Are stay at home mothers more unhappy?

Last week we posted on our Facebook page a link to a very interesting article that stated ‘Stay at home mothers are more unhappy than those that work’.  Many of you commented and so we thought we’d blog on the subject to continue the discussion.

The article refers to a study published online in Springer’s Journal of Child Family Studies.  The study states that women who believe in ‘intensive parenting’ are at risk of a range of mental illnesses including depression.  Those in this category believed that ‘women make better parents than men, that mothering should be child-centred and that children should be considered sacred and fulfilling’.  It concluded that many women were in danger of suffering the ‘parenthood paradox’ where their ideology increases feelings of stress and guilt.  Whereas the article raises the question of what is meant by ‘intensive parenting’ and whether SAHM’s all employ this approach, it does have some interesting insights.

We’ve blogged on SAHM ‘V’ Working mums and on being a Stay at home mum before and like most could only conclude that both options carry a certain level of guilt, both have their pros and cons and there is no right or wrong choice except what is right for each individual.  However, one of the reasons we started MTAM is because we are passionate about all mums being fulfilled in themselves as women as well as in their role as mother.  It concerns me that mums are putting their children first at the detriment of their health.  As we’ve said time and again a ‘happy mum means a happy child’ – whether you choose to work or not.

What the findings of this study raise for me is not the conclusion that all mums should go out to work, but that all mums need to have something for themselves –  Some time that is dedicated just for their own fulfilment.  It also confirms yet again that we somehow feel guilty if we dare ‘indulge’ in any ‘me-time’ assuming it is somehow going to harm our children or lead to their neglect.  We have to stop this false martyrdom style parenting and truly believe that we are the best example and parent to our children when we follow our dreams and live out life to the full right in front of them – fulfilled and happy!

Are you a stay at home mum who sometimes feels depressed and wishes you could work?

Are you a working mum who sometimes feels depressed and wishes you could stay at home?

What are your thoughts on these findings?


  • This is another great post! Totally agree that happy *parents* = happy children. Speaking from my own experience as a full time working mum with a SAH Dad, I feel that both mums and dads need more flexibility to be at home, or working, on a daily or weekly basis. …On the way to this ‘utopia’, I am developing Work Free (@WorkFreeUK) to get parents working on a truly flexible basis! There are SO many benefits, – mental + physical health, financial, child development, even energy consumption – to local flexible working!

    Thankfully there are several new organisations (including mine) now trying to responding to this need around the UK. What we all need is more employers and parents to engage with us… Do please get in touch if you are looking for the possibility of local working and flexible childcare!

    • morethanamummy

      It’s so encouraging to know there are initiatives developing like yours to help the increasing number of parents who want to have a healthy work/life balance. Looking forward to your guest post! :-)

  • Mummy Plum

    I agree with the comment,”all mums need to have something for themselves.” I’m a SAHM. Just after my son’s 2nd birthday I did feel a bit depressed and lost. When I thought about it, I realised it was the outlet for myself I missed rather than work itself. At that point I started my blog and I found this really helped me and gave me a new avenue to express myself, share my views and rediscover my love of writing. Right now, I’m happy to be a SAHM Mum but I am hatching plans to retrain once my children reach a slightly older age. Knowing I don’t plan to be at home forever also makes me value the time I do have at home now.

    • morethanamummy

      It’s a great point you make that the time is limited when our children are young and yes we agree the key is in having ‘something’ just for yourself!

  • Leah

    If you were unhappy/happy before having children (which is something that was not established by this study) and then things changed once you became a parent; then I guess it’s about having the confidence to change the situation.

    What is sad is that the study (which I personally feel uses some rather vague diagnostic criteria for depression) reveals yet again that lots of women feel unable to help themselves.

    Have confidence in your own parenting style and if you’re worried that something isn’t working, then make changes.

    It’s sadly not as simple as making this a SAHM or working mother debate. Happiness is not gender specific as there are plenty of unhappy men and some of them may even be staying at home to look after children.

    • morethanamummy

      We totally agree that this is not a SAHM/working mum issue but rather about having something fulfilling for yourself as a women whether you work or stay at home!

  • Christine Kelly

    I’m a mum of three and also a childminder. So effectively I stay at home with my children, but I also work. I’m self employed and deal with all of the issues which that entails. However almost all the attitudes I encounter are geared towards ‘yes, but you’re not REALLY a working mum…’ since my workplace is also my home. I’ve even had the question ‘But don’t you miss having a REAL job?’. I feel undervalued and that often people fail to appreciate that being entrusted to care for children is possibly the most responsible and influential career I could have chosen to embark upon.

    • morethanamummy

      Unfortunately society seems to undervalue many of the roles which are most important. Your job is indeed a vital and influential career and well done you for managing a job and a family.

  • I know a few SAHM’s I’ve spoken to have felt low and alone at times, struggling a bit when the only conversation they have all day is with a toddler when they’re used to so much more, allied with a massive feeling of guilt whenever they think about returning to work.
    I was a SAHD for 3 years and my issues about returning to work centered on how potential employers would recognise me taking time out to look after my children. Would they see it for what is, a tough relentless job, or just see me as not having done anything for 3 years.
    A great post.

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