If you’re trying to decide whether to go back to work or stay home with the kids, prepare to do a little soul-searching. A new study shows that moms who return to the workforce because they want to are much happier and more fulfilled than moms who do it out of necessity.
Researchers surveyed over 2,000 mostly well-educated mothers about their psychological well-being based on whether they wanted to work or stay at home with their kids. The study, “What women want: Employment Preference and Adjustment Among Mothers,” published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, showed that mothers who regretted staying at home consistently fared the worst psychologically—they were unfulfilled and lonely, and reported that their kids weren’t all that happy either. Conversely, mothers who were in the workplace but really wanted to be at baby yoga and preschool music classes were also unhappy.
While the study indicates that mothers who wanted to be happy, fulfilled, and well adjusted should follow their dreams of working outside the home or not. The reality is that many mothers stay home because of the high cost of child care and many mothers return to work because their family needs the additional income. Access to affordable child care and universal pre-school would make this “choice” feel more like an actual choice than a decision foisted on women by biology and society.