Women Who Try to 'Do It All' Risk Depression
< Aug. 24, 2011 > -- Working moms are less likely to be depressed than stay-at-home moms - but only if they have realistic expectations about balancing work and home life.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle looked at a survey of 1,600 women who were married with kids at home. Those who worked full or part time and knew that juggling work schedules and child rearing would be difficult showed fewer signs of depression than mothers who didn't work.
But working mothers who thought that balancing career and family would be a snap also showed more signs of depression than the more laid-back moms.
Signs of depression included difficulty concentrating, feeling lonely, sad or restless, having trouble sleeping or getting going in the morning, and feeling unable to shake the blues.
A disconnect on expectations
"The findings really point to the mismatch between women's expectations about their ability to balance work and family," says study author Katrina Leupp at the University of Washington. "Women still do the bulk of household labor and child care, even when they're employed full time."
Leupp and the other researchers used results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which, when it began, included women ages 22 to 30. The women were asked their opinion on various statements about women, work and family. The researchers then measured the participants' level of depression when they turned 40.
About 65 percent of the mothers of young children and 80 percent of women with children older than age 5 are employed, according to 2006 statistics cited by the researchers.
Some of the women who think it won't be difficult to work and take care of kids may feel more stress because they see themselves as "supermoms" - trying to be overachievers in all aspects of life, Leupp says.
Instead, working moms may be happier when they let a few things slide and delegate some of the work.
"We do know that, having to do things like answer an email at night is associated with feelings of guilt for women but not for men, and that guilt is associated with psychological distress," Leupp says.
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