Just Don't Call Me Supermom

Working Women Less Depressed as Long as They Don't "Do it All'

Just Don't Call Me Supermom

By Depression Connect StaffA Published at January 16, 2018 Views 3,905 Comments 1

Working moms are less likely to show symptoms of depression than stay-at-home moms, but to really guard against the disease, it’s important they accept they can’t do it all.

A study asked 1,600 women – a mix of working and stay-at-home mothers – to respond to statements like, “Women are much happier if they stay at home and take care of their children,” when they were young adults. Their replies were used to rate their attitudes regarding women’s employment. The researchers then analyzed those results alongside a score of the women’s level of depression when they were 40.

The results supported earlier studies that show that, despite the challenges, working full- or part-time is good for women’s mental health. Women who worked were less likely than stay-at-home mothers to suffer symptoms of depression.

But, among the employed women, the least likely to be depressed who those who had held less optimistic views of combining career and family in their first survey.

Researchers said the women who first said they expected it to be easy to work and take care of kids could be falling prey to a “supermom” complex – pressuring themselves to overachieve in all areas of life. When they fall short, they’re more likely to feel the guilt and frustration that can lead to depression than their counterparts who cut themselves more slack and have more realistic expectations.

Women who expect work-parenthood balance to be more difficult may also be more likely to choose men who are going to be more helpful as partners, the researchers said.

The study’s results held after controls for earlier levels of depression, marital happiness and hours worked were considered. Job quality, or how much a woman reported enjoying her work, did make a difference – liking their work was key to the depression fighting benefits.

Researchers suggested working mothers may be happier if they institute the following tips:

  • Delegate and let a few things slide. It's inevitable working moms will need to compromise on some aspects of the way they approach their career or their parenting.
  • Be understanding with yourself. Accept that balancing work and family feels hard, because it is hard. rather than feeling guilty or unsuccessful.
  • Look for flexibility. Research shows women are happiest in jobs in which they have autonomy and more control over their schedule.

    The study was conducted by members of the University of Washington sociology department and was presented at the 2011 American Sociological Association's annual meeting in Las Vegas. The women studied were participants in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which began tracking kids in 1979 when they were between age 14 and 22.

    Share your experiences and thoughts in the discussion section. 

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