as just one more shot in the Mommy Wars, but one more shot for us, women, wanting to bring this world back from the brink of insanity that is 50, 60+ work weeks.
Of course there are those who are SAHMs and aren't built for the job. One former SAHM wrote me to tell me that:
When I was 100% SAHM with small children, I was the most depressed and unhappy I've ever been in my life. As were most of my friends at the time. The best we could do was tie our life boats together and hope to get through another day. Unless your personality is configured to be a domestic goddess (re: you LOVE to put your house in order, decorate, embellish & then do it all again) or your kids are superstars of some kind (ballet everyday, soccer everyday--julliard or olympics to follow) OR you homeschool (which god knows is a full-time job)--i think it's super hard to stay upbeat, no matter how much social stimulation you have.
It's important to note that stay-at-home-moms are often still working. SAHMs are also freelance writers, journalists, artists, Tupperware women, Mary Kay ladies, on and on. Let's look at the report itself:
For women with children, part-time jobs generate greater job satisfaction, while full-time work generates the biggest increase in life satisfaction. This is what we term the part-time work puzzle.
For those out there who are thinking, but what about health status? Class? Income levels? Egalitarian households? The answer: It didn't matter.
We British research report says the researchers experimented with a number of splits, distinguishing between couples with and without children; women with high education and low education; couples with a high family income and couples with a low family income; older women and younger women; women in good health and women in poor health; women who work compared with working women who view their hours of work as OK compared with all women; women with partners aged 50 years or more and women with younger partners; women who did the majority of domestic chores and those who did not.21 The results of all these additional analyses were remarkably similar. Whatever the sub-sample, the puzzle remains.