Full-Time Working Moms Are Glittering Beacons Of Health, Says Yet Another Mommy Wars Study

working momFull-time working mothers may have a little trouble keeping those breastfeeding rates up and you know, “having it all.” But according to research, this cohort of motherhood is winning the wellness wars against their SAHM counterparts.

In another study that attempts to quantify a mother’s “mental and physical health,” Health Day reports that full-time working mommies are healthier than SAHMs or even part-time working mothers. Contrary to all that chatter about women perhaps needing longer maternity leave for the sake of their own health, and the health of their newborn, researchers from University of Akron and Penn State University say that going straight back to the proverbial office is “good for your health.” According to their review of 2,540 women who became mothers between 1978 and 1995, ladies who didn’t dwell too long over that baby smell have more energy, mobility, and less depression by age 40:

“Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically. It gives women a sense of purpose, self-efficacy, control and autonomy. They have a place where they are an expert on something, and they’re paid a wage,” study author Adrianne Frech, an assistant sociology professor, said in an American Sociological Association news release.

“If women can make good choices before their first pregnancy, they likely will be better off health-wise later. Examples of good choices could be delaying your first birth until you’re married and done with your education, or not waiting a long time before returning to the workforce,” Frech explained.

The reasoning for why full-time working mothers are beacons of health has to do with the basics: money. These mothers tend to have more of it, along with increased job security, more chances for promotion and more employment benefits than ladies who work part-time following the arrival of their children. Researchers say that SAHMs are at an increased risk for social isolation and also tend to be more financially dependent, which is definitely risky if your marriage goes south — like many marriages do.

While I absolutely advocate women’s autonomy (both financial and otherwise), I find the researcher’s suggested “sense of purpose” to be inherently problematic given that for some women, childrearing and tending to the home can absolutely be a “sense of purpose.” The reported research doesn’t specify whether SAHMs’ hypothetical “sense of purpose” simply didn’t hold weight against that of full-time working mothers, and perhaps it didn’t as evidenced in all that mental and physical health that full-time working mothers seem to possess. But work that is traditionally “women’s work” has a tendency to be culturally undervalued, which doesn’t bode well for women anywhere on the spectrum — SAHM, full-time working, or part-time. Especially now as more and more men are sharing the load of caring for children and keeping a home, we’re confronted once again with how menial caring for a family is perceived to be because of that lady association, especially in the face of employers.

Either way, hyper-awareness for how we determine a woman’s “sense of purpose” is needed not only conversations surrounding SAHMs, but varying paths to motherhood everywhere.

(photo: Cartoonresource/ Shutterstock/ Kzenon )

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  • Lawcat

    Honestly? The only ones perpetuating the Mommy Wars are sites like this one. Did you read the study this time or the press release? Perhaps those tested identified that working gave them a ‘sense of purpose.’ That doesn’t mean SAHM’s don’t feel that way, but perhaps not as many of them identified that it was their purpose (gave up career, not economical, etc). The study found four major categories of women – working moms, SAHM, part-time workers and those that consistently unemployed. Of note was the consistently unemployed mom which was identified as the most at risk. They want to be working, but are in and out of the workforce due to economic conditions, education, developed skills, etc. Consistently trying to find work and worrying about your family wears on someone emotionally, mentally and physically leading to increased health risks. In fact, Prof. Frech stated that increased access to childcare and transportation could help such women. Something this site advocates for…..but let’s ignore that and go straight for the page views!

    • Krissa

      I get the study criticism but I really think you’re misinterpreting Mommyish’s tone. They are mocking the supposed “Mommy Wars.” Or are you not in on the joke?

    • Lawcat

      Most of the time they’re mocking it, but once in a while they’re (slightly) fanning the flames. There were many more things to focus on than the piece she took out. Who cares if a researcher says working gave those women in the study a “sense of purpose.” Why focus on that little piece when there was so much more that could be discussed?

    • Krissa

      What’s “fanning it” though? Discussing it? Laughing at it? I’d rather have someone poking fun at all this sensationalistic business. It keeps me laughing in otherwise yawn-inducing mommy blogosphere.

  • Christine

    This makes so much sense to me. The big thing I missed when I gave up working to be a mom: feedback! No one tells you you’re doing a good job, or sits you down and says “I think you need to work on these areas.” You’re just 100% isolated. And even if you had a really hard day, no one takes you out for a beer afterward or tells you they get it. You can do everything right all day long and STILL have a screaming, unhappy baby and a headache at the end of the day.

    And it never ends. That dishwasher is going to need unloading and reloading again. The laundry never gets clean and stays clean for long. At least at work, or my line of work, you get a project, you complete it, and then you don’t see it again for a while. There’s no sense of accomplishment or completion with motherhood: you can do everything absolutely right, 100% of the time, and MAYBE after 18 years, you’ll have raised a successful adult. Or maybe you won’t have.

    Just the endless tedium of staying at home has been getting to me. On the plus side, my leave is over next month!

    • kate

      thank you for the reminder to tell my SAHD hes doing a good job and i appreciate it :) maybe i’ll even buy him a beer! ;)

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