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Working moms vs. SAHM: Who's happier?

  • New study looks at happiness of working moms vs. stay at home moms
  • Part time workers reported highest happiness, better health
Working moms vs. SAHM: Who's happier?

Most parents face a tough decision about who will be in charge of the kids, even face mommy-war diatribes like: "Moms who work dump the kids at daycare and don't know who's raising them" or "Don't have them if you don't want to raise them!" Working women might dismiss those barbs as coming from apron-clad, vapid women who happily change diapers and bake pies regularly, unable to speak in full sentences.

But we all know the bottom line: If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody's happy.

Most studies on the effect of mothers who work outside the home focus on what it does to the kids. But a new study looked at how work affected women's happiness. Researchers found that moms who work outside the home are happier than stay at home moms. And the happiest of all are those who work part-time. Not only that, these women say they're healthier too.

Read more: Even Superdads can't save frazzled moms

Time magazine talked to researchers behind the new study published in December's Journal of Family Psychology. They found that moms who work reported higher levels of happiness, and were healthier, than moms who stayed at home full-time when their kids are babies and preschoolers.

Time reports most of the previous studies that focused on kids had mixed and inconsistent results. Cheryl Buehler, the study's lead author, she says she wanted to zero in on moms for a change. She focused on how work impacts a mother in three areas: sensitivity toward their children, involvement in their kids' schools and opportunities for learning that mothers provide for their kids. She hit on a middle road that seems to work well.

"Part-time employment is not such a time drain that moms don't have time to do other things that are important to parenting, and it's enriching their own lives in ways that enrich their mental health," says Buehler. 

Full-time moms face time crunches that cause stress, and stay at home moms can face financial struggles, so it's not too surprising that part-time work can be the best solution.

Time talked to a University of Washington researcher who did a similar study. Katrina Leupp says the key for moms is learning to compromise, and give up the supermom idea. "You can happily combine child-rearing and a career, if you're willing to let some things slide."

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