There is approximately 5 million stay at home moms in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A recent Gallup poll suggests that they may not be as happy as their working counterparts.
In all categories, employed moms were more likely to report positive emotions like happiness, and less likely to report negative emotions like depression. For example, 28% of stay-at-home moms reported feeling depression, compared to 17% of employed moms. In the survey, however, unemployed moms looking for work were included in the stay-at-home mom category. This would put downward pressure on the number, as someone looking for work generally isn’t as happy as someone who found it.
In the poll, the greatest disparity was in low income households, those earning less than $36,000. So while the financial stress of a one earner household seems to be a factor, even considering similar finances the stay-at-home moms feel worse. For example, among low earning households, 77% of stay-at-home moms reported smiling or laughing a lot versus 84% of employed moms with similar household income.
The less educated a mother, the less likely she is to participate in the workforce. Of mothers without a high school diploma, only 30.4% of them were in the labor force. This is compared to 52% with a high school degree, 63.4% with a bachelor’s degree, and 76.1% with a graduate or professional degree. Whether level of education has a direct correlation on reported happiness in mothers has not been studied, however.
All in all, this data raises more questions than answers. Are these negative feelings more prevalent in women that left their careers to raise a family, or are they indicative of women who never got started in a profession? Is it a matter of personal identity, or perhaps simply about recognition for hard work? Each individual case may vary, but this is definitely something worth further consideration.
Gallup Poll Stay-at-home Moms: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154685/Stay-Home-Moms-Report-Depression-Sadness-Anger.aspx?version=print
Census Mother’s Day Report: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/pdf/cb12ff-08_mothersday.pdf