Full-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.