Are Working Moms Healthier and Happier?
Working Part Time May Be Better for Mothers' Health Than Staying Home When Children Are Young
Mom's Part-Time Perks continued...
On the job, mothers are involved in problem solving, grappling with different points of view, and handling diverse personalities, Buehler tells WebMD. And all these skills can be taken home and put to use, especially as children get older.
Buehler also found it interesting that although mothers who worked full time reported more work-family conflicts, this stress did not appear to affect the women's psychological well-being. In other words, it was not translating into more depressive symptoms, such as feeling down or trouble sleeping.
Mothers working part time did more housework and childcare than full-time working mothers. And having a part-time job did not increase a couple's intimacy.
The Rewards of Work
Since the study spanned a decade, it followed mothers from when their child was a baby until sixth grade. And while roughly 25% of mothers worked part time over this period, employment status shifted a lot between not working, part-time jobs, and full-time positions.
Movement within the work force is even truer in today's economic climate, where both mothers and fathers are taking work when and where they can get it.
"In terms of parenting and balancing work and home, being a part-time worker provides the best of both worlds for mothers," says Jennifer Fraone, who was not involved in the study. She is an assistant director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family in Chestnut Hill, Mass. This seems intuitive, she says, because they have more time.
Fraone, a part-time working mother, says she can be both an involved mom and a talented employee. Mothers like her may benefit from the social aspects of work, the increased financial stability, and from being challenged or feeling fulfilled on the job.
"One thing I really dislike is the ‘mommy wars’ conflict -- [the notion] that one situation, working or staying home, is better than another," Fraone tells WebMD. "This is a very personal decision for every woman and for every couple."
But it's her hope that from research like this, more companies might think "outside the box" and consider creating more part time and flexible work arrangements for mothers.
The research was published in the December issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.