I was catching up on some online reading (aka procrastinating at work, which I try not to do but can’t help at times) and came across this article about some new research about women’s happiness.
According to the new research paper, titled The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, the lives of women in the US have improved significantly during the past 35 years but women are less happy today than in the past. And not only are women less happy but they are also less happy than men, whose happiness level has been rising over the past several decades. There are likely many reasons for the decline in happiness as more and more women have gone into the workforce, but the fact that working women are also handling a huge amount of responsibilities at home — and are thus working two shifts instead of one — is a major contributor.
It’s a new paper, but the findings aren’t new — I searched through the archives and found a blog post I wrote in response to some similar research, titled Has feminism failed to make women happier? But this topic really bugs me, mostly because it’s really personal and I don’t know what the answer is.
As a modern, working woman, who has, for many years, been either the primary or equal breadwinner in my household and who, as some would say, wears the pants in the family (honey, if you’re reading this, nod in agreement), I am in an ongoing struggle to not less the daily stress, anxiety, and just the sheer amount of work and to-dos reduce my happiness level to zero. And I’m here to tell you that it’s really hard and on many days I don’t succeed. (On those days I have these fantasies about how my life would be so much easier if either I didn’t have to work full-time or we had a lot more money so we could afford more help around the house. In this I’m not alone — according to one survey, only 18% of women want to work full-time and most prefer that their husband make 2/3 or more of the family income.)
Thing is, I’m not sure what the answer is. I like to work and I can’t imagine being a stay-at-home mom and wife, at least not full-time. (.(There is also enough research to suggest that stay-at-home moms may not be as happy as working moms.) And I would NEVER argue that the opportunities that have opened up for women during the last 30+ years aren’t a sign of amazing progress and are moving our society in the right direction. But being a working mom is insanely stressful and stress has an uncanny way of reducing our happiness.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your perspectives on this topic — sound off in the comments!