In May of last year, Gallup released a poll showing that stay-at-home-moms are more depressed than their working counterparts. The report showed that across the board, SAHMs are more sad, angry, and anxious, and less happy and fun. Some popular news outlets jumped on the poll, offering analysis and potential solutions. The Huffington Post suggested that we need to emotionally support the low-income SAHMs. Today Moms suggested that the problem is connected to isolation and not having a sense of accomplishment in life. Slate suggested that it’s due to an undervaluing (even in an economic sense) of the work moms do, proposing government regulation of support services for moms would help. Over at Christianity Today, the poll was addressed in a semi-autobiographical editorial on how much work is involved in being a stay-at-home mom.
Are stay at home moms more depressed? The answer seems to be yes, and I won’t deny it. But the answers don’t lie in offering them more services or figuring out how to show them the work they do is meaningful in some corporate way. The answers go deeper than that.
Stay-at-home moms are more depressed because they no longer have the support systems and communal appreciation they did even 50 years ago. In the 1950s, if a woman wanted to have an adult conversation during the day, all she had to do was step outside and knock on the neighbor’s door. Her children played in the street with the neighbor’s children. The women in her neighborhood valued what she did, and understood the hard work that it was because they were doing it too. Even when I was a child in the 80s and 90s, my mother had friends in the neighborhood. She shared carpool duties and babysitting with her friends, and could always pop in at the neighbor’s for an egg when she ran out.
In my immediate neighborhood, I do not know of a single stay-at-home mom.
Feminists have created a self-fulfilling prophecy for the modern woman. We are told all through our growing up years that personal fulfillment happens outside the home. Women have left their homes en masse. Those of us who have chosen to stay home with our children find that instead of a supportive, understanding community, we are completely isolated. We are trapped in our own homes, desperate for a cup of coffee and an adult conversation, however short it may be. When we venture to admit that we’re lonely, we are told to go back to work for some adult interaction. Of course being a SAHM is depressing, they say–it’s the very nature of the beast!
But it’s not. Nobody likes to do hard work all by themselves. Working shoulder to shoulder with friends is what makes the difference between a job that is full of drudgery and frustration and a job that is full of satisfaction and enjoyment. Humans have been built for community. Take that away and depression is natural.
Ironically, even as this survey tells us that SAHMs are more likely to be depressed, we find that more mothers are choosing to stay home with their children. Can we reverse this communal trend? I would like to be optimistic, and say “I hope so!” If you are a lonely stay-at-home mom, invite a friend over. Go introduce yourself to a neighbor. Go ask to borrow an egg, and ignore the funny look you get. Community is always changing, and we have the power to influence it for the better. Let’s jump in with our sleeves rolled up and rebuild our communities that have been torn down. We can do it!