It’s ingrained in most women at an early age that they should want to stay home with their children to raise them instead of going to work and putting them in child care because that’s what is best for the children (or so it is thought). There's no hard-and-fast rule either way – in fact, sometimes what's best for mom (and therefore for the children who depend on her for so much) is for her to work outside the home, too.
Many mothers may fear missing their children’s milestones when they go back to work – but it's not all play and no work at home. With all of the first words and first steps comes many hours of diaper duty, tantrums, and only speaking baby talk. In fact, a 2012 Gallup poll found that stay-at-home mothers were significantly more likely to experience depression than mothers who worked outside of the home. Not only did working moms experience less depression (17 percent versus the 28 percent of stay-at-home moms), but they also experienced less worry, sadness, stress, and anger.
The Gallup poll isolated poll participants who were low income as well as those who were looking for work, and in all cases working moms reported less depression and more joyfulness in their day than their stay-at-home counterparts.
There may be no more important job in the world than raising a child, but working moms have something that many stay-at-home moms don’t and it may be the difference in their happiness levels. That’s a sense of autonomy. For all the smiles and giggles and hugs and kisses that stay-at-home moms receive throughout the day, there is still often a feeling of being unappreciated and not having anything that is their own because pretty much everything they do is for their kids.
Working moms still love their children and worry about them just as much as any stay-at-home mom, but for all they may be missing at home, they are experiencing gratification in other areas of their life that helps round out their well-being. Whether it’s that they get up every day and put on nice clothes or they spend some time each day talking with other adults about things not related to their children or that they score a big deal for their company, all of these things can have an impact on living a balanced life and achieving overall happiness.
Every person’s experience is unique, and there's upsides to both scenarios, but it's good to be aware of the upsides and downsides of both going back to work and staying at home.