A less intuitive reason moms are agitated is that the kids destroy their friendships. A survey of some 1,300 mothers found that 80% reported they didn’t have enough friends and 58% were lonely.
Many of these women were stay-at-home moms or had cut back on their working lives or worked more from home, which meant cutting back on the social aspect of work and the serendipitous friendships we all make there. (Stay-at-home dads, by the way, are even lonelier, feeling not only stuck with the kids but also left out of mom groups.)
Reading interviews with Senior’s moms at the stressed-out parent makes you realize how central home-life stresses are to so many women’s unhappiness, and yet this isn’t what we talk about as a culture. Instead the media gush irrelevant stories about how few women are senators or Fortune 500 CEOs. These are abstractions. No woman is going to wake up happier tomorrow morning if news breaks that there are suddenly 100 female CEOs of top companies instead of 20.
And a key source of stress for moms (more than dads) is guilt about falling short as a parent. More time spent at the office tends to exacerbate that, and it’s clear which role women put first: Even moms who work full-time identify themselves primarily as mothers rather than workers, by a margin of 50%. Taking into account surveys that show women’s job satisfaction is at least as high as men’s, what the average mom needs to boost her happiness is not to lean in at work but for her husband to lean in at home.