(Image: Goin Art)
Last week a Gallup analysis of 60,000 women reported that stay-at-home moms had significantly more worry, more depression, more sadness and more stress than working moms. While numbers can barely point an emotional picture of anyone’s life–isn’t it that one day we’re feeling happier than other days?–the challenges of motherhood, whether you’re a working or stay-at-home mother, are filled with pressure and stress, even on the good days. Taking care of children is only a reality that comes with time, and as numerous studies that have come before this one on child raising–most notably in Jennifer Senior’s New York Magazine article “Why Parents Hate Parenting“–we’re all exhausted by the endless struggle of modern-day child rearing.
I’m lucky enough to have a balance so that I can write and stay at home with my kids; this is how I wanted it when I left my job as an internet editor eight years ago when Jake was born. But being at home with the kids hasn’t given me the gratification that writing does, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that it never will.
Being a parent is a magnificent paradox of pain and joy–Jennifer Senior’s article pointed this strange combo out: people without kids are happier, but people with kids, when they experience joy, experience MORE joy. Of course, these studies hadn’t yet included the stay-at-home mom.
The Gallup study also pointed to another depressing factor of being a stay-at-home mom: low-income stay-at-home moms fared far worse. They’re “increasingly lower-educated, foreign-born Hispanic women” who may not have employment options and are chained to their home, as Forbes’ Bryce Covert, writes.
“They stay home to take care of their children, not because they necessarily think it’s the best way to raise a child, but because they can’t afford to do it any other way.”
When I was an editor at iVillage, one of my experts was as housework guru with an incredible following. She sent her subscribers emails from 3-10 times a day (something I liked to call “harassment marketing”) covering a range of mundane domestic duties like cleaning out your purse, scrubbing your sink and vacuuming. With her cheery “You can do anything in five minutes!” mantra, she helped women figure out an orderly system to clean their homes.
It was when she began reminding women about basic hygiene–i.e., wash their face, get out of their pajamas and brush their teeth–did I begin to think it was disturbing.
“Do women really need an email from you to wash their face in the morning?” I asked her.
“A lot of stay-at-home moms are depressed,” she said.
“Depressed as in needing pills to stay afloat?”
“Pills, yes. Not a lot of money. They’re down. They need reminders to take care of themselves.”
So, this isn’t just a story about women who can’t wash their faces. Granted, there have been days… But we’re talking about women whose family income is $36,000 a year or less. How do you live on this with a family? Maybe with the upcoming election, this fake mommy war will stop, and the real focus of the low-income stay-at-home mom will come into light.