New research suggests that women who buy into the whole “supermom” myth are at a greater risk for depression than those family matriarchs who admit they can’t do it all.
According to the new study, working mothers who think they can live up to the “supermom” image by doing it all, both at home and in the workplace, suffer from higher levels of depression than do moms who admit to having limitations. The research will be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
Lead study author Katrina Leupp, a University of Washington sociology graduate said, “Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities.”
However, Leupp pointed out that striking a healthy balance can be accomplished by stating, “In reality, juggling home and work lives requires some sacrifice, such as cutting back on work hours, and getting husbands to help more. You can happily combine child-rearing and a career if you’re willing to let some things slide.”
For the study, the researchers reviewed survey responses of 1,600 women who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which was administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Participants included both working mothers and stay-at-home moms from across the United States who were all age 40 and married.
The research team analyzed past survey responses to questions regarding balancing work and home life. In answering survey questions as young adults, the women were asked to rank their level of agreement with statements such as “Working wives lead to more juvenile delinquency,” “A woman is happiest if she can stay at home with her children,” and “A woman who fulfills her family responsibilities doesn’t have time for a job outside the home.”
How women answered the questions at an earlier age enabled Leupp to measure their levels of depression at age 40. She found that stay-at-home moms suffered more symptoms of depression than did the working moms. Leupp noted, “Employment is ultimately beneficial for women’s health, even when differences in marital satisfaction and working full or part time are ruled out.” The results of the study mirrors the findings of other similar studies, leading Leupp to note her agreement with the old adage, “Stay-at-home moms have the hardest job in the world.”