A recent survey found women who worked full time outside the home after having children had better mental and physical health by age 40 than those who had not. This has of course raised interest as one might assume that working full time while managing a family would be more stressful, and stress is a known factor in contributing to mental and physical challenges. It would appear that this is in fact not necessarily accurate.
Why would this be?
Personally I'm not entirely surprised by the findings. I think Albert Einstein had stay-at-home moms in mind when he defined the word "insanity" as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Have you ever been at home with young children? Have you tried to get them to clean up their rooms, pee into the toilet, or stop hitting their sister? No matter how many times they are told (clearly it is not "nagging" when it is simply giving them excellent advice), the outcome is often the same. Nothing changes. At least not immediately, and not without years of bribing and threats.
Add to that the fact that my research (I drove around a bit) shows that there isn't a big list moms can carpool to at the end of the day in order to check off: a) Continued successfully raising child, b) ensured food was edible and in good portion size and c) minimum health standards were met. Many moms at home just don't get to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with actually moving something forward and affecting change. Not in the short term, at any rate, and one of the most distressing things a parent of young children can hear from parents of older children is that it "never gets easy."
There's no such thing as a performance review when you're on the home front: except for the ones you get from snarly teenage girls who aren't necessarily focusing on your positive attributes, as the ones in a professional work environment might. Unless "You suck" is now a good thing in the way that "That's so sick" has become. (I do try.)
The reward system for moms at home also leaves something to be desired. In that there really isn't one, except for the playground high fives you exchange with a friend when your kid wasn't the one kicking someone else off the slide.
Compare this to the workplace, where most employees can expect to be treated with a modicum of respect, have performance reviews which don't include door slamming (to be fair, there aren't any doors in most cubicles), and best of all, they get to take on new responsibilities with the positive achievement of old ones. Being relieved at duties you've perfected is something moms at home never get to experience. Until the kids are the ones to leave home, that is.
This article was originally run in the Metro News
Kathy's new book "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business" is available at bookstores everywhere. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyBuckworth