Are stay-at-home moms more prone to depression?

Are stay-at-home moms more prone to depression?

Stay-at-home moms on comedies like "Leave it to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," and "The Donna Reed Show" in the 1950s and early 1960s were joyful, maternal goddesses with an easy grasp of home economics. However, when cultural conventions altered, popular culture began to look askance at these contented housewives. Soon, such women were compared to "The Stepford Wives" rather than truly contented, well-rounded women.

These fictitious extremes today appear ridiculous to us, but real-world mindsets continue to add to the complexity. On the one hand, there are literally thousands of Pinterest boards and parenting blogs dedicated to romanticized domesticity. On the other hand, there are several examples of accomplished women seeking to be multi-tasking universe masters.

A far simpler issue gets lost in the mix of what moms want to be or believe they are required to be: What makes them happy? For many years, it was considered that whether stay-at-home moms were happy or miserable was a subjective experience — that those who desired to quit the workforce would be happier than those who did so reluctantly or obliviously. To some extent, this is correct — and the same can be said about working mothers. It is also true that a person's core happiness is unrelated to his or her circumstances.

Despite psychological generalizations, we are learning more about the mental life of full-time caretaker mothers. A Gallup poll of 60,000 women conducted in 2012 discovered that stay-at-home parents were more likely to experience negative emotions such as despair and rage. According to the survey, 28 percent of stay-at-home parents had clinically diagnosed depression, compared to 17 percent of working women. It is hypothesized that social isolation and a lack of professional growth are contributing causes to depression in working-age mothers.

That implies there are treatments for stay-at-home moms, such as increased outings and intellectual interests, for the low moods that are frequently associated with full-time child-rearing. In fact, past mom studies have revealed that the majority of women with young children would prefer to work part-time rather than stay at home full-time or work full-time. This shows that the secret to happiness and good mental health for many women may lie somewhere between ancient maternal ideals and high modern expectations.