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Busier job for mom = happier marriage?

Categories: Balancing Act, Relationships & Marriage, Working Women Issues


I just read about a new study which found that working moms tend to be happier in their marriage when they are dealing with a heavier workload at work.

Say what?

Yep. I did a double take too. But that’s what the study of 169 couples found. Interestingly, the effect on working dads is the opposite: The more work they have, the less happy they — and their wives — are in their marriage.

The researchers suggest that one reason for working moms’ increased happiness when they work more is that their husbands pick up the slack at home. So even though they work more they have to do less at home and their work-life juggle becomes more manageable.

I’m a big skeptic about this, I have to tell you. The past 6 months at my job have been truly nutty and my workload increased substantially. Sure, this has meant that my husband has stepped up his share at home, especially because I’ve been taking tons of business trips. But this has made us more stressed out and the idea that my increased workload would make us happier as a couple just doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps in some cases mom working more means that mom has a more interesting job or one with more responsibility or one she finds more engaging or satisfying. I know when I’m satisfied at work I’m happier in general, including at home and in my marriage. Maybe this was one of the underlying reasons women in the study were happier when they had more to do at work.

What do you think about these findings? Does this ring true for you and your marriage or relationship?

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3 comments so far...

  • I sent my e-mail to soon. One more thing, interestingly, the abstract states:

    For parent couples, however, increases in husbands’ workload covaried with declines in marital satisfaction for both spouses.

    Tina  |  June 13th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

  • This doesn’t surprise me. My mom liked working because, among other things, it neutralized the typical male attitude that a man’s job is a greater investment into the household than the woman’s responsibilities.

    And, it’s frankly nice to spend time in the grown-up world, dealing with interesting grown-up issues. It’s nice to be the go-to person for something more world-changing than wiping a toddler’s butt. It’s nice to be with people who speak to you with respect and in full sentences.

    When we work more, on average, that also means we can afford things that improve our family’s quality of life. For example, maid service, admissions to cultural offerings in the community, fresh organic food, child care that we can really feel good about. Working more can mean that we don’t have to go home and clean house for the balance of our waking hours. If someone at work demands more from us, even if we feel resentful, it’s not resentment against our family members. We don’t have to feel guilty hiring child care for a “date night” or other ways to keep a relationship healthy.

    And then there’s the wise old saying - absence makes the heart grow fonder.

    Not sure why the same isn’t true of men, but obviously men are wired differently. All things remaining equal, on average, a guy comes home from 8 hours and needs to “relax,” whereas a woman gets her second wind and spends the entire evening “doing something.” I think men, on average, have less stamina for the long haul.

    SKL  |  June 13th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

  • Nataly - i think most women who are ‘busier’ at work means the occasional 10 hour day and a business trip here and there. Your idea of ‘busier’ makes me exhausted just reading it!! lol

    i think SKL hit the nail on the head, working more brings in money for ‘fun’ and intellectual stimulation and adding to the family bottom line.

    SKL - i have to laugh about how you pointed out men need to ‘relax’! This is my husbands life goal - to ‘relax’ and yes, it drives me crazy! lol you are so right, i am totally energized by doing things i want to do even after a busy day! Maybe men and women just relax differently?

    kate  |  June 14th, 2011 at 10:25 am