Oh! The never ending debate!
In my career of almost two decades now, this is probably the most frequently asked question.
And, I often wonder do we really need to tag a mom as Working Mom (WM) or a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM)? A mom is by all means, a mom!
The tiny hands, the twinkling eyes, the squashy cheeks are enough to summon the motherly instinct, the moment we cradle our babies in our arms, for the first time. Mothers across the globe, no matter how professional or domesticated, are bound by this shared experience.
But if I put my research glasses on, there are certain differences in these two “types” of moms. Let me clarify first that by WM, I mean a mother who is steadily engaged in a full time job outside the home. Let us now begin to understand what the ground reality is and what research has to offer on what works best for moms.
The Eternal Truth!
Even though, it may sound like a broken record to you, let us accept the eternal truth: There is NO substitute for a mom! Yes, a big NO! Through many generations and rigorous research, it has been proven that no one can take the place of a mother in a child’s life. So, if we go by that notion, the SAHM is the best option for a child.
But the story does not end here!
A SAHM who isn't stressed, but is instead, proud of her investment in the child, is the ideal scenario. And I personally and professionally know many such women who have willingly taken this path and are cherishing every single moment of their not so easy decision. So, the key is to maintain an emotionally healthy motherhood, whether it is rooted at home or at work.
But the reality behind the truth is where the story of motherhood takes another turn.
Recent research in the field has something more to add. A study published in the Journal of Health and Social behavior in the year 2012 clearly indicates that continuous employment following a first birth is associated with significantly better emotional health at age 40 and thereby suggests that a full-time WM benefits from cumulating advantages across her life's course.
To reach this conclusion, researchers measured the levels of the stress hormone in study participants, taking saliva samples throughout the day. When participants were at home, their cortisol levels spiked, biologically proving that being at home with children was more stressful than working in an office environment. There are many supporting studies, conducted in similar fashion, to indicate higher levels of stress among SAHM in today’s era.
The reasons of higher levels of stress in SAHM are plenty. I can share some that I often hear in parenting sessions from mommies. No change in the work environment, a narrow exposure to the world, always being needed, loneliness, and the lack of adult conversations, are the most common reasons for stress, in the lives of stay at home mom. Before a mom gets “me time” to handle all this, she is busy performing the daunting task of motherhood! This chronic state of stress, impacts the potential benefits SAHMs have to offer, and thus, indicate the need to evaluate the reality behind the debate of SAHM vs WM.
The struggle of stepping out!
For WMs, psychologists have highlighted at various occasions that their struggle is equally challenging, as they are in constant juggle to maintain work life balance. WMs do compromise on the quantity time given to children and often feel guilty about it. I often meet WMs who end up asking questions like, will my child stay bonded with me even though I am not available all the time? Or, can my physical absence during the day be the reason of higher episodes of misbehavior in my child?
My answer to most of them is purely research based. The research published in psychological bulletin, 2010 highlights that the associations between behavioral problems and maternal employment are predominantly non-significant. The subsequent research in the field further clarifies that the amount of maternal time has no impact on children’s behaviors, emotions and academics in the age range of three to eleven years.
The Buck stops at you!
So, for all the women out there, the verdict is out! Stop worrying about who makes a better mom! I would instead highly recommend that you invest in yourself and decide for yourself! Choose the path that keeps you emotionally healthy!! Take time out from home or work and just grab a few moments for yourself during the day.
Investing in your bond as a couple is another significant aspect to keep yourself free of stress. Go out for dates again! Remember, even with your new role as parents, you do not cease to remain important for each other. Select three things that help you feel calm and relaxed and designate time, strictly, to do those for yourself, no matter what the day throws at you!
I rest my case!
If I have to summarize the whole debate of WMs vs SAHMs, I will leave it with you, mommy! You are unique and your situations are unique, so only you can decide what works best for you.
SAHMs, if not stressed, are a great way through motherhood, but if routine stresses you out, knowingly or unknowingly, find avenues that helps you reduce your cortisol hormone levels.
Similarly, for WMs, if you are not enjoying what you are doing and are instead worried about your child’s behavior and academics, evaluate your work status! If your workplace is giving you a platform to de-stress yourself, go for it!
Forget about the debate on WMs and SAHMs. I would suggest to channelize your energies in creating a stress free atmosphere for your children in today’s challenging times. Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of your children better.
A stress free mom is the answer! If the title of this article was, "Do Stress-Free Moms make better moms?", it would have had just one word: YES!