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Are working moms happier than ones who stay at home?

A British survey takes a closer look

by Veronica  |  33460 views  |  21 comments  |        Rate this now! 

According to a study reported by the BBC, working mothers are happier than ones that stay at home.

I'm not so convinced. I'm not saying that I'm not happy. Neither do I think that my stay-at-home-mom counterpart is living it up on bon-bons, a la Peg Bundy. But personally, I think there are some days when I am, some days when I'm not. This isn't a race. There isn't a shortage of happiness in this world, and the way people are splitting "The Motherhood" into two camps just pisses me off.

Feministing responded to the BBC story with this:

Yes, anti-feminists and conservatives will be pissed. But you know who else will be? Stay-at-home Moms. Try waking up and checking your blogrolls to find that the feminist blogosphere has embraced "scientific-proof" that your life isn't as happy as you thought it was five 5 minutes earlier.

I have always known that I was not made to be a SAHM. My maternity leave was great, but I was pretty bored. I did go out to Mommy & Me yoga classes, but didn't really socialize with the other moms. No sense in getting used to a play group when the gig is up in a few weeks. The day I went back to work was a great day for me. I didn't cry, I didn't worry too much about how my daughter was doing. I trusted my caregivers and dove right back into work.

I also know some really amazing SAHMs who love what they do. You can see it on their faces  -- it's not that they're happy to be home "picking up socks," but they are happy to spend time watching their kids play and discovering things that I honestly miss out on.

I asked some mommy bloggers how they felt about being a stay-at-home-mom, and here's what one of them said:

"I have been working part time/freelance up until this past June when I went full time SAHM after my work contract just fell through. I LOVE IT!!!!! I have a huge social network and we meet up in the mornings, afternoons and evenings -- depending on the day. Sometimes I think about having another baby to prolong going back to work when they all start kindergarten. Ha! We are never home and always out doing fun things during times of the day/week when it's not crowded. And no, I'm not picking up socks all day. I do it at the end of the day and we play all day with friends (both mine and theirs).

About the Author

Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist living in Chicago with her husband & Mini-Me daughter. You can read more of her rants at .

Read more by Veronica

21 comments so far...

  • This article really pinged me because I'm not loving working out of the home now (and because just this morning I blogged about this). Lots of the "good mothering" is really dependent on being present all the time.

    I like working, in general, though I'm not in love with my specific job right now. I'd love to figure out how to work at home, but as teacher, it seems unlikely that I'll get all of my middle schoolers to come to me.

    Like you, I don't see this as an either/or. Some days, like during break, when I get to stay at home I'm so happy and other days, it's all I can do not to put my head in the oven. Some work days are super satisfying and some make me yearn to be at home with my baby.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kat on 25th January 2008

  • I work full time outside of my home. My house is never clean like it used to be pre-baby. I never feel like I can spend enough time with my daughter. Right now, I'm fortunate enough to have my mom be our babysitter while we both work. It does ease my mind to know she's in very good hands, but my mom doesn't do things like I would. I'm not saying I'd like to be a SAHM forever, but for at least until she's 3 or 4. I think the first several years are the most important in developing who they are as an individual and personally I don't want to miss as much of that as I do now.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 16th January 2008

  • I don't convince myself of my happiness. I know for a fact that I am happier working. I suspect many other women do as well. You see-self esteem in a capitalist society is linked to money earned.

    Unfortunately, there's no getting away from it. One of the first questions people ask when they meet each other is this one:

    "So, what do you do?"

    That's no accident.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Uhura on 15th January 2008

  • Thanks for all the comments!

    designmom, you pose an awesome question - "would I be a better mother if I spent 12 hours a day with him instead of 3? Or am I a better mother because we have 2 incomes and great health insurance? "

    Tonight my lil one told me that she couldn't go to bed because we hadn't had have enough cuddle time. *sigh*

    Part of me wants to crawl into bed with her, but I know she'll do just that to me in a few hours. :D

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Veronica on 15th January 2008

  • Thanks for zoning in on this huge issue. I agree with the view you express: who says this is an either/or situation? In any case, me and most of the other moms I know work part time either from home or elsewhere, which totally muddies the water. I think either can be hard, trying to both is hard, too. I think 99% of us CAN agree that we're all over-worked and over-scheduled!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 15th January 2008

  • I work full-time outside the home, and depending on what time of day you ask me, I love my life or I hate it. I would love to be able to stay home, but financially it is not an option.

    And it isn't as though being a SAHM is a vacation - it's WORK, without the benefit of a paycheck. But like any job, it's not right for everyone.

    I wonder how many other WOHMs out there, like me, convince ourselves that we're "happier" to have a full-time job because that's the only way we can kiss our babies goodbye and go off to work 5+ days a week without totally losing it? I come home just in time to give him dinner and put him to bed... would I be a better mother if I spent 12 hours a day with him instead of 3? Or am I a better mother because we have 2 incomes and great health insurance?

    At the end of the day, we are all individual people with different needs, and we're all doing the best we can for ourselves and our children.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by designmom on 15th January 2008

  • This is so interesting to me. I really think it goes back to that women want to do it all, and we feel like we're failing if we don't.

    I know for me I love my part time work. I love being able to see all of the baby firsts and be at home with her, but there is a great deal of satisfaction from bringing home a paycheck, and honing my skills.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by mamajama on 14th January 2008

  • The results of the study are not surprising at all to me.

    People's self esteem is linked to their happiness and happiness is linked to doing "important" work. Unfortunately, our society places a low value on anything labelled as "women's work" - which most people still believe is cooking, cleaning, child care and child rearing. Conversely, a high value is placed upon money generating activities-paid labor, usually outside the home.

    Also, depending on one wage earer is extremely risky: If your family's wage earner is no longer willing or able to provide funds - you'll end up in a bind as many women have experienced firsthand when their spouses became injured / sick / disabled or involved with another woman.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Uhura on 14th January 2008

  • I think I was a little happier when I was working out of the home but not entirely.

    I felt the need to leave a comment because I am entertaining the idea of going back.

    I think if more companies offered Flex-time benefits to moms there would be less fall out from moms on maternity leave.

    I took the entire 12 weeks plus 4 more unpaid weeks when my son was born(he was a little sickies).

    My vote is to give 6 months maternity leave or do like they do in Europe and offer 1 year maternity leave. Some places in Europe even send help to directly to their home. They help out with groceries and laundry.

    I went back to work for 1 year after my son and I was miserable until I negotiated flex time. Unfortunately the Flex time was not embraced by a new management and I was gone.

    Now I am stay at home mom and there are days I just want to get on the train and head into the city for some quiet time.

    I miss working because I feel a loss of independence, the contributiion I made to the family, me time, I had a cleaning person and it wasn't me, I never dealt with the laundry and never saw the grocery strore.

    I don't miss working because I get to experience all the 1sts with my kids. I tend to be on the sappy side when it comes to my kids. I am a crier at school plays.

    I really think it is an individual preference.

    Nothing is perfect all the time.

    I don't think anyone should be judged for making the choice to stay home or not. I hear it happen all the time.

    I never thought I was SAHM and still to this day go back and forth. I am determined to make something out of but who knows:))

    Thanks for article.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 13th January 2008