Women who buy into the 'supermum myth' of having a family and a demanding career are risking depression
Although working mums are less likely to show signs of depression than their stay-at-home counterparts, their unrealistic expectations about how easy it will be to balance work and family life makes them more susceptive to the mental condition.
But a study of 1,600 married US women suggests working mums can have lower rates of depression than those who stay at home, if they accept that they cannot do it all.
‘Women who go into employment expecting it to be difficult but who are accepting of that are less likely to be frustrated than women who expect things to be more equal with their partners,’ says study author Katrina Leupp.
According to 2006 statistics, around 65 per cent of mothers with young children and 80 per cent of women with children over the age of five are employed. And although today’s Dad’s do there bit, it is women who bare the brunt of household duties.
But despite the increased pressures, having employment is beneficial for women’s mental health. According to the study, when stay-at-home mums hit 40 they display more symptoms of depression than those who work, but career women who think they can ‘have it all’ were more likely to be depressed than those with a realistic view.
Ms Leupp suggests that women who think that juggling a full time job with childcare and household chores will be easy are expecting too much from themselves and are likely to feel inadequate.
‘Women are sold a story they can do it all but most workplaces are designed for those without children,’ says Ms Leupp.
‘Accept that balancing work and family feels hard because it is hard, rather than feeling guilty or unsuccessful if you can’t devote as much time as you would like to your job and to your family,’ she advises.