When a friend posted a Slate article titled “Why Are Stay-At-Home Mothers More Depressed?”, another friend simply commented: “Captain Obvious.”
Indeed, it was to me too. Those of us who’ve been stay-at-home moms or spent any time around stay-at-home moms don’t need a Gallup study to tell us why a woman who spends day after day after day after week after week after week with no one but demanding - if darling - children could get depressed.
Indeed, the study found that 28 percent of at-home moms reported feelings of depression, compared with 17 percent of working moms (which incidentally is the same rate of depression among working women without children). Beyond the depression, Slate reports: “Stay-at-home moms fare worse than these two groups by every emotional measure in the survey, reporting more anger, sadness, stress and worry. They were more likely to describe themselves as struggling and suffering and less likely to see themselves as ‘thriving.’”
Again, all seemed likely - Captain Obvious - to me.
However, what wasn’t Captain Obvious were the real reasons why at-home moms felt so blue. I would’ve guessed it was the isolation, the repetitive - often vacuous - days and the stagnation that drives many at-home moms to despair. While those play a role, according to the Gallup survey, it’s mostly the “financial cost.”
“Economics are at the heart of why mothers without jobs are particularly blue,” according to Slate.
Ah, yes. The money. As my friend Jennifer says, “Money can’t buy you love, but it sure can alleviate stress.”
So what do we do with all this information? Well, the Slate article says we need more laws to protect part-time employee status so that at-home moms have more opportunity to work and get the much-needed money, as well as mental stimulation.
I’d like take a different approach - look another place besides government. Of course, I’m looking right at you, Church.
While most people within and without churches imagine we are doing a great a job ministering to the needs of at-home mothers, this study should give us pause. Because while perhaps mom ministries help moms feel less isolated, if isolation isn’t really the big factor in making moms blue, we ought to rethink our strategy.
While certainly we can continue to offer gathering places for moms to tuck babies into nurseries for two hours to hear speakers (like myself!), to munch on brunch foods, to lament all things potty training and discipline, what if we also ministered to these women by offering a place where moms could actually live out their gifts - in ways that even brought in a buck or two?
What if churches led the way on creating opportunities for at-home moms to find freelance, work-from-home or part-time jobs by assessing (or simply asking about) gifts and abilities, by creating directories, by encouraging fellow Christians to tap into the amazing work potential of the at-home mom?
Back in my early days of motherhood, a call from a former colleague asking if I could help his company with freelance editing and writing saved my sanity in many ways. While clinical depression is not a spiritual issue or something that can be bought off with money, certainly lesser grades of depression or the blues can be kept at bay by reducing stress and by feeling valued.
We Christians do a good job of giving lip-service to the value of the at-home mom and of motherhood in general, but maybe it’s time we focus on giving it some monetary value as well.
What Do You Think?
- Is it obvious to you that stay-at-home moms would be more likely to report feelings of depression?
- In your experience, what might be the reasons for these Gallup results?
- What ways might churches help improve the emotional health of stay-at-home moms?