Stay-at-home parenting is harder than I thought. Maybe it's the fact that my child was colicky for the first six months of his life, and that even at eight months old, he—and, consequently, I—have yet to sleep through the night. Maybe it's my own fault for setting unrealistic expectations for what sort of stay-at-home mom I would be: the kind who preserves her own produce, makes her own laundry soap, and still has time to put on makeup every morning. They do exist. Or so the blogosphere says.
For the last eight months I have wrestled with disappointment in myself for failing to be the peppy, positive, endlessly energetic mom I had hoped. Instead, I have spent much of my mothering career to date feeling sad, frustrated, and irritable.
Apparently I am not alone. A new Gallup poll found that stay-at-home moms are more likely than moms who are employed outside the home to feel negative emotions such as worry, sadness, stress and anger on a daily basis, as well as to have been diagnosed with clinical depression. Although the gap between the two groups of women is only 5 to 10 percentage points wide in most of these categories, the fact remains that as a group, stay-at-home moms are emotionally worse off than employed moms.
Sharon Lerner (author of The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation) dug into the contributing factors behind the Gallup data in a recent Slate article. Lerner credits financial strain and lack of appreciation as the two leading causes for the negative emotions of stay-at-home moms. She also references census data released in 2009 to show that today's stay-at-home moms are more likely to be poorer, less educated, younger, Latina, and foreign-born than other moms.
In other words, ...1
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