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Working Moms: You’re Doing Just Fine

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the working mom: cell phone in one hand, mop in the other, and a clear look of frazzled existence on her face. And while that may be true for some moms, researchers believe that the reality for many working moms is quite different. In fact, working moms are actually doing better than moms who stay at home. Really.

from flickr user: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/

According to researchers from the University of Akron and Penn State University, women who go back to work shortly after having children tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally. Specifically, working moms have more energy and mobility, and less depression at age 40. The researchers suggest this is because work is actually good for you, giving women a better sense of purpose and control. But there are lots of ways full time work positively impacts moms, including more money and a much lower risk of social isolation. Of course, there are plenty of variables on the path to happiness and health as a working mom. Here are a few of the ways you can work to ensure that your role as a working mother is a positive one:

  • Wait until you’re established to have a baby. Sure, it’s entirely possible to be happy as a young mom in college, but life gets a lot easier if you have the hard stuff out of the way before you start your family. Experts recommend that women finish their education and begin working before having their first child.
  • Be consistently employed. It may be difficult to hold down a job these days, but if you can stick with it, there are benefits. Dropping in and out of the workforce is associated with stress and health decline, and it’s not hard to figure out why: constantly struggling to find a job is draining, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • Don’t wait too long to return to the workforce. A solid maternity leave is healthy, but checking out for an extended period of time may not be a great choice. Researchers found that women who quickly return to the workforce after having kids enjoy better physical and mental health benefits.
  • Be confident that you’re making the right choice. Although a working mom’s life is often full of guilt, you can rest assured that your time spent at work isn’t negatively impacting your kids. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the impact of working versus staying at home is pretty much the same.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. The British Medical Journal has released a study indicating the key to happiness as a mom, working or otherwise: realistic expectations. It makes a lot of sense. Women who believe they can have it all will be sorely disappointed with their lives if they find out that they can’t make it work all the time. As a working mom, it’s important to know what kind of goals and expectations are realistic for your life, and to find your own happiness based on what you know you can really accomplish.

Are you a working mom? What’s your experience with health, happiness, and satisfaction? Do you feel you’re better off than moms who stay at home?

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