Full time work has an adverse effect on wellbeing and happiness of mothers, study claims

Mothers of children under the age of three who don’t work full time are generally more happy than those in full-time employment, a new study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies claims. The survey by Dana Hamplová of the Czech Academy of Sciences asked 5,000 mothers from 30 European countries to make a subjective assessment of their levels of wellbeing and happiness. It found that there was a small but significant increase in happiness among mothers who were not working, compared to full-time workers. The report found there were no differences in the self-reported levels of happiness of non-working mothers and those who work part time.

“Analyzing multiple measures of subjective well-being, the paper shows that homemakers are generally happier than full-time workers”, the study concludes. “No significant differences between homemakers and part-time workers were found. Contrary to our expectations, homemaking was positively associated with happiness particularly among mothers who left higher quality employment for childcare. Though some variation across countries exists, it is not linked to the provision of formal childcare, duration of parental leave, or tax system.”

“More than 50 years ago, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique challenged the image of harmonious middle-class domesticity and advanced the idea that homemaking makes women unhappy,” wrote the author. “Yet, even after decades of discussions, the question of whether working mothers enjoy better subjective quality of life than stay-at-home mothers is still unresolved.”
The report concludes that there are several hypotheses about the effect of staying in work. One cited in the report is that having multiple roles in life enables people to be more content. Another possibility that conflicts with the first is that for those parents with young children the commitments they take on can overload them.