Gallup: Stay-at-home moms report more anger, sadness, depression than women who work

posted at 7:12 pm on May 18, 2012 by Allahpundit

Good thing “Julia” was a working mom or else we’d probably have to pay for her antidepressants too.

Second look at the blue social model?

My gut reaction: Of course stay-at-home moms are stressed, they live in poorer households than women who work do. This result is simply an artifact of worrying about money, not having to take care of kids. Right? Actually … no. Says Gallup:

Stay-at-home moms fare worse than employed moms at every income level in terms of sadness, anger, and depression. On the other items Gallup measures — laughter, enjoyment, happiness, worry, stress, learning something interesting, and having a high life evaluation rating — middle- and high-income stay-at-home moms for the most part do as well as employed moms.

However, low-income stay-at-home moms do worse on all of these items than their employed counterparts.

In other words, yes, of course being poor is adding stress to the load for lower-income stay-at-home moms, but that doesn’t explain why equally poor working moms are a bit happier on balance. The numbers for families earning less than $36,000:

You would think that having to worry about kids and work would mean more worry and stress for lower-income working moms, but there you go. My hunch here is that many/most working moms who live in households that earn this little are probably single mothers and therefore the sole breadwinners for their families, and paradoxically that responsibility may add up to less stress. When you’re this close to dire poverty and homelessness, knowing that you have it in your power to put food on the table for your kids may be something of a psychological relief; if you show up every day and do your job well, you stand a fair chance of holding down a steady paycheck. If, on the other hand, you’re a SAHM married to a man who’s earning less than $36,000 a year, the only thing standing between you and dire poverty or homelessness is his ability to show up every day and do his job well. And the painful truth is that not every husband is going to do that. Simply put, financial independence may mean less worry in the aggregate even if it means more responsibilities.

The other wrinkle here is that lower-income moms who stay home probably are being forced by circumstances to do so, which is bound to add some frustration no matter how much they enjoy spending time with their kids. Poor families need as much money as they can muster so if mom’s passing on the chance to earn a second income, it’s likely because (a) she simply can’t find work, or at least work that pays well enough to justify giving up some of her household responsibilities, or (b) there are enough little ones at home that they require all-day attention. Either way, she’s compelled to forego an income stream that the family could really use, which means their financial situation is more precarious. Result: Worry and stress.

That explains the problem for lower-income SAHMs but, as noted up top, it doesn’t explain why anger, sadness, and depression are higher for stay-at-home moms than for working moms across all income levels. Here’s where you come in, HA commenters: Why is that? Any theories? Could be that modern expectations that an educated woman should have both a career and a family are weighing on even rich SAHMs and making them question their choices, but beyond that I’ve got nothing. How about it, ladies?


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Comment pages: 1 2

Meh, it’s Gallup. Just don’t trust their polls, especially on topics like this.

I was a stay-at-home dad for several years. I loved every second of it, would not trade it for anything. It’s an opportunity I will be grateful for having had for the rest of my life.

Norwegian on May 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM

For all the theories and explanations, I only have questions about the survey, the survey sample, the people interviewed, where they live, how the questions were phrased and in what order they were asked, and other parameters were used.

Until I can evaluate that information, I have no opinion.

Fausta Wertz on May 18, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Because small children in large doses are even more annoying and less interesting than co-workers?

urban elitist on May 18, 2012 at 7:21 PM

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Yeah… and stop paying those working moms and see how fast they go over the edge.
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My daughter loves being a SAHM… So much so that she is planning another 2 kids to go with the 5 she already has. Hell, she’s at Disney World as I type this!
-

RalphyBoy on May 18, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Stay-at-home moms report more anger, sadness, depression than women who work

They miss Oprah I guess.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM

I know Allahpundit won’t like my take on it:

People are less religious than ever before and they experience worry, anxiety, stress, etc?

Employment gives some extra sense of worth but without moral foundation (Christ) you are destined for a pretty shallow existence.

I would love to see the study redone with attention paid to level of religious devotion.

DavidM on May 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Can we please also address the fact that the reason why it is so difficult for families to maintain on a single income?

First, the monetary policy of our government, which is sure and steady inflation. This means higher energy prices, food prices, housing prices. Some families had no choice but to put the other spouse to work.

Secondly, the cumulative tax rates of federal, state, and local governments. A family making $36,000 a year would do fairly well if they were allowed to keep more than 60% of it.

My wife and I manage on a single income only because we forgo a lot of comforts most people think of as non-negotiable. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not having cable.. We shop at Wal-Mart and avoid malls except when we want a nice walk indoors. Generic brands taste just as good as name brands. And eating out or a movie we didn’t rent is a special occasion.

The way we saw it, my wife could either stay home with our kid or see the majority of her salary go to daycare.

TheMightyMonarch on May 18, 2012 at 10:22 PM

may be true for some women, but not for myself and most of my friends, who were also college graduates, competent homemakers and mothers, very engaged in life, and occasionally depressed, just as I was.
(Not continually, but definitely at certain “snapshot” points that a poll might or might not pick up.)

AesopFan on May 18, 2012 at 9:17 PM

I’m not saying it is true for you or your friends. I am saying that any woman who is clinically depressed (a medical condition) is less likely to hold down a job. This survey tells us nothing about stay-at-home moms. It just shows that people with depression (and related conditions) are less likely to be employed.

pearson on May 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Cabin fever.

unclesmrgol on May 18, 2012 at 10:36 PM

I know Allahpundit won’t like my take on it:

People are less religious than ever before and they experience worry, anxiety, stress, etc?

Employment gives some extra sense of worth but without moral foundation (Christ) you are destined for a pretty shallow existence.

I would love to see the study redone with attention paid to level of religious devotion.

DavidM on May 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Is your assumption that working mothers are more religious than stay-at-home moms?

I’m trying to wrap my mind around a possible reason you’ve posited which should apply equally to both groups.

Something is making stay at home moms unhappier than their working counterparts. Religion doesn’t seem to make the cut in my estimation.

unclesmrgol on May 18, 2012 at 10:38 PM

This survey tells us nothing about stay-at-home moms. It just shows that people with depression (and related conditions) are less likely to be employed.

pearson on May 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Ah. Possible.

unclesmrgol on May 18, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Stay-at-home moms fare worse than employed moms at every income level in terms of sadness, anger, and depression

Bovine excrement. These polls don’t reach real stay-at-home moms. The ones that whores like Hilary Rosen hates. They get the unemployed moms.

Happy Nomad on May 18, 2012 at 10:42 PM

Parenting is doggone hard work. Young human beings can be hard to handle. They have a lot to learn. So a lot of teaching and training is going on if you are a SAHM.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. I consider it an immense privilege to stay at home.

Depressed? Nah.

balkanmom on May 18, 2012 at 10:44 PM

TheMightyMonarch on May 18, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Let’s add in the ceaseless drumbeat that they should be working somewhere else–no woman escapes the message of a feminist culture (and the absurd notion that there is a “conservative” feminism). It is impossible to ignore the message of a culture one is immersed in–I can’t tell you how many young women I deal with who say they feel pressure to pursue a profession when what they really want is to be stay-at-home wives and mothers.

DrMagnolias on May 18, 2012 at 10:52 PM

Financial Independence.

The big secret the libs don’t want people to know about.

cajun carrot on May 18, 2012 at 10:54 PM

I appreciate all of the comments here by the SAHM’s. I decided to stay home and raise my twins because I wanted them to be raised by me, not a babysitter. When they were young, definitely isolating and the hardest job I have ever had. As they entered school, I felt less isolated.. I became involved in their school and their sports, volunteering my butt off all the way through HS. No doubt, staying home is a huge sacrifice, but one that I gladly did. They are now in their 3rd year of college. They have said that they truly appreciate the way they were raised and to me THAT is the reward! When they went to college, I went back to school and started a whole new career. I would never, for one minute, change a thing. Hopefully, the lesson I taught my kids I will be passed forward to the next generation. Oh, and as far as the poll goes, I think it is timed to fit the “agenda” on the war on women. Not surprising by any means ……..

marinconservative on May 18, 2012 at 10:58 PM

It’s the prestige deficit. Women care deeply about what other women think. Stay-at-home moms are pressured by other women to feel inferior.

RightKlik on May 18, 2012 at 11:09 PM

DavidM on May 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Is your assumption that working mothers are more religious than stay-at-home moms?

I’m trying to wrap my mind around a possible reason you’ve posited which should apply equally to both groups.

Something is making stay at home moms unhappier than their working counterparts. Religion doesn’t seem to make the cut in my estimation.

unclesmrgol on May 18, 2012 at 10:38 PM

.
I believe DavidM was saying that both groups are less religious than . . . oh, say their great-grandmothers.

But the women who work outside the home get a degree of social-interactive stimulation that the SAHMs don’t get. Hence, less depression.

His point being that many more SAHMs of 60-70 years ago exercised and practiced a relationship with God, that today’s mothers (in all sub-categories) don’t practice.
And it is this “absence of a relationship with God”, that has has brought depression on ALL persons.
But the “working outside the home” moms get a degree of stimulation that counter-acts this depression experienced by all moms.

listens2glenn on May 18, 2012 at 11:10 PM

Financial Independence.

The big secret the libs don’t want people to know about.

cajun carrot on May 18, 2012 at 10:54 PM

.
Boy, ain’t that the truth.+++

listens2glenn on May 18, 2012 at 11:12 PM

1. With such an uncertain (and butt-ugly) economy, many stay-at-home moms may be feeling pressure to work.

2. Higher prices make getting by on one income much tougher.

3. The nanny state and schools stick their noses in where they don’t belong and make it more stressfult to raise kids.

Laura in Maryland on May 19, 2012 at 12:05 AM

I have been the main breadwinner in our family for most of our marriage, but especially since I switched careers to the IT field. During the dotcom bust, I was unemployed for 15 months. Although we were very worried about money and saving our home, I was far less stressed and more relaxed. I enjoyed volunteering at our children’s school, cooking meals, making homemade snacks, etc. Our home was cleaner and more organized too.

I don’t see how being a stay-at-home parent is more stressful than trying to take care of a home and family as well as work outside the home. You have no downtime. You get less sleep. Our home is always a mess. You feel guilty when you can’t be at home with a child. You feel guilty if you have to work long hours (I had a couple of summers where I worked 80-90 hours a week). You feel guilty if you’re too tired to do an activity with a child.

Ironically, now that my children are grown, I’m working for a company for which we get to work from home frequently and we have a normal work week. What a blessing that would have been when my kids were younger.

Common Sense on May 19, 2012 at 1:51 AM

I have to add that my children never went to daycare or had a babysitter or nanny. My mom watched my kids as well as my nieces and nephews before they were old enough for school, for which I am eternally grateful. Fortunately, she was a young grandma and was able to handle it well. All of the kids are very close to that set of grandparents, much closer than any of the others. I’m glad they have that relationship.

Common Sense on May 19, 2012 at 1:57 AM

Cos being a STAHM, your life revolves around the kids school and other mums and dads like you. If you like that, that’s great, but all women don’t like small kids and school. Peoples’ eyes glaze over when you talk about it because other people’s kids are really, really boring …

And as for that war on women, what’s with the working mum hatred?

Can’t people just accept that nowadays, both men and women can be stay at home or work as is best for their family and characters?

Hope on May 19, 2012 at 3:01 AM

I bet it also helps to pay more taxes and have your ass grabbed by the boss!

Lonetown on May 19, 2012 at 5:21 AM

Loneliness and isolation.

YiZhangZhe on May 19, 2012 at 5:39 AM

So how do you think the 700,000+ women put out of work because of Obama’s failed economic agenda feel???

ray on May 19, 2012 at 6:38 AM

As a working single mom with kids at home who falls into this income category I can explain the numbers very easily. The women who are not working at all are most likely married or cohabitating and the added stress of dealing with an adult male accounts for the increase in their anger, sadness and depression.

A much more accurate poll would have accounted for a presence of an adult male in the home.

lilacs on May 19, 2012 at 7:54 AM

Meh. Gallup telling us, SAHM’s, we’re not as happy as working moms. Well, let me digest that while I play with my kids in the pool all day long….ha!

Cpoy2 on May 19, 2012 at 8:35 AM

How about that there are so few other SAHMs in the neighborhood that the few remaining ones have fewer outlets? My mom was SAH but so were the other 5 women in the 5 houses nearest ours. The kids all played together and the mom’s sat and talked. We were constantly in and out of each others’ houses and there was a lot of bustle and movement. I might feel isolated too if I were the ONLY SAHM on the block.

IdrilofGondolin on May 19, 2012 at 8:38 AM

A much more accurate poll would have accounted for a presence of an adult male in the home.

lilacs on May 19, 2012 at 7:54 AM

Here’s your first poll responder:
Love my husband and he is my greatest joy in the home as a SAHM.
Not a negative factor for me.

balkanmom on May 19, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Meh.. you make sacrifices in exchange for raising happier, more well adjusted kids, I guess.

spinach.chin on May 19, 2012 at 10:04 AM

One thing I bet they didn’t do — I can’t see anything at their methodology site that suggests they did — is control for age matching.

A 20-something stay-at-home mom won’t have the same responses as a 30- or 40-something, nor is there value in comparing a 40-something SAHM with a 20-something mom with outside employment. At the Gallup site, I don’t see a break-out in this study according to age: i.e., SAHMs in their 20s versus employed outside the home in their 20s, same for the 30s crowd, etc.

Other than that, I expect virtually all of the difference is explained by the SAHMs on welfare. They would be included with the SAHMs who have husbands. The latter are likely to be much, much happier, and no doubt are the ones keeping the whole SAHM set up very close to the outside-employed moms on the happiness scale.

J.E. Dyer on May 19, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Anyone else noticing that women have decently high levels for stress, sadness and all that on every level? The difference between the two didn’t even seem that stark to me.

That said, I stayed home for 3 months at one point, and even without kids I started to get cabin fever. There was no one to talk to but my husband, and I probably unloaded on him every time he came home. I’m sure it’s the human interaction that makes working mothers less stressed, even if work itself adds stress. Bottom line is that at least you have someone to talk to about all of this. Maybe things would be different if most mothers stayed at home, because then maybe they’d have increased social lives during the day.

Esthier on May 19, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Children will make you experience the whole gamut of human emotion every day, day after day. Add to that the stress of maintaining a marriage and a household and it isn’t surprising that SAHMs would experience more anger, sadness, and depression than women who aren’t SAHMs.

btw-This is wrong

Gallup: Stay-at-home moms report more anger, sadness, depression than women who work

SAHMs work and their job is a hell of a lot harder than any job outside the home.

They also experience more joy, happiness, and love than women who work outside the home.

single stack on May 19, 2012 at 11:46 AM

I agree with Single Stack.

As a SAHM AND a WAHM, who also homeschools, and with SAHM friends who used to work outside the home in well paying jobs, I can tell you that the additional anger, worry, etc., is from the responsibility of taking care of kids.

Kids are wonderful gifts, blessings from God – but parenting is the HARDEST job in. the. world.

Working outside the home gives you a reprieve – even if you still have the same responsibilities as a parent, you are not actually managing your child while you are at work….especially if you like your work or job.

Jobs are distracting; they are not dealing with attitude issues of a 5 yo, or a 13 yo, etc. Going to the grocery store is a break if your kids aren’t with you!!

Sometimes I miss the hustle and bustle of daily being with adult co-workers, because it can be draining when kids don’t cooperate and they aren’t yet self-disciplined – you as the mom are instilling that in your child.

Between character development, instilling ethics and morals and training and nurturing children, plus errands and planning and writing and working, ferrying kids to sports and music lessons – it’s 24/7. Dads are supposed to help, and my husband does, but it’s still a lot of work.

No one said it would be easy, and every kid is different/requires different training….but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I am sure we would still have a wonderful relationship if I were working 40 hours/week, but we would not have had all the memories and experiences we do have – the opportunities just would not have existed.

I do think it’s important for SAHM to be involved in meaningful work – whether that’s volunteer work and/or for profit, continued personal growth and mental development is key for anyone to be satisfied.

We have seasons of our lives – raising kids is a huge investment…you are passing the torch. I wanted to be the one passing the torch, not someone else. Our kids are OUR responsibility to raise, train, nurture. And you can’t welsh on that. You just man up, so to speak. You just do it.

I never knew how selfish I was/am until I became a mother. Parenting requires self-sacrifice and consistency. That is what makes you more tired ==>emotional.

patriotmom1776 on May 19, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Esthier – you’re right. SAHM for sure need contact!!

I’m connected with 2-4 fabulous homeschool groups with whom we do activities and have built friendships. There are also some great neighbors who are SAHM’s – one is a painter, one works from home, one is retired. Some do volunteer work, and I go to church with a couple of others who are busy with various activities. A couple are teachers, so we talk now and then.

I could NOT stay home without those connections, for either myself or my son!!

Sometimes we have classes I take him to – Latin and art, currently – and he’s in Scouts and youth group at church.

Typically he gets started in school doing his math, reading science and history, then we do mapping/geography together and discuss (socratic method) key ideas from history, review his science or do the experiments together, etc.

His job is to learn, my job is to run the house and coordinate life, my husband’s job is out of the house – we all have our responsibilities. Everyone helps clean the house and do laundry, everyone helps with yardwork. I enjoy my marketing and writing and get time to do that. We all exercise – my husband is a triathlete and I run, spin, zumba, kickbox and weights. Our son is very active running, biking, skating and ripsticking (that is a LOT of work going uphill!)

SAHM’s HAVE to connect with other moms or they will go crazy!!! I cannot understand how Laura Ingalls’ mother handled pioneer life – guess they were just too busy to sit around reflecting on negative things.

patriotmom1776 on May 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM

My answer: Lots of SAHMs are not really doing it by choice. Either they want work that they cannot find, or they’re being pressured to stay home by family or religion or what have you.

Also, there is a lot of unpaid work out there to be done, and when you stay at home, you are expected to do all of it. When you work, you rationalize not doing it because you earn money. With the kids, I am much busier as a SAHM than when I work.

I’ve been a involuntarily unemployed, part-time employed and full-time employed in roughly equal doses in my adult life. I prefer part-time employed by a longshot.

alwaysfiredup on May 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM

This SAHM could not be happier or more fulfilled. I feel I am blessed beyond measure to have the opportunity. I have a wonderful husband who makes a good living for us and know I am doing what I should. No lib feminist or stupid Gallop poll could ever make me feel inferior. I have a college education and earned my commission in the USNR through AOCS. Those Drill Instructors were no piece of cake, but I’ve never had a tougher job than this. And I wouldn’t want any other. Deo Gratias!

pannw on May 19, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Gallup*

pannw on May 19, 2012 at 3:38 PM

I think we need a question in the survey that asks if you dropped out of high school, or had other problems BEFORE you became a mom. There are some people who think having a child will solve their problems, or were not working before they had a child, or were not successful at work, therefore did not want to work.

I think there is more to this statistic. Because in the group of well adjusted non mother,working women, you would not have drop outs and the out sick all the time, no shows, but there they are mixed in with the sucessful stay at home mothers, with whom they have nothing in common.

I think they might have something in common with unhappy, always not at work dads.

Fleuries on May 19, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Fascinating. When do they release the poll of their kids?

SomeCallMeJohn on May 19, 2012 at 9:59 PM

My theory, SAHM have to worry about their husbands/boyfriends/partners having affairs at their place of work ….in addition to other worries they have about their kids and financials .

burrata on May 18, 2012 at 7:21 PM

And a working woman has no reason to worry about that, just because she herself has a job? Makes no sense.

kg598301 on May 20, 2012 at 12:00 AM

This survey tells us nothing about stay-at-home moms. It just shows that people with depression (and related conditions) are less likely to be employed.

pearson on May 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM

This was my first thought also. But I’m sure the libs will decided staying at home caused their problems, not that their problems cause them to stay home.

Additionally, I wonder how many people play up their supposed problems to justify staying at home and how many working mom’s paint a rosier picture hoping to justify their choices as well?

Cheesestick on May 20, 2012 at 8:44 PM

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