Let me give you two reasons why women should stay in the workforce when they have kids: First, you won't be tempted to morph into one of those scary "attachment" moms who breastfeed their children until they're walking, talking little critters. (Yes, I'm talking about that Time magazine cover, at right.) Second, having a job will keep you off the streets and make you happier (or not so depressed).
That first point is a personal bias based on aesthetic considerations, among others. The second one, though, is supported by findings of a recent Gallup poll, based on interviews with more than 60,000 women across the United States, ages 18 to 64. Here's what Gallup finds:
Nonemployed women with young children at home are more likely than women with young children at home who are employed for pay to report experiencing sadness and anger a lot of the day "yesterday." Stay-at-home moms are also much more likely to report having ever been diagnosed with depression than employed moms. Employed moms are about as emotionally well-off as working women who do not have children at home.
In almost every measure—anger, sadness, depression, worry—stay-at-home moms reported higher rates; the exception was stress, which working moms felt more acutely. Nonworking moms also experienced fewer positive emotions on a daily basis:
They are less likely to say they smiled or laughed a lot, learned something interesting, and experienced enjoyment and happiness "yesterday." Additionally, they are less likely than employed moms to rate their lives highly enough to be considered "thriving."
Gallup stresses that "even when controlling for age, stay-at-home moms are emotionally worse off than employed moms." But what mattered was economics—moms whose household incomes were below $36,000 were particularly bleak. Gallup says they feel a double pressure—from both "tight finances and the demands of motherhood."
So what does this mean to you—members of the professional class? Well, I guess opting out of a demanding profession like law for full-time motherhood—especially if you're married to Mr. Money Bags—is likely to be a much more pleasant experience than that of your lower-income sisters. I can certainly understand the desire to escape the law, if you have other things going on your life.
But I also believe that this issue transcends mere economic differences. From what I've seen, women—really, all people—have better self-esteem, better long-term options, if they maintain an outside identity (yes, I mean, a paying job), even if it means juggling the demands of work and family. Frankly, I've seen one too many women who quit their careers to stay home, only to find themselves in the job market years later, after a divorce or some other sudden shift in their lives. If that seems unromantic, I'm sorry.
Obviously, if you are miserable with what you're doing, you don't have to do it forever. I'd find an alternative. But quit totally to run the school auction? Not a smart idea.
Related post: "I Am Not Ann Romney".
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